Finding the right fit: Why athletic classifications are about the player

Sept. 21, 2015

Taylor Garcia
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Have you ever been shopping and found the perfect pair of jeans? Or, more correctly, what would be the perfect pair of jeans, but no matter what size you try on they just don’t fit right?

The perfect fit is often right in between sizes. As a 5’11” post player from a 3A high school, looking for the right college to play at was like looking for the right size jeans.

At my height, Division I schools would want me to play guard, but I had been a post since first grade. Also, I was good, but I don’t know about Division I good. So that was out.

I visited a couple schools in Nebraska that were Division III and NAIA, and while the coaches were nice and the teams were great, Nebraska wasn’t exactly calling my name.

At this point in my college search, it was April of my senior year and I gave up on the only dream I had at the time. I decided I would go to community college, get a job and save some money.

I never even considered UCCS. I have lived in Colorado Springs my whole life and it never made an impression on me as a real university.

That changed at the beginning of May when athletic director Steve Kirkham came to my league’s first ever all-star game.

He didn’t even come to watch the girls; he came to watch the boys but managed to catch our game as well. When I got a call from Corey Laster, the women’s head coach at the time, I was a bit shocked.

Of course I had considered Division II, but at Colorado Mesa, CSU-Pueblo and Adams State. But something held me back from each, whether it was not having my major, not having a spot for me or a psychotic coach.

Like I said, I had given up. The call from Coach Laster was rain in my desert.

My college career did not turned out like I hoped, going through two ACLs and menisci tears and tearing all my

femur cartilage. But I would not change a single thing.

I have become a part of something that has grown me more painfully and effectively than anything else in my life.

For my alumna teammate Kellie Krueger, coming to UCCS was a big change from Stony Brook University in New York. While Stony Brook was Division I, her team was not very good and their coach made basketball miserable for Krueger.

She came to UCCS because it was closer to her home in Oregon and to play on a competitive team. The facilities, gear and attention to student-athletes were the biggest differences for Krueger.

“At the (Division I) level, athletic departments have a much bigger budget than at a (Division II) level,” Krueger said. “So the gear was pretty much endless (…) the facilities were superior. The weight room especially was a lot nicer.”

But while UCCS athletes may not get the same amount of benefits as Division I players, Krueger thinks there is no difference in the level of play.

“I feel like the practices and the games were just as intense at a (Division II) level as they were at a (Division I) level. But when it came to the two different conferences I was in, the RMAC was way more competitive.”

Former Mountain Lion and now Colorado Buffalo Derrick White has seen a significant change in the pace of play after his transition to Division I.

“I had to get bigger and stronger to be successful in this level,” White said. “When I first came to Boulder I would get pushed around a little but now that I’ve gained some weight and muscle I’m able to do things I couldn’t before.”

White saw another change in the way summer workouts are handled.

“This summer was different because at UCCS we were allowed to stay home and work out on our own. I was in Boulder this whole summer working out with the team and getting used to them.”

Both Krueger and White said each school made them feel welcome. It didn’t matter that one was larger or a more competitive atmosphere. Each community welcomed them into the athletics family.

“Both schools took me in as a part of the family,” White said. “Each school does things differently but I felt like I was a part of a family at UCCS and that I’m a part of the CU family now. No one school beats the other.”

While Krueger knew that moving closer to home and into a more competitive league suited her, White didn’t want his game to become stagnant and decided to move somewhere that will make him better.

Maybe it is not about whether one is better than the other, but more about what fits you.