WORTHINGTON -- Chances are that there very few long-time athletes in the Worthington area who haven’t met CJ Nelson.
It might have been from his 18 years at the Worthington Area YMCA. Nelson, who grew up in the Worthington area and participated in football, basketball and track and field for WHS, began his work at the Y working with the day camp program. He worked his way up to become program director.
Today he serves as the athletic enrollment specialist at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, where he also assists with the women’s volleyball program while handling scoring desk duties at basketball games.
“Athletic enrollment specialist” is a fancy title associated with recruitment efforts. Nelson helps scour the region, and beyond, to match Minnesota West with athletes who have something special to give to the college -- matching them with a two-year school that he hopes has something more to give back to them.
In a world of exciting -- and varied -- college choices, Minnesota West is just one of many. Four-year schools can entice top athletes with scholarships and the hope of stardom on a lofty level. Minnesota West can’t compete with that, but it might offer other things four-year schools can’t, such as a better chance to play, and more affordable tuition, with the opportunity to continue later at bigger school.
The Globe found CJ at his desk in the Center for Health and Wellness on the Minnesota West Worthington campus recently, and asked him to discuss his duties. You can see a video online at www.dglobe.com. Here’s a sample of the interview:
QUESTION: Can you explain your duties at Minnesota West, especially as it applies to recruiting?
ANSWER: “Primarily my job is to focus on getting girl athletes to our school. I do that a bunch of different ways. There are websites that we go on and we search. We go to games and we watch people play. We read newspaper articles, we find out about girls who have good games. We reach out to coaches, get feedback on what they think of their players. Once we get that, we try to set up phone calls where we talk with you. We explain what our education goals are for you -- is this a good place for you? Is this not a good place for you? Most people, I think, Minnesota West is a great opportunity for.”
QUESTION: What are some of your challenges?
ANSWER: “We’re a D-3 school, so we can’t offer money. … A 4-year school, if they offer you a $2,000 scholarship to go and play sports, it still might be cheaper to come here. And you still have a better opportunity to play here.”
QUESTION: How does the future look at Minnesota West?
ANSWER: “Number 1, I think that’s the biggest thing -- have good kids. If we bring good kids in here that work hard, we’re going to be successful. We’ve got some great coaches here, we’ve got some great people here.”