Cami Henry Makes DIII To DI Jump At Northwestern
After spending four years at the Division III level of college softball with DePauw University, Cami Henry wasn’t ready to hang up her cleats just yet. Since DePauw doesn’t offer any master’s programs and Henry had one season of NCAA eligibility remaining, it was time to look elsewhere to continue her collegiate career.
Keeping her options open throughout her time in the transfer portal, all Henry wanted was a place that would make her as happy as DePauw had made her. Little did she know, the road to a new school would end at the Division 1 level.
When the opportunity to join the Northwestern Wildcats fell into her lap in late July just before school started, she realized what an incredible opportunity she had in front of her.
“I wasn’t honestly set on wanting to be a D1 athlete or going to a certain school,” Henry said. “I felt like I still had some time as far as my athletic ability and how much I love the game, on top of the ability to get the degree that I was after. Northwestern has ended up being one of the most fun experiences I have ever had.”
For Henry, the journey to the Division 1 level would not have been possible without the time she spent evolving as a player at the Division III level. While her teammates and opponents were committing to top programs at young ages, Henry needed the time to physically and mentally grow, and she wouldn’t have wanted her story to go any other way.
“I was a kid who was a late bloomer,” Henry said. “I am very thankful for choosing Division III, because it gave me a lot more space to develop as a player and develop as a human being. I have grown a lot, learned how to set up batters better, gotten stronger and figured out how to spin the ball in a way that is going to be more productive against certain types of hitters. I am thankful I had those years to hone that so I could be ready for this level when the opportunity presented itself.”
The hardest adjustment in moving up divisions for Henry was the change in her schedule. Since Division III schools go without play or practice between October and February, student-athletes determine how they want their downtime to look. Henry was as busy as ever in Division III, but never did she imagine her schedule could become even more hectic.
“I had four months where I was in charge of my own schedule, so I was able to go to my bullpens when I had the free time to do it and I was able to put in as much work as I wanted to,” Henry said. “Schedule-wise (there) is a lot more time commitment, and that’s crazy for me to say because if you would’ve asked me six months ago, I would say I was busy all the time with softball, but it was a different type of busy.”
Aside from having a fresh start with a new team, Henry has also had to become a brand-new pitcher. After sustaining a stress fracture on her forearm at the end of her senior season with DePauw, she is working to avoid another injury while also learning to battle against new competition.
“I had to relearn to pitch without hurting myself and that was the biggest challenge for me to tackle, and especially for my new pitching coach and staff to figure out,” Henry said. “I have been forced to really sit down and actually throw balls through the strike zone. I have to go after batters instead of just trying to get them to swing and miss and hope that they are fooled by the pitch.”
As Henry continues her last season of college softball and reflects on her playing career, she wants other players who may be doubting their abilities to know that softball is equally important at any division.
“There is no shame, there is no issue in the fact that you chose to play at Division III or Division II or NAIA,” Henry said. “I would never change a thing about my undergrad experience and the fact that I went to a Division III school. Make the most of what you are doing right now and be really present and allow for those opportunities to come to you if they do. Never feel less than because of the decisions you made at the time of your commitment.”