I first want to start by explaining that in any setting or at any level, you always want to evaluate your athletes via movement. In the college setting a lot of athletes come having never touched a weight or have been improperly coached throughout their entire high school career. Considering this and having a solid training philosophy, you can start to develop your own training progressions/developmental processes to help the athletes reach their full capability. That being said, the level of school in which you are coaching could potentially dictate the intricacies of your programming.
Being a collegiate strength coach, you must find ways to challenge your athletes to become bigger, stronger, and faster as every athlete develops at a different speed whether you are division I or division III. You must be cognizant of your athlete’s development and progress them accordingly. At the division III level you aren’t always working with the most genetically gifted athletes. Knowing this will dictate the progression you implement.
Now for the differences between division III and division I college athletics. Division III schools typically have one, maybe two, strength coaches that work with 20+ teams. Division I (FBS) will often have five that work just with football. Each Strength Coach on the Olympic side will likely have one major team, with 2-3 minor sports. Therefore, the number of teams you will be working with is far less due to the increase in staff. The large number of teams at the Division III level makes it difficult to develop every athletic team individually. Organization and communication are crucial to excel as a division III strength coach. You must allocate your time wisely to accommodate all your teams.
The second biggest difference is summer programs. For division III this is basically nonexistent. The athletes are provided with programs so they will come back in the fall prepared for another athletic year, hopefully. This is what all division III strength coaches hope for come the fall semester, that their athletes do not regress from a long summer off. The summertime (especially for football and basketball) can be the most important time of the year in regard to physical development at the D-I level.
Lastly, and possibly the starkest difference is that division III often does not have their own weight room. Schools that do not have a separate athletic weight room must share their weight room with the rest of campus, which can be a nightmare for scheduling. You must get creative with saving space (power racks because that’s what matters) for any athletes you will have in at one time, as well as sharing with the regular gym goers at the school or N.A.R.P’s (non-athletic regular people) as I have heard them called.
In conclusion there are some subtle differences between division I vs division III athletics. There are some things that you must work around and implement due to the number of teams you are working with, as well as space you have access to. I also want to make sure I emphasize that working with either division I or division III athletes can be, and is, extremely rewarding. I truly enjoy working with my teams at the division III level, especially now that I have established standards for my athletes.