NICEVILLE – Bart Walker isn’t resting on his laurels during this pandemic.
Fresh off leading the Raiders to Panhandle Conference and Region 8 crowns, only to see his team’s season end prematurely after earning the No. 3 seed in the NJCAA tournament, the NWF State women’s basketball coach is staying active during the nationwide social distancing/quarantine.
He’s running. He’s reading. He’s recruiting.
We caught up with Walker to talk life without sports.
Who are you social distancing with? Has this strengthened the family bond?
“I’m at home with me wife, Kristy. During the season, she’s a comptroller for a major business and stays busy. And with my schedule, we don’t always have a lot of time together. So this is kinda new for both of us and we’re just trying to make the most of it.”
Out of all the postponements and cancellations between pro and college, what sport do you miss the most?
“Golf. I’m a big golf fan, and I miss my weekend tournaments I can just flick on. The Masters was going to be on right after March Madness, so I’ll miss that.”
Crystal ball time, did you feel like your team controlled its own destiny in the national tournament after winning nine straight games and winning the Panhandle Conference and Region 8 tournament?
“I think the team really, really got focused the last nine games. Even after we won the last game, we had our regular schedule and the girls were working hard before spring break. We felt like they had the confidence and were gelling.”
Recruiting-wise, you’re kind of in a holding pattern, right?
“We can’t visit players’ homes and we can’t invite anyone to campus, which is shut down, so it’s just phone calls and FaceTime.”
What does a world without sports look like to you?
“I’ve been around sports my whole life, so going through this and not seeing live sporting events on TV is hard. But it’s hard on everyone. And it’s a good time to find other interests and evolve as a person.”
What are you doing to stay physically active?
“The first few days we did some early spring cleaning. And I still run through town every day. Down Highway 20 and past Walmart and back by the school, because I live down the road. Five miles, that’s my daily regiment.”
What else have you been doing at home?
“I’ve been reading a lot. I’ve had an opportunity to pick up some books — look at some old books that have had meaning and kinda refresh. One of those books is Lead … for God’s Sake. It’s a book a lot of coaches have read and it helps you appreciate what you’ve gone through in your career, not just in basketball but outside of basketball. How you’ve impacted people’s lives.”
Have you watched or binged anything good on TV?
“We’ve been doing the Netflix thing like everyone. We’ll get into a series for three, four hours and then I’ll have to get up and move around.”
What kind of advice can you offer to athletes/fellow coaches dealing with this time off?
“I’ve been doing this a long time. In the past, as a coach I’d be impatient and want to get recruiting done immediately. But as I’ve grown older and spoken to mentors, the best thing in this situation is to control what you control. We can’t control much now, so I’d just preach persistence in what you can do.”