There’s no doubt that NCAA sports are immensely popular here in the United States. Kids grow up playing sports and dream that one day they will play for their favorite big schools and end up on ESPN. Unfortunately, many of these kids won’t end up at big schools and playing games on TV. Many may not even make it to an NCAA school.
There are thousands of student-athletes who have the talents and ability to play college sports but they don’t recognize the opportunities available in NAIA sports. The NAIA is an organization similar to the NCAA with different member schools. And the NAIA is just as much of a stepping stone into professional sports as any other division.
The NAIA is the governing body for collegiate sports at almost 300 schools in the U.S and Canada. There are 60,000 student-athletes participating in 13 different NAIA sports. The NAIA takes pride in their commitment to their student-athletes to ensure the best college experience through both academics and athletics. The NAIA also has an Eligibility Center that helps establish an athlete’s eligibility to compete in college.
Since the NAIA isn’t as glamorized as the NCAA, there many people who have never even heard of it before. But the NAIA has had great success in its history and offers great opportunities to student-athletes. The competition level in the NAIA is just as high, comparable to Division II athletics. The NAIA has different academic requirements that are less restrictive, so more students are eligible to play NAIA sports. These opportunities in NAIA don’t just stop at the college level. There are many athletes who competed at NAIA schools and went on to pursue professional sports careers.
Tramaine Brock signed on as a free agent with the San Francisco 49ers following the 2010 NFL Draft. Brock was a former Belhaven football player and was very successful at the NAIA level. He was named to the All-Conference Team in 2009, and tied the Belhaven single season record for the most interceptions and compiled 51 total tackles with 2.5 sacks, and 13.5 tackles for a loss. Brock is just one of many football players who have been able to work their way into the NFL.
Another NAIA athlete who has made great success in the pros is Freddy Sanchez from Dallas Baptist University. Sanchez was a JC baseball transfer before he played in the NAIA College World Series in 1999. He transferred again to Oklahoma City University in 2000, and was later honored as a NAIA All-Star. After some time at the Red Sox and Pirates, Sanchez currently plays for the Giants as a second baseman. The NAIA has a long list of baseball players who have made their way to the pros.
While your dreams may have always involved an NCAA scholarship to your favorite school, it’s important to consider all of your options and what school might be the best fit for you. You need to be realistic about your talents and figure out what exactly you want when you move on to college. For many student-athletes, the NAIA is exactly what they wanted for their college experience. The NAIA has a strong history in developing successful student-athletes, even if they don’t go pro. Their dedication to academic and character achievement proves to be a winning combination for any student-athlete.