Welcome to Interview #26.
I am pleased to share with you the wisdom of NAIA Cross Country / Track & Field Coach of Northwestern College, Scott Bahrke.
Coach Scott Bahrke is in his fourth year as the Head Cross Country / Track & Field Coach at Northwestern College. He has coached cross country and track the last 15 years, the first 11 at the high school level.
Where do NAIA track & field and cross country coaches most often find players for their teams?
I go to local meets and look through local results to find competitive times. I also use recruiting Web sites where athletes submit their profiles.
Why do you think athletes should consider an NAIA college? What are the benefits of an NAIA school specifically?
I believe the NAIA level is very competitive and can allow a student to focus on their academics (as well as their athletic experience). I feel the NAIA keeps things in perspective when it comes to student-athletes. An NAIA school can award a student academically, but can also award a student for their athletic achievements.
What can or should high school athletes do from their end to get on your radar screen? If a track athlete personally contacts you by phone or email, what will you do next?
If an athlete knows they interested in Northwestern College, they should reach out to someone on our coaching staff or complete a recruit questionnaire.
If an athlete contacts me, I will take the time to learn a little about them and answer any questions they have about our program. I will then follow up and encourage them to visit our campus and meet members of our team.
Could you share, in whatever detail you are comfortable, what the athletic scholarship break down looks like on your rosters?
We hope to bring in 20 women and 20 men each year in our recruiting. Usually we are looking for a couple of throwers, horizontal jumpers and vertical jumpers. Our goal is to bring in 3 or 4 sprinters and mid-distance runners. Finally, we hope to bring in 5 or more distance runners in a season. Our recruits averaged just under $3500 in athletic aid last season.
What is the role of the parent in the recruiting process?
We understand that parents will be giving advice, and our recruits will turn to them when making a final college decision. Parents are encouraged to come on visits and ask questions.
Track and field recruiting is all about recorded data, right? Or is there more to it?
Track & field statistics give a lot of information. I look at meet results and stats online quite a bit. It is a little trickier with sprinters who are primarily in relays. Split times are nice, but are not an exact science.
It is beneficial to visit with a coach via email or a phone call to check on an athlete. I enjoy watching a recruit in a competitive race to see how they respond to adversity. It is a good indicator how they will respond for our team in the future.
How do you use social media when recruiting? What is your advice to recruits about their use of social media?
We encourage recruits to follow our team through social media. They can view results and share in our successes. Social media can be a great way to learn more about a college you are interested in.
You do need to act responsibly on social media. Once you post something it is out there for everyone to view and others formulate their opinions on what they see from you on social media.
What are a few of the most common mistakes that prospective-student athletes make in the college recruiting process?
One mistake I see is not visiting a college and experiencing it while classes are in session and members from the team are there. This is a great way to ask questions of current student-athletes. Another mistake is not being honest with a coach. If you know that you are not considering an institution, tell the coach instead of misleading them for months.
Northwestern College is a Christian school. Will all religious schools be similar? What are differences that recruits should think about when choosing a religious school?
Northwestern College is an intentionally Christian, liberal arts college. All of our faculty and staff believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. God is at the center of a student’s education. Faith is discussed in classes, team meetings, chapel, and many other areas on campus.
There are other schools that have a religious affiliation, but are not intentional about Christian faith and will not offer as many opportunities for students.
Recruits should consider where they are at in their faith. They need to know that faith will be developed and challenged at an intentionally Christian institution like Northwestern College. I encourage my recruits to be in prayer throughout the college decision making process. God will guide them and provide wisdom with this huge decision.
What should players expect from a Christian college athletic experience?
Players should expect to learn how to treat others with respect and take on a servant attitude. They will value what the competition brings to a contest. Many times players from other teams will pause for prayer before or after a contest. I hope that players will glorify God in their actions on and off the track.
Bonus Question: Is there anything important that you would like to share directly with high school athletes or track & field athletes in particular as they navigate the recruiting process?
As a recruit, you need to visit the campus and see for yourself everything that you will be experiencing as a student-athlete. You should come to campus with a list of questions you would like the coach to answer and help you narrow down your search of colleges.
Coach Scott Bahrke is in his fourth year as the Head Cross Country / Track & Field Coach at Northwestern College. During this time, Coach Bahrke’s athletes have earned 46 All-American honors (including one national championship by Karen Ettleman in the women’s heptathlon).
The Northwestern College men’s and women’s track & field teams have earned the distinction of NAIA Scholar Teams (all athletes competing on a team average 3.0 GPA or higher) every year since 2008.
He has coached cross country and track the last 15 years, the first 11 at the high school level.
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