Craig Stensgaard To Leave NNU At The End Of The Season
Between his time as a student, coach, administrator and faculty member, Craig Stensgaard (shown here with son Jared) has been a presence on the NNU campus for 30 years.
Between his time as a student, coach, administrator and faculty member, Craig Stensgaard (shown here with son Jared) has been a presence on the NNU campus for 30 years.

Friday, January 14, 2022
by Northwest Nazarene Athletic Communications

NAMPA, Idaho - After 30 years in a variety of roles at Northwest Nazarene University, Craig Stensgaard has announced that this spring will be his last season serving as the assistant athletic director and head men's and women's golf coach.
During that time, Stensgaard has been a part of NNU as a student, athlete, assistant coach, head coach, administrator and faculty member, with his longest-tenured position being 23 years as the Head Golf Coach.
"When thinking about stepping away, I've always wanted to leave while I still had passion for the job," said Stensgaard. "I didn't want to keep coaching without that passion down the road and do a disservice to the student-athletes. Twenty-three years is a long time to do one thing, and now I'm really excited to see where the next coach takes the program."
"From my time as a student-athlete I knew what an impact that NNU could have on a person. But what I am continually reminded of is our ability to connect with our student-athletes in so many more areas of their lives. I have friendships across the country with coaches that are limited in what they can talk about with their players and I just can't imagine not being able to integrate discussions of faith and purpose inside of our sport. That means so much to me and the most fulfilling result of coaching is the lifelong relationships that I have with so many of my players."
"It is difficult to summarize in a few sentences the many ways that Stens has given of his time, energy, and heart to serve NNU Athletics," said NNU Athletic Director Kelli Lindley. "Over the years, Stens has filled countless roles and has always been a resource or the person to lend a helping hand for pretty much any need or question that has come up within Athletics.
"It has been a privilege to work alongside Stens and see the multitude of ways he has supported, encouraged, and cared for students and colleagues. He will always be a huge part of our NNU Athletics family, and his example of service and love for NNU will always be remembered."
As the current longest-tenured member of the NNU Athletic Department, and record-holder for most consecutive seasons ever coached with one sport at Northwest Nazarene, Stensgaard has seen many people come and go and been a mentor to countless peers and student-athletes. He credits a mentor of his own, though, as a big reason behind the success and fulfillment he has experienced at NNU.
"The biggest impact on my coaching and career journey would be Rich Sanders," said Stensgaard. "Rich took a chance on me way back in 1997 and hired me as a men's basketball assistant because he knew my goal was to coach at the college level. When he did that, neither of us knew what it would develop into and the golf program's reinstatement in the spring of '98 was not something that either of us knew was coming. Having spent several years in the golf world after college, the idea of creating a program from scratch was an amazing opportunity. I know that Rich had a big impact on NNU choosing me to fill that role as head golf coach and continue as his assistant. I remember some of the conversations about starting the golf program with Scott Armstrong (then NNU athletic director) like they were yesterday and I'm thankful he took a chance on me."
"Rich taught me so much, but I think the most important was his Godly example of how to communicate with people. His self-discipline to not speak negatively of someone is amazing and is a tremendous example. Rich always saw the positive in people and the grace that he operated with was incredible."
Through the years, Stensgaard was able to see success both at the conference level and make multiple appearances at the national level. In 2014, Stensgaard led the men's golf team to a GNAC title and was named the Coach of the Year in the conference. Following the team championship, senior Nick Hardy earned an individual selection to the NCAA Division II West Regional Championship in Austin, Texas. 
Last year, the 2020-21 men's golf squad qualified for the NCAA Regional for the first time in program history as a team.
On the men's side, he has coached one GNAC Newcomer of the Year, two GNAC Freshmen of the Year, and 12 All-GNAC honorees. For the women, it has been one GNAC Newcomer of the Year, one GNAC Freshman of the Year, and 11 All-GNAC honorees.
During his coaching career, he also served as the national chair for NCAA Division II Men's Golf Committee as well as the Regional Advisory Committees in both the West and South Central regions.
"Success on the course is obviously great, but a majority of my best memories were off the course and centered around shared experiences during team meals or trips," added Stensgaard. "We have traveled internationally three times and those are always life-changing trips because of how it opens your eyes to the world. There was a basketball team dinner in Anchorage, Alaska in the early 2000s that was amazing. We were all upstairs around a huge table at the restaurant and the players were sharing stories about how they grew up."
"There are countless more. A golf team dinner at an Applebee's in 2008 in Salem, Oregon after we won the Willamette Invitational, navigating 'The Tube' in London, England, jumping in Lake Coeur d'Alene as a team after we won the 2014 GNAC Championships, climbing the steps of the 'Great Wall' in China with our players, just some amazing memories I will never forget."

He also stresses that none of this success would have been possible without his wife LeAnn's support and encouragement over the years, who is serving in her 22nd year at NNU, currently as a professor of Social Work and Chair of the Social Work and Criminal Justice Department. "She has really made all of this possible. Being so supportive of my career and putting up with the endless weekends and travel. When our boys were little I know she felt like a single parent at times and I had to learn how to be a better dad and husband, and lucky for me she allowed me to grow into that. It probably felt like she was raising three boys instead of two, but we will celebrate our 28th anniversary this March, so I'm a pretty fortunate guy and hopefully I'll keep getting better as a husband."
Stensgaard originally spent five years in Nampa as a student, graduating in 1992 with a degree in Office Administration. He played for the baseball team for four years, serving as co-captain during his senior season in 1990-91.
Following graduation he spent a few years away from the college, working in the golf business as an assistant golf professional with local Treasure Valley PGA professionals John Lewis and Ken Sparks and teaching middle school computer science and serving as the athletic director at West Middle School in Nampa.
In 1997, he returned to Northwest Nazarene and started coaching part-time with the men's basketball program, and was then asked to join the staff full-time in 1999 to continue coaching basketball and restart the men's golf program in the spring of 1998.
Following the passing of beloved NNU sports information director Gil Craker, Stensgaard transitioned away from basketball and into the role of sports information director from 2002 to 2012, while maintaining coaching duties with men's golf. He was named an assistant athletic director in 2008, and then began also coaching women's golf when the sport was added to NNU's slate in the fall of 2012.
"While I had many roles on campus, one constant is that the most fulfilling times are when we are privileged to be invited into a player's life and allowed to walk side-by-side with them," said Stensgaard. "As players walk in their faith journey, being trusted to speak into that is a huge honor and that invitation is something to be cherished.
"Coaching my son was an amazing experience, and being able to expand the golf program to include women's golf in 2013 was and continues to be awesome. Also, my constant text loops and lunches with groups of players from the past 20-some years is always so great."

All told, when Stensgaard departs in May he will have spent five years as a student, four years as an athlete, five years as a men's basketball assistant, 10 years as SID, 14 years as an assistant AD, 10 years as the head women's golf coach, and 23 years as the head men's golf coach.
"A large part of what I will miss the most about NNU and coaching is the relationships," said Stensgaard. "You develop trust with your players and that is when they give you permission to deepen your relationship with them. Your effectiveness as a coach grows exponentially when this happens and it is something you have to experience to understand how powerful it is. It's a special thing and I hope anyone who has coached has that experience. I've been fortunate to experience it as a student-athlete and a coach and it makes all the hard work so worth it."
As for what's next, Stensgaard will be co-owning a company based in Nampa that does human resource management, High Road PEO. He will continue to serve as the chair of the NNU Athletics Hall of Fame Committee and will still be seen regularly around NNU at games and other events on campus.

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