College Recruiting and Mental Toughness with Daniel Steigert

By Jill Mitchell, Social Media Director

market of clay pots

Meet Daniel Steigert. Daniel is a college lacrosse coach for Dominican College, a DII school about an hour north of New York. We met Daniel in PracticeHero’s earliest days. We love Daniel’s enthusiasm for PracticeHero, but what we love even more is his passion for coaching and the integrity he holds for himself as a coach and his players.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, Daniel. Where do you live? What are some hobbies you have outside of work? What sports did you play growing up?

I grew up on Long Island and I now live in Nyack, NY. I’m the Mens Lacrosse Head Coach at Dominican College. We are a small Division 2 school just outside of New York City. I am also an assistant coach with the French National Lacrosse team.

Outside of coaching, I also work as a Director of Global Business Development for a Corporate Services firm. In my downtime, my hobbies include investing, attending live sporting events, hitting the golf course, going to the beach, a hike every once is always a plus, and I love to travel and create new experiences.

What qualities do you look for when you recruit your college athletes?

The two main things I look for are grades and the character of the player, but I’ll talk about that more in the next question since this is more about qualities.

A lot of coaches look for physical attributes first, I really don’t. Lacrosse is beautiful in the sense that you don’t have to be tall, super fast, bulked up or anything along those lines like in basketball, football and soccer. While all those help, lacrosse is a sport that anyone can play and be successful with. Aside from grades and character, overall athleticism is the first quality I look for. The second quality is the fundamentals the player exhibits and if they have any bad habits. The third is their hustle and effort and the fourth is the IQ of a player, do they understand the game. Lastly, I look for position specific traits (i.e. for Attackmen I look for guys that are triple threat options meaning they can dodge, pass and can finish the ball). I just want to hop back to the hustle and effort quality.

One thing I talk about with our guys is to “Be The Type Of Teammate That You Want To Play With.” No one wants to play with a lazy person who doesn’t put in effort.

When recruiting your athletes, how important are grades? Sportsmanship? Community involvement?

Grades are the first thing I look at. I generally recruit players with 3.3 GPA’s and above. I tell every recruit, you are coming to be a student athlete, and I like to place a big emphasis on academics. Grades generally paint a picture of the type of student we are recruiting as well. There are times I make some exceptions, and that’s usually when I see grades have increased positively over time. But grades are extremely important.

Sportsmanship is also a quality I look for, and I look for someone who exhibits respect for the game, their teammates and their opponents.

The character of the player is also extremely important. We go through extensive research as a staff to call coaches and other resources to ask about the character of the kids we recruit. When we get a “not so good” referral, we tend to have an open and honest conversation with the player.

As for community involvement, yes, I do look for that as well. I think the best way to put it, is I like kids who are involved in a bunch of things.

I’m a big fan of multi-sport athletes, I do not believe in sport specialization (my opinion is that it leads to burnout). I also like to see kids who are involved with clubs at schools, local fire departments, Boy Scouts and being active in their communities.

How do you help your athletes achieve mental toughness?

I talk about sleep a lot. Sometimes, I feel college athletes don’t take that message to heart (I know I didn’t when I played in college and I’ve learned from that experience). But, I believe the first step to enhancing mental health and developing mental toughness is a goodnights’ sleep.

Second to that, one major thing I like to talk about with athletes is your mindset. Not just as an athlete, but in everyday life too. I ask our guys, are you going to have a negative or positive outlook and mindset?

Another phrase I like to tell athletes is, “You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to it.” I think the first step to developing mental toughness is developing a positive mindset.

The next is to control what you can control, or as I like to call it “Control the Controllables.” I like to tell our guys to focus on their specific responsibilities, their jobs and to control what they can control. By doing this, they don’t feel overwhelmed because they have to compensate for others, which can cause some stress and anxiety. I also like to believe by having this mindset, it can help eliminate the “outside noise and distractions.” I can go on forever about this topic, so I’m going to provide a link of an interview I did a few years back about improving your mental toughness as an athlete. While it references the sport of lacrosse, it is a very helpful resource to any athlete in any sport. I highly recommend reading this as it answers this question in greater depth:

Jill is PracticeHero’s Social Media Director. She’s originally from St. Louis, MO, and currently resides in the Dallas area with her husband, two daughters and two dogs. When not chauffeuring her girls to activities, Jill loves smoothies, clean eating and riding her Peloton bike.