Post Secondary Sport Leagues in North America
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Playing your sport at the collegiate level is a dream for many student athletes across the globe. While many people think that there is only one or two main leagues to play in, on this installment of THE BLOG, I am here to tell you something different. There are many different leagues across Canada and the United States, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. We will take a deeper dive into the many leagues that you can compete in, and why it might be the best fit for you.
NCAA Division I
The NCAA Division I league is the most commonly known collegiate league in the world. This league is home to some of the largest schools in the world and receives hundreds of millions of dollars in funding every year. There are currently 358 schools in the United States that are classified as Division I programs. In terms of scholarship, NCAA Division I schools can award full ride (covers tuition, room, food, etc.). Many student athletes on scholarship at these schools receive a full ride.
NCAA Division II
The NCAA Division II league contains 306 institutions across the United States but also has teams from Canada and Puerto Rico. Similarly to NCAA Division I, institutions at the Division II level may give full athletic scholarships as well as academic scholarships, however, intercollegiate sport programs have more of a budget to allocate their money. While most commonly Division I programs are full ride, NCAA Division II programs can vary the amount of athletic scholarship they give.
NCAA Division III
The final tier of the NCAA is Division III. This division is unique as they are prohibited from giving athletic scholarships. To counter this, institutions that are a part of this division give out millions of dollars yearly in the form of academic, admissions, and financial need based style scholarships. There are 438 institutions that compete within the NCAA Division III organization.
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics or NAIA is a unique governing body of post secondary institutions. There are over 250 post secondary schools that compete in the NAIA. The NAIA is home to many private colleges and universities that offer a wide variety of academic programs and is home to some of the highest quality state of the art athletic facilities in the country. Like NCAA Division I and NCAA Division II, the NAIA can award both academic and athletic scholarships.
The National Junior College Athletic Association or NJCAA is one of the largest governing bodies in North America. With 525 member schools across multiple divisions, the NJCAA provides an excellent opportunity for athletes to compete while gaining some valuable experience as a student athlete. Most NJCAA student athletes spend two years at their respective school before transferring to one of the previously mentioned leagues to continue their journey as student athletes.
The California Community College Athletic Association is very similar to the NJCAA in terms of set up and competition style. There are 108 member schools within the CCCAA with most of the offering 2 or 4-year programs that range from skilled trade style programs with many transferable credits to many colleges and universities.
The United States College Athletic Association is another collegiate league that contains 77 small schools. The USCAA contains both 4-year universities and some 2-year Community Colleges. USCAA schools can be found across the United States and compete within 8 sports and two divisions. You may receive both academic and athletic scholarships at these schools.
The National Christian College Athletic Association is home to 92 private institutions across the United States. As the league name identifies, the member institutions within the league are run on Christian values and provide ample academic and financial support to their students. While this league may not have as many schools as some other leagues, they still host 24 national championships for their respective sports each year.
Within Canada, USPORTS is the governing body of all university athletics programs. With four major divisions and 56 member institutions, the governing body of USPORTS provides athletes an opportunity to complete a four-year university degree while competing at the highest level in Canada. The maximum athletic scholarship available in Canada ranges from league to league however there are lots of opportunities to receive athletic, academic, and personal scholarships at every university in Canada.
The Canadian College Athletic Association is the main governing body in Canada with respect to college programs. The CCAA is home to 99 member schools and offers academic and athletic financial support that fluctuates similarly to that of USPORTS. Many CCAA schools offer 2- or 4-year academic programs that have transferable options to many Canadian Universities.
These collegiate leagues that include multiple sports are considered some of the largest across Canada and the United States. There are more smallers leagues that are specific to one sport.
With so many options and so many schools, it may be overwhelming to decide which spot is best for you. As always, we advise all student athletes to do their research, communicate with coaches’ friends and family about what the best fit is academically, athletically, and personally. Many options may seem out of reach, but with the proper information and communication, finding your fit is not as far away as I may seem.