Today, it’s the in-your-face cold that solidifies your boogers and freezes contacts to your eyes. You are carrying a blue shovel at Higgins Stadium at Ithaca College in this quest to clear the field; walking 30 yards down to the end line, 30 yards back, 30 yards down and 30 yards back.
It takes the Bombers lacrosse team about 45 minutes to shovel the lacrosse field after it has been graciously plowed by the college’s staff, leaving only a few inches on the surface. But I will never look at snowfall or a shovel the same way my entire life.
These are the moments that define Division III athletes, who don’t receive the same benefits as Division I athletes. It’s not like they’re shoveling snow off the field before practicing in 5-degree weather at Schoellkopf Field at Cornell University. But this pure love of sport is ever-present at the Division III level.
And obviously, Division I athletes do put in extra time to help their team, but they get all the glory for their successes. You will never see Division III highlights on ESPN SportsCenter unless someone puts on a blindfold to hit a game-winning 3-pointer. But there are moments in Division III, like shoveling your own playing field, that may be more meaningful than anything seen on television.
Don’t take that as a plea for fans in the crowd. We like playing sports, whether it’s in front of our grandma or in front of thousands of fans. These athletes are not playing to get drafted to professional leagues; all we’re doing is playing to win, for fun and for that Ithaca College name.
For example, the crew team went with buckets and shovels to the inlet to move sediment away from drain pipes, just to make enough room for three boat lanes. As a Division III athlete, you go the extra mile — not expecting any publicity in return.
Division III athletes would never ask to be represented by a labor union and fight for student-athlete wages, like Northwestern University athletes did last week. There are no scholarships, we know we’re not getting paid, and heck, we know how crucial bus rides to and from games can be for finishing homework. It’s certainly not glamorous, but that’s how D-III athletes roll.
You may not care if the Bombers win or lose, or about sports at all, but it’s a shame Division III athletes don’t get more credit. For example, the men’s wrestling team, a perennial national championship contender, receives fewer fans than Chipotle at rush hour. While this may not be a proven fact, if the game isn’t called Cortaca, Ithaca College typically doesn’t care.