By Brody Mark
Daniel Schager learns from his mistakes.
The first-year striker for the SAIT Trojans men’s soccer team missed an opportunity to play at the post-secondary level a few years back, but made sure that wasn’t going to happen again when he decided to come to SAIT this fall.
“Oh, no way,” Schager laughs. “One thing I really wanted to do here as well, was to play soccer. Or, at least try out to see if I could help the team.”
And help the team he has. So far this season, the 6-foot-3 Schager has contributed to the tune of a remarkable eight goals in nine games in which SAIT is 8-2 and second in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) South Division standings.
“Coach has a lot of belief in me, and that’s helped me to get better along the way,” he says, crediting his success to Trojans head coach, Grant Stevens.
Originally from Salmon Arm, the 20-year-old Schager came to Calgary a few years back to attend the University of Calgary. He intended to audition for the Dinos, but unfortunately missed the open tryouts.
He left the U of C after a year to work as an arborist.
At the behest of his father, he looked into attending SAIT and settled on the Instrumentation Engineering Technology program.
“It’s something that I’m interested in, and I’m following along pretty good right now,” he says. “The workload is starting to pile up a bit, but I’m finding a good balance.”
After applying, an email was sent to Stevens in March inquiring about tryouts. And then another in July– just to be safe.
“Sometimes kids might embellish what their abilities are, but Daniel did not– he was honest and open,” Stevens says. “He’s actually far better than what his emails said.”
Schager’s season started with two goals in his first four games.
However, a pair of hat tricks in late September and early October has propelled him to the team lead, surpassing teammate Francisco Miron– a fourth-year veteran of the squad.
Miron is just one of 10 players on the team in their third or fourth years of post-secondary soccer.
Schager says he has been able to learn from the older players about what it takes to play at the post-secondary level.
“They offer so much in regards to what to expect from certain teams and what their play will be like,” he explains.
“They’re really knowledgeable. They will tell you where you need to be on the field, and how you can help the team.”
Stevens says it’s been Schager’s desire to learn that has been key to his early success.
“The veterans like playing with a rookie like Daniel because he listens to what they have to say,” says Stevens. “And when I tell him to do something, he does it to the best of his ability with no question.”
His first three-goal performance came on the road in Olds on Sept. 26, while the latest happened in their come-from-behind win over Red Deer College at SAIT’s Cohos Commons Field.
Making that moment more special was the unexpected appearance by his brother, parents and both of his grandmas– all of whom still live in British Columbia.
After the final whistle went, Schager was the last to the dressing room because he was busy tucking in his jersey, standing tall and smiling for photo after photo.
“Grandma couldn’t wipe the smile off her face,” he says, laughing.