Pursuing Excellence for Pilot Athletics
Tony Natali, who in July becomes Bethel College’s new Athletic Director, is all about excellence. For him, it’s part of the Christian life.
“Christ experienced excellence in everything he did,” Natali says. “Not just in one area. Since we want Christ to be at the center of everything we do, I want our department to pursue excellence in every single way.”
That includes win-loss records and performance, certainly, but also excellence in athlete and staff conduct and in classroom performance. Natali, who steps down from his position as head track and field coach and assistant AD, says he and the coaching staff will become even more involved in academic areas.
“My experience is that a lot of those areas don’t fully understand what we do, or for that matter, we don’t fully understand what they do. I want to work on those relationships and take the integration of our athletic department to another level.
“With better relationships comes increased understanding and mutual respect. We’re all here for the same purpose,” Natali says.
This focus nicely dovetails with outgoing AD Tom Visker’s enduring lesson from his five years in the office: Follow where God is leading.
“God provided the opportunity for me to lead our athletic staff in the development of a faith-directed approach to our calling as pastor/coaches,” Visker says. “This has allowed our Christian faith, not sport’s conventional wisdom, to be the lens through which we view sports participation.”
Visker, who previously served as Bethel’s Dean of Arts and Humanities for 11 years, points Natali to Proverbs 3:5-6 (The Message): “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do … Run to God!”
For his part, Natali trusts he is in the right place at the right time after 21 years on staff. As the college transitions to a university this spring, he says athletics will play a key role.
“Becoming a university takes everything we’ve done to this point to another level,” Natali says. “It’s a new start and provides the opportunity for exposure and spreading the word.
“I feel God put me in this position and he’s prepared me for this. I love Bethel and I love our student-athletes. I want to do everything I possibly can to give both a voice. That’s important,” Natali says.