D3 Week: Macalester's Anna Munson shares D3 experience

The MIAC is celebrating 2014 NCAA Division III Week, which runs April 7-13. The MIAC Media Blog is featuring a series of  posts throughout the week from MIAC staff and student-athletes as part of the celebration. Today, we're extremely pleased to welcome Macalester softball student-athlete Anna Munson as a guest blogger. Anna is a junior Psychology major from La Crosse, Wis., and she shares her outstanding perception of what it means to be a Division III student-athlete.

What does it mean to be a Division III student-athlete?

By Anna Munson, Macalester softball student-athlete

In recent weeks, Northwestern’s football team's attempt to unionize and other events have spurred many conversations and debates at Macalester about athletic privilege.  Most of the conversations start from non-athlete students who feel that student-athletes on campus have many perks including being allowed to skip class, have locker rooms, apparel and generally more privileges among staff and facilities.  In the back-and-forth debate between students about the life of an athlete at Macalester, an important question is ignored: "What does it actually mean to be Division III student-athlete?" 

As the phrase “student-athlete” suggests, being an athlete at Macalester and most (if not all) D-III schools means developing as a student first and an athlete second. It means that we take all the same classes with the same expectations and registration times as other students on campus. It means that we worked hard in high school to get into college and continue to work hard to ensure success later in life. We do not receive scholarships, we do not get personal tutors, we do not get assigned different homework or tests, and we certainly do not “get” to skip class because - as any student-athlete knows - missing class is simply more work later on. This is different than Division I and some Division II programs, and is often forgotten in the midst of media and stereotypes of athletes all over the country.

So, why be a D-III student-athlete?  What is it all about? I cannot speak for other students, but being a student-athlete at Macalester means that I get to play my favorite sport while receiving a phenomenal education.  It means that I get to spend a lot of time with people with similar interests just like the musicians, actors, government leaders, researchers, dancers, environmentalists, etc. do.  The best part? One community does not define me because I also get to be a researcher and organization leader on campus. I also get to plan school events and have internships around the Twin Cities. I get to be "Anna" first, and "Anna the softball player" second.

For me, being a D-III student-athlete means I’m given the opportunity to make life-long friends, stay in shape, be a part of a community and have fun playing competitive softball. It means that my teammates and I play softball because it is something we want to do, and love to do, not because we have to do it.  It means that I am willing to stay up a little later to finish homework, willing to be sore 50 percent of the time and willing to dedicate myself to a team.  Satisfaction comes from team solidarity (three claps, ladies?!) and accomplishing things as a player and a team that we have worked so hard for. It comes from making great friends and having a support system as I prepare for life after college.  These are the ultimate rewards, and the privileges that I have and value as a D-III student-athlete. We pay for our apparel, pay for our education and coordinate the locker rooms, gym space and weight room with the campus. These are not our privileges like in D-I and, even if they were, they are not the ones I would appreciate the most.

So to all D-III athletes out there: celebrate this week! It is your week to celebrate your team, your hard work and especially your successes outside of athletics. We only get to be college athletes once! Make the most of every moment.

MIAC Celebrates Division III Week
In addition to the MIAC blog series throughout the week, the conference and its members will celebrate 2014 NCAA Division III Week in a number of ways. To track all the action throughout the week, visit the MIAC's Division III Week Home Page.

The MIAC Media Podcast joined in the D-III Week celebration, as host Mike Gallagher delivered a very special episode on Tuesday. MIAC Assistant Director Megan Gaard joined the show to talk D-III Week in the MIAC, and Carleton Assistant Men's Basketball Coach Ryan Kershaw was also interviewed. Please give it a listen on the Podcast page or on iTunes! The podcast joins the MIAC Media blog series and videos on the MIAC YouTube channel, which are all linked or embedded on the MIAC's Division III Week home page!

Happy Division III Week, MIAC friends, and thanks to Anna for sharing her first-hand experience on what it means to be a Division III student-athlete. Her well-composed words are a perfect example of why Division III student-athletes deserve a week to be celebrated!

D3 Week: Matt's D3 Experience

The MIAC is celebrating 2014 NCAA Division III Week, which runs April 7-13. The MIAC Media Blog is featuring a series of  posts throughout the week from MIAC staff and student-athletes as part of the celebration. Today, MIAC Assistant Executive Director Matt Higgins shares his path to finding a home in Division III.

Finding a home in Division III

By Matt Higgins

Unlike the other two members of the MIAC staff, I'm not a former Division III student-athlete. I took a different path to get to my current position as the MIAC's Assistant Executive Director. I've wound my way through a Division I school, working in the media and a sports information stop in the NAIA. However, I really feel like I've found at home in the MIAC, and have come to cherish Division III and its values more than I could have ever imagined.

After playing three - and sometimes four - sports from childhood through my senior year of high school, I decided I didn't want to pursue athletics in college and passed on a few Division III football opportunities. However, I still wanted to be connected to sports so I attended the University of Minnesota and completed a degree in Journalism. From there, I spent two years as the sports writer and sports editor at the Stillwater (Minn.) Courier and Lake Elmo Leader weekly newspapers before moving on to a sports editor role at a bigger daily paper in Mitchell, S.D. (Yes, the home of the World's Only Corn Palace.)

During my stint at the Mitchell Daily Republic, my main beat was covering Dakota Wesleyan University (NAIA), which gave me my first real glimpse into small-college athletics, and I was hooked. A year later, I took my career path and joined the Dakota Wesleyan athletic department as the sports information director. Fortunately, that new direction led me to my current position. Now in my fourth year with the MIAC, I'm finally at the stage of my career where I'm not thinking, "What's next?" and am only focused on providing a great experience for the MIAC's student-athletes.

When I made the move into sports information, I always envisioned my "dream job" to be back at my Division I alma mater, or with the Minnesota Twins. However, I've really grown to love what the MIAC and Division III stand for. Though I'm not a former Division III student-athlete, the values and the mission have been a perfect fit for me, both personally and professionally.

In the wake of the recently completed Division I Men's Basketball Final Four, there have been many who openly scoff at the NCAA's notion of the "student-athlete." But those criticisms only focus on Division I, where schools are perceived to use high-profile athletes to make money, and the athletes are perceived to use the schools only as a launch pad toward a professional career.  For those of us who are ingrained in Division III, those generalizations only apply to a fraction of a percent of the NCAA's governance, and aren't fair to the true student-athletes we support and represent.

All the commercials and public service announcements produced by the NCAA in recent years may seem like a punch line when related to the few high-profile, revenue-generating sports like Division I football and men's basketball, but they perfectly apply to Division III. Almost all of our student-athletes do, "go pro in something other than sports," and attribute any success they encounter to their combined college academic and athletic experience. The skills they learn through college athletic participation- teamwork, dedication, time management, motivation, discipline, leadership - end up being far more valuable than any victories, or even championships.

Thanks to my position in the MIAC, I am able to play a role in the college athletic experience for the student-athletes at our 13 institutions. I get to promote their accomplishments, highlight their achievements, and work to ensure their competitions are fair and safe. All the while, I know their experience of playing sports in the MIAC is enhancing their preparation to be great people and professionals later in life. That's incredibly gratifying.

Though I wasn't born and bred in Division III, I've found a home, and there's no place I'd rather be.

MIAC Celebrates Division III Week
In addition to the MIAC blog series throughout the week, the conference and its members will celebrate 2014 NCAA Division III Week in a number of ways. To track all the action throughout the week, visit the MIAC's Division III Week Home Page.

We posted another new video to our YouTube channel today as part of our Division III Week celebration. This one (embedded below) salutes our 2013-14 fall and winter championship teams. There are more blogs, videos and stories to come, so stay tuned to the blog and the Division III Week home page!

If you are a MIAC student-athlete and would like to contribute a guest blog, or you'd like to let us know about a Division III Week celebration or event on your campus, email MIAC Assistant Director Megan Gaard at: mgaard@miacathletics.com.

Happy Division III Week, MIAC friends! 

D3 Week: Dan's D3 Experience

The MIAC is celebrating 2014 NCAA Division III Week, which runs April 7-13. The MIAC Media Blog will feature a series of blog posts throughout the week from MIAC staff and student-athletes as part of the celebration. Today, MIAC Executive Director Dan McKane shares his various Division III experiences.

Former Division III student-athlete and coach, current administrator and biggest fan

By Dan McKane

During the 2014 Division III Week celebration, I pause to reflect on what Division III participation means to me.  I am not only a former Division III student-athlete and coach, and a current administrator, but I am also a huge fan of everything that Division III stands for.  I have a passion for the opportunities that Division III allows for student-athletes when it comes to academic focus, balance of life and involvement throughout the entire campus, in addition to the opportunity to play competitively in college.

I competed on the men's soccer team at Gustavus Adolphus College in the early 1990s. My involvement in collegiate athletics left such a huge impression on my life. I still remember every pre-season training camp, individuals coming together as a team with excitement, commitment, hard work, and perseverance. I loved the challenges that soccer provided me, but I also had to work hard to be successful in the classroom. My coach, Larry Zelenz, stressed excellence not only on the soccer field, but also in the classroom.

As I look back, I remember the successes and my teammates. The guys worked hard towards common goals that we established. We had fun, but always strived to be the best in each practice and contest. The hard work paid off, most notably winning a MIAC Championship.

I transitioned into coaching upon graduation to remain close to the sport I loved. It offered me an opportunity to study the game from a coaching and business perspective. I served as the men's assistant coach for three years at Gustavus. My favorite part of coaching was getting to know my student-athletes. These guys left a lasting impression on me. They bought into the system, worked tirelessly to achieve our goals, and also were committed to their academics and graduating in four years.  I still remain in touch with several of the student-athletes. They now have great careers and families, and we will always have our fond memories of Division III participation.

On my wall in my office is a fantastic reminder of the value of participating in Division III athletics. As we celebrate Division III Week, I feel it is important to reflect on this poem titled, "Why We Compete in Division III Athletics."

Why we compete in Division III Athletics
By Sean Sornsin, former Cornell College (Iowa) baseball student-athlete
First appeared in The Cornellian on December 3, 1999.

"It's not about getting a scholarship, getting drafted, or making SportsCenter. It's a deep need in us that comes from the heart. We need to practice, to play, to lift, to hustle, to sweat. We do it all for our teammates and for the student in our calculus class that we don't even know.

We don't practice with a future major league first baseman; we practice with a future sports agent. We don't lift weights with a future Olympic wrestler; we lift with a future doctor. We don't run with a future Wimbledon champion; we run with a future CEO.

It's a bigger part of us than our friends and family can understand. Sometimes we play for 2,000 fans; sometimes 25. But we still play hard. You cheer for us because you know us. You know more than just our names. Like all of you, we are students first. We don't sign autographs. But we do sign graduate school applications, MCAT exams, and student body petitions.

When we miss a kick or strike out, we don't let down an entire state. We only let down our teammates, coaches, and fans. But the hurt is still the same. We train hard, lift, throw, run, kick, tackle, shoot, dribble, and lift some more, and in the morning we go to class. And in that class we are nothing more than students.

It's about pride--in ourselves, in our school. It's about our love and passion for the game. And when it's over, when we walk off that court or field for the last time, our hearts crumble. Those tears are real. But deep down inside, we are very proud of ourselves. We will forever be what few can claim... college athletes."

MIAC Celebrates Division III Week
In addition to the MIAC blog series throughout the week, the conference and its members are celebrating 2014 NCAA Division III Week in a number of ways. To track all the action throughout the week, visit the MIAC's Division III Week Home Page.

If you are a MIAC student-athlete and would like to contribute a guest blog, or you'd like to let us know about a Division III Week celebration or event on your campus, email MIAC Assistant Director Megan Gaard at: mgaard@miacathletics.com.

Happy Division III Week, MIAC friends! Check the blog and the page throughout the week as we continue to celebrate our membership in Division III!

D3 Week: Megan's D3 Experience

The MIAC is celebrating 2014 NCAA Division III Week, which runs April 7-13. The MIAC Media Blog will feature a series of blog posts throughout the week from MIAC staff and student-athletes as part of the celebration. MIAC Assistant Director Megan Gaard kicks it off by sharing her Division III experience.

By Megan Gaard

Being a well-rounded person is something I strive to achieve on a daily basis. I think that is why I had such a positive experience as a Division III student-athlete at Gustavus. I was fully able to capture the essence of Division III by competing at a high level in athletics, participating in a variety of clubs on campus, creating meaningful relationships with my peers and professors and receiving a highly accredited bachelor's degree. The MIAC has found the perfect balance between quality academics and high-achieving athletics that prepares student-athletes for success in college and far beyond.

Because my experience as a Division III student-athlete had such a positive impact on my life, it makes perfect sense to me why I chose a career in Division III athletics within the MIAC. Working in the conference office, I am fortunate to play a small role in the MIAC student-athlete experience and that is invaluable to me. As a proud alum of the conference, I now have the unique opportunity to serve its membership in an administrative role. 

In this position, I have come to find the MIAC is made up of quality people that value the Division III philosophy. Although the MIAC contains 13 different institutions, the student-athlete experience remains at the core of all their values. I am fortunate to work with student-athletes, fans, coaches and administrators that make the MIAC one of the best Division III conferences in the nation.

Although Gustavus is my alma mater, I now root for all MIAC student-athletes in hopes that their collegiate experiences are as positive and well-rounded as mine.

MIAC Celebrates Division III Week
In addition to the MIAC blog series throughout the week, the conference and its members will celebrate 2014 NCAA Division III Week in a number of ways. To track all the action throughout the week, visit the MIAC's Division III Week Home Page.

The MIAC also put up a new video on YouTube today to kick off Division III Week (embedded below). Check the blog and home page throughout the week for additional content to celebrate a great week throughout the Division. If you are a MIAC student-athlete and would like to contribute a guest blog, or you'd like to let us know about a Division III Week celebration or event on your campus, email me at: mgaard@miacathletics.com.

Happy Division III Week, MIAC friends!

Coaching feature follow-up

Friday I wrote one of the more in-depth and involved features I've taken on this year - a story about four MIAC men's basketball head coaches who are all alumni of the league and worked as assistant coaches in the conference prior to achieving their current positions. They are: Gustavus' Mark Hanson, St. Thomas' John Tauer, Hamline's Jim Hayes and Saint Mary's Jamison Rusthoven.

It ended up being a pretty long feature, but it could've gone even further with all the great stuff I got from the coaches as well as the MIAC sports information directors and St. Thomas Athletic Director Steve Fritz, who was another MIAC alum-assistant-head coach before turning the Tommies over to Tauer. In fact, there were enough additional angles and unused material that it would make for a perfect blog post. So here we are. Below are some of the things that didn't quite fit into Friday's feature, but are still worth sharing.

Coach Kosmoski honored at Williams Arena Saturday.
**The pedigree of the MIAC men's basketball coaching fraternity is pretty darn impressive. Not only did these four coaches first work as assistants in the league, several came from the Division I ranks. Jim Smith - celebrating his 50th year at Saint John's - assisted at Marquette before coming to Collegeville. Dan Kosmoski played and coached at Minnesota prior to taking over at St. Olaf, where he is now in his 20th season. In fact, Kosmoski was on the Williams Arena court Saturday at halftime of the Gophers vs. Indiana game to be honored with the 1988-89 team that reached the Sweet 16.

Concordia's Rich Glas assisted MIAC and Augsburg alum and Hall of Famer Lute Olsen at Arizona, also assisted at Hawaii, and was the head coach at then-Division-II North Dakota from 1988-2005. Augsburg' s Aaron Griess was previously the head coach at Division II-Chaminade, which is famous in the basketball world for hosting the annual Maui Invitational. In the 2003 Maui tourney, Griess' Silverswords took down Division I powerhouse Villanova.

Bethel first-year coach Doug Novak assisted at Tulane and The Citadel before taking over the Royals prior to the 2013-14 season. And Macalester Head Coach Tim Whittle was the top assistant for Washington (Mo.) when it claimed back-to-back Division III National Championships in 2008 and 2009. All 11 MIAC men's basketball head coaches come with extremely impressive resume's.

**Carleton Head Coach Guy Kalland was mentioned in the story for his mentorship of Hamline's Hayes during his seven years on Kalland's staff. Kalland is also a MIAC alum, having graduated from Concordia in 1974, and is now in his 30th season at Carleton.

Mark Hanson is one of three active MIAC
coaches with 400 or more career wins.
**It was mentioned in the feature and referenced in this blog already, but it bears repeating - three MIAC coaches are celebrating some considerable milestones this season. Smith is celebrating his 50th season at Saint John's, Kalland is in his 30th season at Carleton, and Kosmoski is in season No. 20 at St. Olaf. Smith, Kalland and Gustavus' Hanson (24th season) are three of Division III's elite 400 wins club. Smith entered 2013-14 with 755 career wins, which are the most in Minnesota collegiate basketball history. Often times Division III is thought of a stepping stone towards Division I or II, but it's clear that the MIAC has certainly become a place men's basketball coaches can call home.

**There are also plenty of examples of former MIAC men's basketball assistant coaches who have gone on to head coaching jobs. Thanks to Saint John's SID Ryan Klinkner for letting me know that former Johnnie assistant Kelly Boe has now been the head coach at D-II Concordia-St. Paul since 2006. Another former Johnnie assistant, Jim Trewick, had a head coaching stint in the MIAC at Saint Mary's, and is now the head coach at St. Cloud Tech High School.

Another former MIAC assistant turned head coach is a good friend of mine, and ended up switching over to the women's game. Aaron Kahl played for Hanson and coached under him as well, and assisted former Gustie women's head coach Mickey Haller, and now Aaron is the head women's coach at nearby Northwestern-St. Paul. He and I worked together at Dakota Wesleyan University, where he was the head women's coach and I was the sports information director.

There's another good MIAC coaching example at Division I North Dakota State, as Freddy Coleman joined the Bison coaching staff as an assistant this season. For the previous two years, Coleman was on Glas' Cobber staff at Concordia, and returned to his alma mater this summer after playing for NDSU.

Since I've only been in the MIAC since the 2010-11 season, I'm sure there are a lot of other examples of MIAC assistants moving on to head coaching positions in other leagues or divisions. If you know of one that I missed, please let me know in the comment section, or send me an email at: mhiggins@miacathletics.com. I wouldn't be surprised to learn if there are quite a few other examples of this that hadn't yet been brought to my attention, thanks to the MIAC's extensive coaching network, and I always love to learn more about the league.

**This story led our office to look ahead to the future and discuss current MIAC assistant coaches that could be among the next to join the head coaching ranks. Two names that immediately came to mind for us were Saint John's Assistant Coach Pat McKenzie, and Carleton Assistant Coach Ryan Kershaw. McKenzie is also the Johnnies' compliance director, and assumed head coaching duties last year in the MIAC Playoff quarterfinals when Smith's wife fell ill. Kershaw is in his first year with the Knights after spending the last six seasons as Griess' top assistant at Augsburg, so he certainly knows the MIAC well. he also played and coached for the Knights cross-town rival, St. Olaf.

The two are both MIAC alums and have some interesting family ties. McKenzie currently coaches his brother, Kevin, who is a senior guard on the Johnnie roster. Their father, also named Pat, is a 1979 SJU basketball alum and the current team physician of the Green Bay Packers. Meanwhile, when Kershaw moved to Carleton this season, he did something brave - he signed up to work for his father-in-law. He's married to Kalland's daughter, Abby. Kershaw is also the cousin of St. Olaf Asst. AD, SID and Assistant Women's Basketball Coach Mike Ludwig. The family ties run deep in the MIAC.

Those are just two examples of the many talented assistant coaches in the conference that could ascend to the head coaching ranks someday soon. Put in your plug for your favorite MIAC assistants in the comments section, or email them to me at mhiggins@miacathletics.com.

Tauer has the Tommies in first place in 2013-14.
**There were also a few good leftover quotes from all my interviews that I didn't get to use in the story that some MIAC basketball fans may find interesting, so I'm going to share them here.

Tauer, on how he combined his academic and athletic interests into a career: "[That balance] I do think is one of the reasons I pursued a doctorate. I was really interested in motivation ... I was never the most talented athlete and had to get by with a lot of hard work and some degree of intelligence. From a coaching perspective, we preach that balance to our players. Being a student comes first, but basketball should complement their academic studies."

Tauer, on coaching with - and now against - Jim Hayes, as well as some of the other conference coaches: "I've known [Hayes] since I was 18. We had already had a healthy rivalry. He called to congratulate me when I got the head job and we struck up a conversation and talked about his career goals ... I'm very grateful to him for his two years at St. Thomas, and he's well respected by all of his peers. We certainly understand his loyalty to Hamline, and when that job opened it seemed like a no brainer. We were sad to see him go, but were excited for the opportunity he had. We know he'll do a good job.

Hayes is back at his alma mater.
"It was a little different coaching against him. We're not going to surprise him. I think he knows everything we're doing. That's what's fun about the MIAC, whether it's a guy like Jim who coached with us, or guys like Coach Smith, Coach Kosmoski, Coach Kalland, Mark Hanson. There are some great coaches. There aren't a whole lot of suprises in our league. You're not going to trick anyone in a big game. There's healthy rivalries, and the coaches all have great values."

Hayes, on what he learned as an assistant at Carleton and St. Thomas: "I learned that flexibility piece with Guy. Being at a place like Carleton where the academic standards are a little different, our roster wasn't always that deep. You had to learn that flexibility. I took that away as much as anything. I learned how to build a strong family community atmosphere within the program.  

"The biggest thing I took from [St. Thomas] is just how well they get talented players to buy into the team concept. Generally they don't have one individual average 20 or even 18 points a game. They have several guys who average eight to 12 points a game. That's a strength of theirs and what separates them. When you look at the level of talent, most of us would agree that some of those individual players could score more points or hunt their shot more, but that's how they strengthen their program. It's not an easy task."

Rusthoven patrols the Saint Mary's sideline.
Rusthoven, on deciding he wanted to pursue a career in Division III: For a long time I chased the bigger, faster, stronger that may come with this job or that job. I realized I didn't want to sacrifice my family for a job. The higher you go, it's high risk, high reward. I've heard a lot of stories. There aren't a lot of guys who put their family first. This is a level where I could have it all. We're not going to get rich, but my kids can be involved.

"My son Trey, who's 9, he's an untypical 9-year-old who loves to be on the bench and with the guys. To have him involved made me understand this is the level I want to be at. you can never get these years back. To get paid six figures and have 18,000 people watching you is one thing, but I was born and raised in the Cities. It was important to be around family. That was big. It's still a little strange to me, taking the bus for our road games back to where I grew up."

Fritz, on what he learned as an assistant coach: "I was lucky enough to work under Tom Feely who I played for. I spent nine years as his assistant and we had some good teams. The early teams went to the NAIA tournament and did very well. You learn a lot of things. He was ahead of his time. You try to soak all those things up, things you either will use or won't use in the future. None of us are very completely ready; it's all just a learning process and a maturing process."

**If you didn't get a chance to listen to the most recent episode of MIAC Weekly, I highly recommend it. Host Mike Gallagher had a great conversation with Gustavus tennis alum Eric Butorac, who recently completed a stellar doubles run all the way to the championship match of the Australian Open. Gustie Women's Basketball Coach Laurie Kelly also joins the show. A must-listen episode for all MIAC fans.

If you have any questions for Mike on the podcast, email them to me at mhiggins@miacathletics.com or leave them in the comments section. Also, if you have a coach or student-athlete or alumni you'd like to hear on the show, let us know and we'll do our best to get them on.

One other bit of big news for MIAC Weekly. The podcast is now available on iTunes! Be sure to visit the iTunes podcast page and subscribe or download your favorite episodes. All are free to download.

**The 2014 MIAC Swimming and Diving Championships begin Thursday, and MIAC Media started the hype machine today with this promo video. We're looking forward to an outstanding three days at the U of M Aquatic Center!

If you're at the MIAC S&D Championships, interact with us on Twitter using the hashtag #MIACSD or post a picture to our Facebook page. It's always an action-packed three days, so we'd love to see it from the fans' perspective as well!