Division I or Bust? Here’s Why That’s a Lie

Head coach Colton Bryant explains why junior col­leges offer stu­dent-ath­letes the oppor­tu­ni­ty to devel­op and still reach the next level.

Division I or Bust? Here’s Why That’s a Lie

Head coach Colton Bryant explains why junior col­leges offer stu­dent-ath­letes the oppor­tu­ni­ty to devel­op and still reach the next level.

Regardless of what you’ve heard from coach­ing staffs across the coun­try, Columbia State women’s soc­cer head coach Colton Bryant knows the Division I or bust” men­tal­i­ty is incor­rect. How does he know? It starts with Bryant’s own background. 

When he was a play­er, Bryant com­mit­ted to Kentucky. But an ACL tear lost him a schol­ar­ship to play for them. Turns out, this was a bless­ing in disguise.

Bryant’s mind­set had to change after the injury. He focused on con­trol­ling the con­trol­lable — with Div. I soc­cer now out of reach, he decid­ed to play at an NAIA pro­gram, Martin Methodist College. Two years lat­er, after a third knee injury had him switch from the field to the coach­ing staff, Bryant helped Martin Methodist take home the NAIA nation­al title. He still tru­ly believes it’s the best divi­sion in the country”.

Today, as a coach of a new junior col­lege soc­cer pro­gram (cur­rent­ly play­ing their sec­ond sea­son), Bryant pro­vides oppor­tu­ni­ties for his ath­letes to grow on the field and, more impor­tant­ly, in the class­room. His thinks of his job as a devel­op­er — his task is to push play­ers in all aspects of life and get them noticed by larg­er programs. 

It’s not just about the sport, it’s about aca­d­e­m­ic suc­cess, too” said Bryant. In Tennessee, we have the best nurs­ing pro­gram in the state. Not Vanderbilt, not Tennessee, but lit­tle Columbia State.”

During recruit­ment, he tells coach­es and pos­si­ble recruits how his pro­gram doesn’t focus on the lev­el they’re play­ing at. To him, it’s sim­i­lar to work­ing a 9 – 5 job. You need expe­ri­ence. If an ath­lete comes to his pro­gram, they’ll get actu­al, on-field expe­ri­ence at the col­le­giate lev­el. And two years down the road, they’ll stand a much bet­ter chance at get­ting into a Vanderbilt or a Georgia because of it. Makes sense, right?

Throw out the divi­sion, recruits,” said Bryant. “‘If [Columbia State] com­pet­ed in Division I, would you come here?’ If the answer is yes, then fol­low that instinct over the stig­ma of division.”

There’s anoth­er key com­po­nent to the appeal of junior col­lege soc­cer: tuition and cost of liv­ing. Compare tuition between Vanderbilt and a com­mu­ni­ty col­lege near­by. In two years, a play­er would be look­ing at sav­ing some­thing like $30K while still gain­ing expe­ri­ence. Now he or she can step into a Division I pro­gram, know­ing they have what it takes. They’ve already devel­oped their game and found their nat­ur­al posi­tion. Being $30K less in debt than the per­son lin­ing up across the field is a real­ly nice bonus.

Bryant wants stu­dent-ath­letes to know the truth about junior col­lege-lev­el play — there are end­less ben­e­fits. I’ll con­tin­ue to do the lit­tle things to make my pro­gram more appeal­ing to the naked eye, ­and we will always pro­vide top-notch train­ing to those ath­letes com­mit­ted to us,” said Bryant.

But high school and club coach­es need to be telling their play­ers too. There’s no need to only look for Division I pro­grams. To learn more about Columbia State women’s soc­cer, or get in con­tact with Coach Bryant, vis­it their web­site