As Coach Dave Steckel stepped into his first job as a 6th grade teacher at Governor Mifflin Junior High, he was eager for the opportunity to teach and shape young minds. In the teacher’s lounge between classes and after school, the recent college grad was shocked and disgusted by the way some teachers spoke about their students. He felt that these lowered expectations and attitudes set kids up for failure. This event changed the trajectory of his career and how he approached life as a coach, author, father, and husband.
Growing up, Dave was the kid the teachers talked about behind the lounge doors. All he wanted to do was get outside and play sports; not focus on school or study. At 17, he enlisted in the Marines to prove to his father that he wasn’t going to sit idly by and do nothing with his life. This decision – much like his moment in the teacher’s lounge years later – would change his life.
Though the Vietnam War had just ended, Dave’s drill instructors at Paris Island had experienced war firsthand, instilling their valuable knowledge upon him and his fellow recruits. There, Dave discovered how strong the mind can be. The physical tests he was subject to pushed him past the limits his mind had set for him; giving him the mental endurance to get out of his comfort zone.
The skills Dave acquired during that intensive Marine training gave him the discipline and tools needed for his next career step after teaching – coaching. Dave signed on with Dickinson College as head football coach, inheriting a less-than-stellar program. But Stec – as his players called him – embraced the challenge of a rebuild. He decided to approach the rebuild with fresh eyes; refusing to watch film from previous seasons or interview the outgoing staff. Stec didn’t want any preconceived notions or expectations about his players until he could see them perform on the field himself.
Stec would go on to deliver Dickinson’s first winning season in over a decade, and the year after that. He’d go on to serve as linebacker’s coach at University of Missouri and eventually take the helm as head coach at Missouri State University. During his coaching tenure, Stec shared his discipline-oriented coaching style with thousands of athletes. His philosophy about discipline is that kids may hate it in the moment, but when they look back 5-10 years from now, they’ll appreciate it.
Dave may have hung up the whistle and clipboard but he’s still coaching people through his book, “The Fisherman: Leadership Traits to Win the Game of Life.” Dave has taken his experiences as a coach, Marine, teacher, and mentor and shared it in a unique way in this great read. The book teaches important leadership lessons through the eyes of a traveler having a conversation with a mysterious local fisherman. Pick up your own copy here: https://www.amazon.com/Fisherman-Dave-Steckel/dp/1938254856