Recruiting a community

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Football coaches seek specific fits for Bethel athletics. 

By Aaron Herbst

A blizzard covers the quaint town of Yuma, Colorado. A fresh coat of snow blankets the road. Glaring ice an ever-present threat as the howling wind pushes against the side of Scott Kirchoff’s car like an offensive line doing sled drills. A strong gust pushes the white Ford Focus towards the shoulder, and Kirchoff yanks the wheel back to avoid the steep ditch that lies in waiting.

Kirchoff, Bethel University’s former assistant football coach, thinks that he is on the way to Woody’s restaurant to meet the next starting quarterback for the Bethel Royals, because that’s who he was told he was meeting. However, waiting for him is a 300 lb. offensive lineman named John Chouinard and his mother, Margaret.

As a recruiter for the Bethel football team, Kirchoff scans the small diner looking for what he thinks a quarterback might look like. Across the room is the only high school boy in the place. Kirchoff walks up tentatively and asks if the young man is John Chouinard, wondering as he approaches how in the world this man can do a seven-step drop back without tripping over his own feet.

The first question out of Kirchoff’s mouth was: “Son, what position do you see yourself playing?”

John responded, “Offensive lineman coach, why do you ask?” Kirchoff let out a sigh of relief and proceeded with his recruitment pitch.

The world of Division III Christian College football recruiting is not one of glitz and glamour. It often involves weird hours, long road trips, and a lot of lukewarm hotdogs at high school football games all across the country – even during the season. When it comes to recruiting for Bethel, coaches are after specific types of players.

“We want players who love the Lord, and love football,” Greg Peterson, an offensive coordinator and recruiter, said. “We don’t recruit everyone, because everyone is not a fit for Bethel. We want kids who will thrive academically, and kids who can play athletically.” Peterson also said whenever a Bethel recruiter sits down with a kid, they are always very up front about what Bethel is about and what they expect from them as part of the Royals family.

Recruiting is also very important when it comes to student enrollment here at Bethel. “All extracurricular programs are immensely important in our work,” Bret Hyder, Bethel’s Director of Admissions, said. “Very few students enroll at Bethel simply for their major of study. Most students plan on being involved, and athletics is one avenue that is extremely important to the health of enrollment at Bethel. Many schools add athletic programs as the quickest way to build stronger enrollment.”

Funds are needed in order for the recruiters and coaches to do their job and bring in players to the program. According to Bob Bjorklund, Bethel’s athletic director, money used for recruitment comes from the football team’s budget which stems from the athletic department’s overall budget. No specific numbers were given.

The Royal’s coaching staff knows that recruitment is only the first step in developing a Championship level program. The improvements that develop daily in the players on the practice field and in film sessions gives coaches hope to turn the Bethel football program into a perennial powerhouse.

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