ROTTERDAM — Without coaching a game, Lindsay Steenland has added a significant piece to her list of basketball accomplishments.
The Mohonasen High School graduate has been selected to lead her alma mater’s varsity boys’ basketball team. While a woman coaching a boys’ varsity program is not unprecedented, it is possible Steenland is the first to lead a varsity boys’ basketball team in Section II on a full-time basis.
“I got to thinking, and I can’t remember any females doing that in our area. She may be the first,” longtime Section II boys’ basketball committee member and past coordinator Mike Lilac said of Steenland.
Steenland coached the Mohonasen junior varsity boys’ team the past two seasons, and in a previous stint she guided the Stamford (New York) JV boys for six seasons.
“It’s not about gender to me,” said the 35-year-old Steenland, who, with her husband Steve and 2-year-old daughter Callie, reside in Stamford. “It’s about how hard can you push your athletes. How well can you prepare them. To me, you can either coach or you can’t.”
The most well-known female to coach varsity boys’ basketball in New York is Ruth Lovelace, who has led her Boys and Girls High School (Brooklyn) teams to many championships since taking over there in 1994.
“She [Steenland] needed someone who believed in her. I had her back,” said Mohonasen athletic director David Bertram, who recommended Steenland for the job. “I don’t have a doubt about her ability. When I called her up she was excited but taken aback a bit. She is ready.”
“I feel really excited about this. I feel I fit in,” said Steenland, who led her Mohonasen JV boys to a 12-6 record last season and to an 11-0 mark the COVID-shortened season before.
“I’ve seen her coach. I’ve seen her on the court and off the court, and how she interacts with student-athletes,” Bertram said. “She holds them accountable, which is a big thing. She knows how to create relationships that bring out the best in student-athletes.”
Bertram’s own resume includes a 17-year run with the Cooperstown varsity boys’ basketball team.
“In all my coaching experience, I have never seen it or coached against a varsity boys’ team with a female coach,” Bertram said of Steenland’s new and unique position.
Steenland taught elementary school health and physical education in the Niskayuna school district and coached the high school freshman girls’ basketball team for three seasons before her move to the Rotterdam school district in the 2020-21 academic year..
“I got laid off [from Niskayuna] because of COVID, like a lot of people. When I started to look, there were no girls’ basketball openings,” Steenland said. “Mohonasen had an opening [for the JV boys team], David approached me and asked if I would do it, and I was able to slide in.”
Now the SUNY Cortland graduate is moving up.
“Her loyalty, the Xs and Os, her vision for the program, that all mattered,” Bertram said of Steenland’s hiring which he assured would be approved in the near future by the Mohonasen BOE. “She has what we were looking for.”
In April, Graham Macbeth stepped down from the Mohonasen varsity post after three seasons, with his teams going 8-12, 2-4 (COVID season) and 6-14 in 2021-22. His final edition rebounded from an 0-6 start by going 6-8, which included an upset win over La Salle.
“I am going to challenge my group,” said Steenland, who guided five of her Stamford JV teams to league championships. “My messages will be ‘How tough can you be in the face of adversity? How hard do you choose to work?’”
Steenland expects to have six varsity returnees to go with six JV callups on her first varsity squad. When she was at Mohonasen, she participated in basketball as well as cross country and track and field.
“I’m going to take my personnel, try everything, and see what fits,” Steenland said of her coaching style. “You can’t jam a square peg into a round hole. You have to be able to adjust with the personnel you have.”
Mohonasen’s varsity enjoyed its last winning campaign in 2018-19 when Ray Kearney led his cast to a 16-7 mark and a Section II semifinal appearance. The year before that, Josh Peck guided Mohonasen to its first Section II title since 2011 and the program’s first regional championship.
“Do all of the little things right and it builds to culminating events,” Steenland said.
Steenland played a big role in the recent creation of the Pinewood Youth Basketball Club for boys and girls in grades three through five. She teaches health and physical education at Bradt and Pinewood elementary schools, and also coaches JV softball at Mohonasen.