The sky over Don and Nona Williams Stadium is gray. Little patches of snow cover the field and the cold winds cause the flags to whip back and forth aggressively. The Boys of Fall lay dormant this time of year, and the squeaks of athletic shoes and bounces of balls can be heard inside the gyms, which are full of the winter sport athletes and recreational ballplayers seeking refuge from the harsh winter conditions of University of Wisconsin–Stout.
For a fall-sport student-athlete, this could be a time of year to focus on schoolwork and become more socially involved in some of the collegiate events they must forfeit during their fall sports season. However, this is not always the case. Even in Division 3 college football, the saying “there’s no such thing as the off-season” proves to be true. While it is a step down from full-time commitment during the season, one senior football player, Bradley Myers, said there are still mandatory lifting requirements four days a week all through winter. Starting in April, there is practice every other day from 6:00 a.m.-7:30 a.m.
The commitment for a college football player does not stop when the season ends, instead there are a new series of responsibilities and requirements that come along with the ever-present school work and the social commitments. Despite the year-long commitment to a Division 3 sport, many players still find the off-season to be a time to focus for the next season and capitalize on opportunities to improve.
Senior lineman Greg Okray said, “I got a lot out of [the off-season]. If you don’t train or keep your mind right during the off-season, you won’t be as successful next season.”
This is something schools look for in its student-athletes: a year-round passion for their athletic endeavors and a desire to better themselves season to season. Those qualities seem to be reflective of individuals who will continue to be successful long after they walk off the field. As the athletic director Duey Naatz put it, “Our student athletes are engaged in being great students, actively involved in our community and being competitive in sports at a national level,” coaches say. A commitment to continuing to work in the off-season is what will prepare football players and all athletes to succeed long after the cleats have been put down for good, and the permanent off-season begins.