USMMASports.com begins its celebration of Division III week with a look at the #whyd3 stories of USMMA senior's Katie Franchois (Perkasie, PA) and Gary Poulin (Hauppauge, NY). Both are currently featured as part of the Landmark Conference's Division III week celebration, more profiles of other Landmark Conference student-athletes are available here: http://www.landmarkconference.org/news/2013-14/whyd3/index
I knew when I started looking at colleges that I didn’t want the “typical college experience.” At first, all I wanted was to find a local school where I could live at home and commute every day, but my parents weren’t particularly fond of that idea, so I was told to keep looking. Pretty soon I had it in my head that I wanted to play basketball at the collegiate level and I also had the idea that I was going to join one of the Armed Forces through an ROTC program. My parents suggested that I look at the five service academies (West Point, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and USMMA), and soon after I received a letter from the coaches at one of the academies. I was fortunate enough to combine my love of basketball and my desire to serve our country at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. The USMMA has afforded me the opportunity to grow as a person and a leader through our rigorous academic schedule, our regimental system, and our Division III varsity athletic program.
Division III athletics gives student-athletes so many opportunities both on and off the court or playing field. It gives us the chance to grow and develop without the spotlight that many Division I and II programs face, and without that pressure, we have the freedom to take up new hobbies, meet new people, and see the world. Division III student-athletes share the same competitive spirit as our DI and DII counterparts, but we are just that, student–athletes. Because we are not on athletic scholarships we have to focus more on our academics, and perhaps, this creates a greater internal motivation than just the incentive to compete athletically. Finding the balance between academics and athletics is difficult, but our commitment to excellence in the classroom can only be matched by our effort to compete at the highest level. That commitment to both the academics and competition is what drew me to DIII and the Landmark Conference.
As a midshipman at the USMMA I will graduate with a commission as an Ensign/2nd Lieutenant in any branch of the military (either active or reserve), and a U.S. Coast Guard Third Mate’s License of Unlimited Tonnage. In the past four years, I have traveled to eighteen different countries from the Far East, to the Middle East, and Northern Europe during my Sea Year, and also to Guatemala on a volunteer trip with fellow midshipmen this past summer. I have had the chance to grow as a person and leader because of my time in the Regiment of Midshipmen and on the basketball team, I have met the greatest friends and the best teammates anyone could ask for; and I now have the chance to do what I always wanted, and that is to serve. But, it was because I chose DIII that I had all of those opportunities and experiences, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything, even a DI national championship.
As a college senior looking back, I am very glad I chose to
participate in Division III athletics. As a high school student
looking ahead to college athletics, Division I and Division II
schools that offer scholarships always draw a large amount of
attention. High school student-athletes may tend to look down on
Division III athletics as a lesser choice. The fact is Division III
can be just as competitive as Division I and II. Also, it is more
important to look at the big picture when making decisions like
choosing a college.
I chose to participate in Division III athletics because my main priority was academics. I wanted to attend a school with a challenging and reputable engineering program. I found schools that fit this academic requirement first. Then, I found a school with a soccer program that I thought would be a good fit for me. If I wanted to play professional soccer then the Merchant Marine Academy wouldn’t have been a good fit. However, I wanted to get an engineering degree while playing soccer at a highly competitive level. I chose the Merchant Marine Academy because I knew I would be able to challenge myself in the classroom, in the regiment of midshipmen, and on the soccer field.
High school students should not count out Division III. In the end, it’s playing a sport and competing to the best of your ability that matters most. Sitting on the bench at a Division I school just to say you played Division I soccer shouldn’t be anyone’s aspiration. This is not to say that Division I and II are a bad choice because they can be great opportunities. My sister plays Division I soccer at St. Johns University and it has been an unbelievable experience for her so far. However, in my personal situation, playing Division III soccer at the Merchant Marine Academy was the best decision, as I had an excellent athletic experience and most importantly I feel prepared for an outstanding future following graduation.