Hometown: Port Chester, N.Y.
Sons: Jake and Justin
• University of Louisville, Head Coach (2007-present)
• University of Mississippi, Assistant Coach (2001-06)
• The Citadel, Assistant Coach (1993-2000)
• Three-time College World Series Participant (2007, ’13, ’14)
• Rivals.com National Coach of the Year (2007)
• Assistant coach for USA National Baseball Team (2009)
This story appears in FCA Magazine’s May/June 2015 issue. Subscribe today!
“For I know the plans I have for you’—this is the Lord’s declaration—‘plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” -Jeremiah 29:11
With a long list of awards and College World Series appearances, Dan McDonnell is no stranger to success. Entering his ninth season coaching Louisville’s nationally recognized baseball program, McDonnell transfuses his faith with the Cardinal mindset, setting out each day to keep God first and subsequently “win the day.”
FCA: How has your faith grown throughout your coaching career?
DM: Growing up, there wasn’t a lot of correlation between Christianity and athletics. When I went to coach at Ole Miss, we had FCA on Monday nights and an assistant coaches’ study, so for the first time I was sitting in a room with other coaches sharing our faith. It helped me grow in those six years, and then I got the head job at Louisville.
There’s also no doubt my faith has grown because I’m with a strong, spiritual woman. I don’t know if I’d be where I am today without my wife Julie's faith.
FCA: How do you approach your faith at Louisville?
DM: You have to be real. You can’t fool kids. Ultimately, I’ve got to work on myself and my relationship with God and my family. It starts there, and what’s inside of me will pour out to the players. I know I'm a sinner, and my players see my very best and my very worst because I'm so competitive.
I take great pride when a family says yes to coming to Louisville. They’re trusting me to help their son grow. I constantly talk about not just preparing guys to win a game here, but for the rest of their lives. They have families and friends they’re going home to—what kind of impact am I making on them? It’s that butterfly effect where you could be touching a lot of lives.
FCA: How are you involved with FCA?
DM: As a new head coach, you get to know who everyone is, and I remember saying, “Who’s the FCA guy around here?” I knew how valuable they are not only to the players, but also for the coaches. I need it.
What I’ve always liked about FCA is our head coaches’ study. [FCA's] Chris Morgan is at the center of it all, setting up our meetings and chapel and making it so accessible. It’s the most powerful hour of the week, to be able to balance ideas and challenge other coaches.
FCA: What do you do to keep yourself in shape spiritually?
DM: I set my alarm before anyone else in the house and do my devotion to start off the day in God’s Word. I give Him an opportunity to speak and feel His presence. I text my devotion to my accountability partner (Florida Atlantic defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni), and he’ll text me. Quiet time is not easy for me because the mind just races. I try to use opportunities when I’m driving into work to pray, thanking God for the blessings He’s given me, asking for His guidance and wisdom, leaning on Him if there are issues with my players or boys (sons Jake and Justin) or something personal, and trusting that He’s going to provide. I have to start off the day in the Word and in prayer, and then do something physical; that’s just very refreshing for me.
FCA: What has God been teaching you?
DM: Once you put God at the center of your life, it’s less about you and more about serving and glorifying Him. It’s easy to become self-centered at a younger age, but as your faith grows you realize there’s a bigger purpose. It’s changed the way I am with my family and how I coach.
You give your heart to God, but you don’t just kick back with your feet up thinking you’ve got it made. Every day is new, with challenges and opportunities and obstacles, and I want to go in with an open mind and clear head to see what God has in store for me.
FCA Staff Quote:
“Coach McDonnell understands the influence a coach has, and he capitalizes on the opportunity to not only make great players on the field, but great men off the field. He instills character, integrity and excellence, and always points back to Christ.”
-Chris Morgan, University of Louisville FCA Chaplain
–This article appears in the May/June 2015 issue of FCA Magazine. To view the issue in its entirety digitally, click here: May/June 2015 FCA Mag Digital
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Photos courtesy of the University of Louisville Sports Information