Coaches’ flexibility boosts Festival to a higher level
As you enjoy the Division II National Championships Festival experience this week, consider all of the effort that goes into producing a quality event.
Travel arrangements have to be made for every team. Game officials must be lined up. Practice times have to be arranged. Fields have to be marked. Weather contingencies
must be planned. All of this involves massive amounts of work, most of which is done by the Division II Championships Committee, a capable NCAA staff and many first-class volunteers.
But I also want to acknowledge the adaptability of our coaches.
As great as the Festival is, the format demands of a lot of coaches, both beforehand and during competition.
One major example: Each sport has a traditional calendar, not one of which was created with another sport in mind. To align six championships at once, normal regular-season competition sometimes has had to be modified,
usually by shortening the season for some sports. For this Festival, no calendars had to be altered, but such changes were required in 2004 and 2006. In a business where routine matters, the sacrifice was significant.
Another example: We encourage the student-athletes who are at the Festival to take part in as many activities as possible. This includes the opening ceremonies and the student-athlete/fan festival site at Memorial Park. This approach is quite different than most of our other championships, where coaches are free to focus more of their athletes’ attention on the competition itself.
Considering how much preparation that coaches and student-athletes invest to compete for a national title, who can blame them for wanting to control the variables are much as possible?
Through the experience of two previous Festivals, the Championships Committee has worked to accommodate legitimate concerns. In 2004, for example, the opening ceremony included a concert by the band Collective Soul that lasted past 10 p.m. That put the squeeze to coaches whose golf teams had tee times early the next day. These days, we finish the opening ceremony by 9.
Still, there are limits on what can be done to honor coaching concerns while preserving the Festival concept.
A quick history lesson: The Festival was not created merely because it seemed like a good idea or even because it would somehow set Division II apart. Rather, it was initiated in 2004 in response to feedback from Division II student-athletes themselves. They complained that Division II championships were too often contested before only family and friends. The athletes also lamented that they had little opportunity to mingle with student-athletes from other institutions at championships.
As you circulate among the six Division II championships and related events that are offered this week, you can judge whether the student-athletes’ needs have been met. None of what is offered here will be confused with Division I sports, and that’s just fine. We are Division II, and much of our appeal is found in our intimacy. But there’s a big difference between “intimate” and “isolated,” and we believe the Festival is an excellent way to make that distinction and to honor the needs of our student-athletes to be part of a larger whole.
So, to those whose hard work and sacrifice make this event possible, I say “Thank you.”
And coaches, that goes double for you.
Debbie Chin is director of athletics at the University of New Haven and chair of the Division II Management Council.
© 2010 The National Collegiate Athletic Association