By Miles Montgomery | Photo courtesy of Miles Montgomery

In honor of Division III week, numerous posts on Colorado College Athletics social media channels have highlighted many of our talented Division III athletes, and the unique benefits of the Division III experience. Division III week struck a special chord with me, and this year, I reflected on all of the opportunities I have had to explore, and the personal growth that I have been able to experience as a member of the CC men’s soccer team, and on a larger scale, as a member of the CC community. Reflecting on these formative experiences with gratitude has not always been easy for me; in fact, it took years of a gradual mindset shift and serious introspection in order to appreciate them, because I almost skirted the opportunity to come to CC in the first place.

Yes, you read that properly. In high school, I fielded some light Division I interests and a few Division II offers, but I always had DIII in the back of my mind, in no small part due to parental pressure. Both of my parents have always encouraged me to embrace a holistic pursuit of athletic and academic balance, and from what they had heard from parents of Division I and Division II athletes, the priority of athletics dwarfed academics in these environments.

When I came to CC, I was incredibly impressed by the beauty of the campus and facilities, along with the closeness of the soccer team and the vibrant warmth and joy of the community as a whole. I committed to applying Early Decision, avoiding the mountains of applications my high school peers sifted through in the fall of 2015.

However, three weeks before I was due on campus for the beginning of preseason in August, an opportunity to live and play in Spain presented itself, and it was not one I could turn down. Due to the flexibility of both the coaching staff (Thanks Coach!) and CC admissions, I was able to embark on a whirlwind adventure of a year, living on my own and navigating roadblocks that inevitably come with being an American abroad in the age of Trump. I was living the life, and I never wanted to return to a world where soccer was not the be-all-end-all of my existence.

When I received the dreaded email from admissions asking me whether I would be attending CC in the 2017 school year, my cursor hovered over the ‘No’ option. I had no desire to return to obligations that didn’t fit into my narrow worldview, but due to financial pressure, and the wrath of my mother, I pressed ‘Yes’ and consigned myself to attending college.

What a great choice that was. Although my transition back into the school realm was bumpy, I formed unbreakable bonds with my teammates, forged through competition and Sunday night shenanigans. Due to the presence of an offseason that wouldn’t have existed had I opted for Division I or II, I was able to begin my journey towards balance, dedicating time towards academic interests, enjoying Colorado’s incredible outdoor scene, and interacting with the CC community as a whole, making friends of all kinds.

When a hamstring injury sidelined me for the majority of my sophomore year, I was incredibly relieved to be able to fall back on other aspects of the CC experience that would always be there, regardless of my ability to get on the field, something I will never take for granted.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but I am certainly relieved I pressed the ‘Yes’ button in 2017. Although my experience at CC has been far from dreamlike, it serves as a metaphor for life as a whole, and has played a large role in cultivating maturity, value and gratitude in my life. In the space of two years, my perspective has undergone a drastic shift, from bitterness to willfully embracing the unique and comprehensive college experience that being a Division III athlete has provided me with, and that is something for which I will be forever thankful.

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