Steven McGrain, Sports Writer
At the Division III level, athletes hold the title of “student-athlete,” whereas at the Division I and II levels, it can be argued that it is “athlete-student.”
Senior softball pitcher Leah Butters described being an athlete at Pacific Lutheran perfectly: “At the Division III level, we play for the love of the game.”
In the 2014-2015 season, the Lutes welcomed 119 first-year athletes aspiring to be the next great Lute. For some, sports weren’t their first priority.
“You come to Pacific Lutheran for the academics, not for the athletics,” said junior cross-country runner Amie Wilson.
When sophomore softball player Kailyn Osaki came on a recruiting trip to PLU, the head coach at the time, Erin Van Nostrand asked, “If you were to fall and break your leg, could you still imagine yourself at PLU?”
Osaki’s response was simple; “Yes.”
Recruiting is a difficult task for Division III programs. At higher-level institutions, there is more money and better publicity, and therefore its easier for professional teams to scout the player, and even bring them into their organization. Not all Division III athletic programs have the same exposure.
This can be detrimental for coaches to remain successful, but to what extent should they go to secure a top recruit? Some resort to embellishing facility improvements.
A PLU swimmer who qualified for state twice was told on her recruiting visit that “by her junior year, the program would have a brand new Olympic swimming pool.”
Since then, the program has received new starting blocks but has cut back its attendance to a training program in California to every other year.
Universities where the academics exceed the athletics, with the old and classic look like we see in the movie “Hoosiers” is not what the top-tier athletes typically want.
The PLU athlete isn’t here for the state-of-the-art facilities or the chance to play on the national stage. Junior football player Ryan Chynoweth came to PLU because of the “special qualities of the program.”
More specifically, he came for the Inner Game from former head coach Frosty Westering. Also, “Pacific Lutheran was the only school where I saw all the football guys, whereas at other places it was only a couple. I felt welcome from the beginning.”
A belief of the legendary Frosty Westering was to “make the big time where you are.” This simple yet powerful quote is what a Lute athlete personifies.