It’s What Dads Do: Stensgaards Embrace Another Season
Jared Stensgaard (left) has been coached by his dad, Craig, since he first fell in love with the game of golf.
Jared Stensgaard (left) has been coached by his dad, Craig, since he first fell in love with the game of golf.
Jared Stensgaard finished with a 79.7 stroke average over 16 rounds in 2019-20.
Jared Stensgaard finished with a 79.7 stroke average over 16 rounds in 2019-20.

Monday, February 1, 2021
by Kaho Akau, GNAC Media Relations Assistant

NAMPA, Idaho – For Jared Stensgaard, all signs pointed to Northwest Nazarene University.

A native of Nampa, Idaho, Stensgaard is a third-generation Northwest Nazarene student. His mother, LeAnn, has taught in the NNU social work department for over 20 years. His father, Craig, is in his 24th year at NNU, currently serving as the Nighthawks’ assistant athletic director and head men’s and women’s golf coach.

No matter where Jared and his younger brother, Jayden, went as children, they would run into someone who had ties with Northwest Nazarene.

Jared joined an AAU basketball team when he was in sixth grade and one of his teammates had a parent who worked in the NNU admissions office. When he went on trips to the grocery store with his mom, someone from the NNU community would inevitably stop LeAnn to have a conversation.

There was no avoiding Northwest Nazarene. So when it came time for him to decide where he was going to attend college, the answer was obvious.

“We could be in Seattle and still get stopped in the airport or on the street by someone who was connected to Northwest Nazarene in one way or another,” Jared said. “My life has revolved around this community. I had no dilemma choosing where to go to college because this is my family’s home.”

Staying home and joining the Northwest Nazarene men’s golf team was the best decision for Jared. That decision also took the Stensgaard family affair to another level. Playing for NNU didn’t just allow Jared to continue his golf career for the hometown team. It allowed him to play for his dad and strengthen what was already a solid relationship.

“I loved Jared’s decision to stay home and play for NNU,” Craig said. “Of course, as a dad, it was selfish on my part because I knew I would have a front-row seat to watch him play, but I felt that he would develop into a steady contributor for the team. His long-term academic goal has always been graduate school and he knew that an undergraduate degree from NNU would set him up perfectly for that.”

Jared has been coached by Craig throughout his entire life, and their relationship as player and coach has no limits.

They have had so many experiences together on the golf course through times of triumph and failure. Each of them knows how the other works under certain amounts of pressure, so the communication between the two has become second nature.

“It’s so unique,” Jared said. “I don’t think there is a better relationship that a player can have with their coach than this. He already knows what is going through my head when we get to a shot, and he tells me exactly what I need to know.”

It hasn’t always been this way, though.

The player-coach relationship took some time to develop. Jared and Craig’s personalities as golfers are very different, and Craig said Jared is much more intense on the course than he is.

When Jared was in high school, Craig was his primary swing coach. There were times when Craig pushed Jared a little too hard, like most dads do, which resulted in the two clashing at the course and returning home mad at each other. LeAnn sat them both down one day to figure out how to settle their differences and make it work.

“I had to learn as a dad that he needed to have time at the course to just mess around, be a kid and have fun,” Craig said. “When I pushed too hard, it wasn’t fun and I wasn’t seeing that. I am always wanting him to smile more when he’s on the course. I’ve learned that I need to back off and just understand that we are different.”

It’s not easy when your dad is your coach, especially at the college level.

When Jared first joined the program in 2015, he was slightly embarrassed to have Craig as his coach because he didn’t want his teammates to look at him differently. He put too much pressure on himself to perform well so he could prove to the team that he belonged. He didn’t want them to think that he was there just because his dad was the coach.

He quickly realized that playing for his dad was a blessing and not something to be ashamed of. He even calls Craig “coach” instead of “dad” during practices and tournaments because he knows Craig isn’t used to being called “dad” while he’s in that environment.

“It’s so difficult to constantly try to be someone you’re not,” Jared said. “I feel like we are still father and son when we are on trips, playing in tournaments or at team meetings. He just happens to also be my coach.”

How do the Stensgaards balance the father-son relationship with the coach-player relationship? When should Craig flip the switch from being a coach to being a dad?

When the two talk during practice or after a round of golf, Craig will usually ask Jared how he wants the conversation to go. Does he want to hear from his coach or his dad? At the end of the day, flipping the switch is Jared’s decision. And either way, Craig is just happy to have this experience with his son.

“Every now and then I’ll say, ‘This is coach talking,’ but it’s mainly his decision and that works great for me because I get to talk with him either way,” Craig said.

Craig and Jared golf as often as they can in their free time. During the summers, they will golf together at least once a week. They are quite competitive with each other too.

If you walk into the Stensgaard family home, you will notice a trophy that sits on the fireplace mantel. It’s an old gold trophy that Craig bought at a second-hand store and attached to a wooden box. It’s called the Family Cup, and it’s the ultimate form of bragging rights.

Inside the wooden box is a piece of paper with the dates and scores of every time they officially golfed with the Family Cup on the line. The tradition started when Jared was a senior in high school and beat Craig in a round of golf for the first time. Now, every time the trophy is on the right side of the mantel, it’s in Jared’s possession, and if it’s on the left side, that means Craig won the most recent battle.

“It’s on the right side about 90 percent of the time now, but I sneak up on him once or twice a year,” Craig said.

“It’s sort of payback for all of those years,” Jared said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, everything fell into place for Jared to return to Northwest Nazarene as a graduate student in 2020-21. With law school waiting in the wings, he has an extra year to retake the Law School Administration Test (LSAT) and improve his score. It’s also an opportunity for him to possibly play for the Nighthawks again and end his college golf career the way it should have ended.

“I figured if someone is going to give me another shot at doing something I love, I should take it,” Jared said. “I have one more year as a student-athlete with my mom and dad before I go off to something else. This journey has been unorthodox, but it has led me to so many blessings that I wouldn’t have found otherwise.”

Jared hopes to stick around the Pacific Northwest and continue to golf whenever he gets a chance. And whether he’s on the course or starting a new career, Craig will always be there to coach him.

It’s what dads do.

“One of the great privileges of my career in coaching has been the opportunity to coach my son,” Craig said. “It’s not always easy but it’s so worth it to be able to share these memories for the rest of our lives.”