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Find Your Path: The Mental Health of an Athlete

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The youngest of six kids, David Kotowski discovered his passion for lacrosse by playing with his older brother, Matt, and his friends. Dave lived in a single-parent home and was subjected to abuse that left him troubled and on a dangerous path toward failure. The two constants that Dave could count on were sports and school. At a pivotal moment in his young life, Dave met lacrosse coach John Durante, who Dave credits as the man who saved his life.

Coach Durante ignited the spark that would elevate this young, troubled lacrosse player to pursue his own successes and overcome obstacles and barriers. Dave vividly remembers the day Coach Durante told him “there’s more for you.” That moment helped Dave envision his full potential.

The “more for you” started with Dave attending a new school where the structure he desperately needed would reign supreme. Chaminade High School on Long Island became home for him. At Chaminade, David would find himself in detention after his first week – not because of missed assignments or disrupting class, but because he didn’t have his shirt’s top button unbuttoned. This was the structure he needed.

Four years of high school later, Dave verbally committed to West Point to play football and lacrosse. He had decided it was the school for him – until he visited Brown University. The connections to the players and the atmosphere of Brown sold him on the pivot. While Dave felt Brown was the school for him, he wasn’t sure how he’d afford to attend the school. He ended up being able to attend his dream school through the Thomas Watson scholarship. Thomas Watson (the founder of IBM) and his son donated $100 million to Brown for the scholarship. Upon receiving his scholarship, Dave wrote a heartfelt two-page thank you letter to Thomas Watson, Jr. Moved by the letter, Watson asked to meet the young student. Over breakfast on the Brown campus, the two forged a relationship that would change the course of Dave Kotowski’s life.

After graduating Brown, Dave didn’t know what he wanted to do. He hated sitting behind a trade desk on Wall Street, so he consulted his mentor Thomas Watson, Jr. on something he’d been mulling over – law school. Watson offered to pay for law school under two stipulations – first, he’d need to do the same for someone else and second, Dave would have to explain to him why he wanted to be a lawyer. Dave wrote down his reasoning and shared it with Watson. Watson replied, “you don’t want to be a lawyer. You just don’t want to work on Wall Street. Don’t ever run FROM something, run TOWARD something. You need to find your path.” These wise words still live on with Dave today.

Dave went on to play professional lacrosse for the New York Saints and the Bridgeport Barrage before starting Team Elevate and Elevate Academy. Dave created Elevate Academy after he saw the inequality between boys’ and girls’ lacrosse programs. He wanted a program that helped to educate and empower young girls to learn the game and step into leadership. With a huge focus on academics, Team Elevate offers tutoring and SAT prep for their college-bound players.

Dave appreciates the structure and support athletics and academics provide and he knows how to bring the best out of each of his athletes. Dave also knows how to provide the best for his players. The countless coaches, mentors, and teachers who set him on a better path paved the way for Dave to be an agent of change for the next generation of young athletes. Through Team Elevate and Elevate Academy, Dave honors his mother’s hopes for him by paying it forward and helping others toward a better path.

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