The NCAA D3 Experience

The following is testimonial I worked on for the President’s Athletic Conference to help celebrate D3 week.  Check out http://www.pacathletics.org for more information.

Why Division III? It’s a great question, and one that comes up a lot when I am talking with the families that visit our beautiful Waynesburg campus. Although I don’t think there is one standard answer that I give, I frequently refer to a few standards of our cross country program in this simple saying, “Family is always first, academics are a close second and athletics come in third.”

 
To me, family is the most important thing in my life. The Division III experience allows me to spend time with my wife and daughter, while coaching a sport that I love. I don’t have long recruiting trips to far off places (well, not very often) and don’t have to sacrifice any time away from my family to travel to conference games on the other side of the country.

 
I value my cross country family too. The Division III experience allows me to help create a family environment on our team with a diverse mix of athletes from 11 states; many of whom have blessed this campus with a vast array of backgrounds, different needs and amazing stories to share. Their love and support for each other is truly inspiring and it’s awesome watching a family develop over the course of a season.

 
Waynesburg is a strong academic institution that I am proud to work for. A majority of our majors are highly sought after and the curriculum is demanding. But at the end of a four-year college career, our students are equipped for a job in their chosen field. My job at the University is to make sure that education is a top priority, and I take this seriously.

 

That’s why Division III suits my staff and I so well; we think of ourselves more as “educators” than coaches. Our team GPA of 3.40 over the last 7 years (cumulative GPA of over 200 athletes) makes our coaching staff very proud. We are also proud of the 108 men and women who have been named as Presidents’ Athletic Conference Academic Honor Roll recipients and the 10 NCAA All-Academic Team award recipients.

 
My work at Waynesburg has also instilled in me a passion for service. It had always been there, as this was important to my family when I was growing up. But Waynesburg’s mission of “creating connections between faith, learning and serving” has become something that drives our program. Since my time as head coach, we have completed over 2,000 hours serving and cooking at local food pantries, partnering with the American Cancer Society and clearing brush on the battlefield at Gettysburg.

 
From an athletic perspective, we have athletes that compete at an elite level training alongside athletes who may never crack our top-10 travel team. That can be a challenge to a coaching staff, but here at Waynesburg, we embrace that challenge. The Division III experience allows participation from all levels of athletes. The only requirements that we place on our athletes is that they work hard, maintain academic excellence and are the best teammates they can be. You don’t find that type of participation at a lot at the other levels of the NCAA.

 
To summarize, the Division III experience has been transformative for me as a father, a husband, an administrator and as a coach. I have learned so many valuable lessons that I hope to share with our athletes in the future. The end-all goal is to help our student-athletes realize their potential in life and to show them that they can truly change the world in a positive way.

 

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University. You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.

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