There are more than 1,500 college softball teams spanning five different division levels: NCAA Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, NAIA and Junior College. Each division level—and school—provides student-athletes with its own unique experience.
D1 college softball teams are known for their competitiveness and athletic rigor. If you’ve ever watched the Women’s College World Series or any D1 game, you know that the athletes play hard and practice harder. Here are a few distinguishing factors of D1 softball colleges:
The highest level of athletic competition. For many student-athletes, the allure of competing at the D1 level lies in wanting to play against the best athletes. While there are tremendous athletes at every level, D1 college softball teams will have the deepest bench, and the average level of competition will usually be higher than the other division levels.
The largest athletic budgets. It’s no coincidence that D1 college softball teams often have the newest equipment and some of the best facilities. They tend to have larger athletic budgets and can often spend more money on their sports teams.
Large campus and class sizes. At the D1 level, you’ll likely be on a campus with thousands of other students. Especially your freshman year, you’ll have large lectures and you may be taught by a teaching assistant, or someone other than your professor. This means, athletes need to hold themselves accountable for their schoolwork, because their professors probably won’t be reminding them to hand in their homework assignments.
On D1 college softball teams, you’ll find serious competitors who were likely the best athletes on their club and high school teams. You’ll be in the spotlight, competing and practicing year-round. If you’re ready to really commit to your sport and be a college athlete, D1 might the right division level for you.
D2 is an interesting division, as you’ll find much of the athletic talent seen at the D1 level with a little more balance between athletics, academics and a social life. Here are a few key reasons to play on a D2 college softball team:
Strong athletics with a balance. D2 college softball is nearly as competitive as D1, but without all the demands of a D1 schedule. Athletes at D2 schools have a little more time to spend on academics or other extracurricular activities.
See playing time sophomore or even freshman year. Many D1-caliber athletes will opt to play on a D2 college softball team so that they can get playing time earlier on in their collegiate softball career. At the D1 level, many players might not actually play in a game until their junior or senior year of college. However, the D2 level can give athletes an opportunity to start competing earlier on.
Find a school that’s the right size for you. At the D2 level, you’ll find smaller and larger campuses. According to the NCAA, about 36% of D2 university have 2,500-7,499 students on campus, while approximately 51% have fewer than 2,500. Some campuses have up to 15,000 students. And there’s more in between these numbers. In other words, you can find the right campus size for you at the D2 level.
D2 college softball teams are competitive in every sense of the word. If you’re looking for a highly athletically skilled softball program, yet a slightly more relaxed environment that still allows time for you to pursue other interests, D2 might be the right level for you.
Playing college softball is competitive, and only the top athletes make it on to this level. During the 2016-2017 school year, there were about 374,528 high school softball players and about 31,729 college softball players. This means that about 8.4% of high school softball players end up competing in college across the NCAA Division I, Division II and Division III levels, as well as NAIA and NJCAA levels. Only about 1.6% of high school softball players go on to compete at the NCAA Division I level specifically.
In 2017, approximately 1,678 schools sponsored varsity softball teams. Here’s how that number shakes out for each division level:
One way to help you understand how scholarships awarded is go by position—scholarships do tend to vary based on position. Here’s a general rundown of how your position may affect your softball scholarship: