As students at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, it seems like many of us take for granted just how lucky we are.
We have one of the best athletic programs in the Midwest and are a Division III school. Just think about our athletic teams.Look at our men’s basketball and baseball teams. Both are competitive every season and are a sure bet to be ranked in their respective top 25.
Then look at our women’s athletics. They have competitive teams in basketball, hockey, soccer and volleyball almost annually.
However, not every Division III program is as fortunate as our athletic department, and even our own athletics in Stevens Point weren’t always considered stellar.
Division III athletics have been trending up the last couple of years, and it’s not just sheer luck. It all comes down to better talent, more exposure and improvements in technology.
In the past 10 years, the athletic ability of the average person has drastically changed. With a bigger pool of athletes comes more talent.
“With how kids train now, we should expect to see performance across sports and across all levels improve,” said head baseball coach Pat Bloom.
Head football coach Tom Journell has also seen improvement in Division III athletics. “I’ve been in this conference for 20 years, and when you look top to bottom, it’s the best that I have ever seen,” said Journell.
“The state of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic conference is very strong right now,” said Journell. “I think every sport would echo that.”
Increased exposure has also helped spread the brand of Division III athletics. University of Wisconsin- Whitewater and their football program’s success have brought more popularity to Division III sports.
“Because of Whitewater, what they’ve done with their facilities, what they have done at a national level—everybody has responded by getting better” said Journell.
The improved exposure has also helped recruiting. Since more people are talking about the success of Division III programs, more recruits are becoming interested in furthering their career there.
“Whitewater and Platteville are going down into Illinois, and tapping into talent there,” said Journell. “They are bringing in some of the best non-scholarship football talent in the Midwest.”
With more teams in the competition for top talent, recruiting has become more important. “Recruiting has become an arms race,” said Journell. “You better keep up with the Joneses.”
Recruitment has become so important that Coach Bloom has broadened his recruiting grounds.
“Just this season we recruited players from Montana and Michigan both to come here,” said Bloom. “10 years ago, we would have never heard about them.”
The improved recruiting base has a lot to do with improvement of technology and communication.
“There is not much that you can hide in this new information age,” said Bloom. “We are all benefitting from the advancement in communications and technology.”
Coach Bloom not only believes in the improvement of Division III athletics in the last 10 years. He also thinks that they will only get better.
“I would say that we’re only going to continue to improve our methods of recruitment and of player development,” Bloom said.
All of the improvements to Division III sports are great, but what it really comes down to is that Division III provides a venue for kids that just love their sport.
“It’s a very pure form of athletics,” Bloom said. “Kids are truly playing for the love of the game by not receiving any form of compensation like a scholarship.”
So the next time you’re out watching your favorite Pointer team play, just remember how lucky we are to experience such a high level of talent in such an unlikely place.