CJ Nelson hired to help recruiting for Minnesota West sports


WORTHINGTON -- So you’re watching a Minnesota West Community and Technical College sporting event, enjoying the level of competition that college athletics provides. And yet, you’re a little disappointed, too. The roster is thin. There should be more players on the team. There should be more local players, especially.

CJ Nelson, programs director at the Worthington Area YMCA and a devoted fan of Minnesota West sports, knows the feeling. But now he can do something about it.

Nelson has been hired to help recruit for Minnesota West athletics, with an emphasis on women’s sports.

“There’s a lot less women that want to go on (to participate at the collegiate level) than men. I don’t know why that is, but I’m looking at some of the four-year colleges, like Northwestern and Dordt, and they’re filling up their JV programs. And we’ve got to try to get some of these kids to go here instead,” he said.

Nelson, who can often be seen at Bluejay and Lady Jay basketball games manning the scoring table, or working the chains at football games, is also an avid watcher of high school sports. He has pointed out possible West recruits to coaches in the past, but now his advocacy for the two-year college will be more regular -- becoming a tool for Minnesota West coaches who must do much of their own recruiting in-season while they’re already busy with games and practices and teaching duties.

Nelson plans to reach out to high schools throughout the tri-state area with phone calls and emails, and to develop personal contacts -- to sell Minnesota West as a good place to go for athletics, and a good place to get a transferable education for significantly less tuition. He hopes to sit down with high school athletes to make his sales pitch.

“To make sure they really see what’s going on. … And the next thing is to try to get them on campus, to see the campus,” he said.

For many athletes, West is a smarter option than the alternative, said Nelson.

“You have a great opportunity to come out here, and you’re going to play,” he explained. “You’re going to play instantly here. You’re not going to play on a JV squad, and you’re not going to play just a few games. You’re going to play a full schedule.”

No doubt, for some, the four-year college sports experience is a wise choice. But many high school seniors who are given scholarships wind up advancing no farther than junior varsity. Nelson says the scholarship money feels great, but families are still spending more for a four-year school than they would spend at a community college. And the community college can be the perfect place to prove an athlete’s worth, becoming a great springboard for the next step.

This year, Minnesota West sports supporters are hopeful that a new housing project will make it easier for new recruits to choose the Minnesota West option.

Minnesota West’s need for more female athletes was evident last year, as the Lady Jays fielded one of their best volleyball teams in years but struggled with depth. Depth was also an issue with the Lady Jays basketball team, which won a Southern Division championship and finished one win short of a national tournament berth. The spring softball program did not get off the ground at all due to lack of numbers.

As a fan, Nelson has noticed when lack of depth has hampered West teams’ efforts.

“A lot of times I get there (to games) and I just get frustrated because I feel we’re just missing out. And a lot of that has been the housing,” he said. “A lot of times I see how we’ve got some really good kids on the team, but that we’re just missing that one missing piece. And what I want is to help us get beyond that point.”