Dana Cavalea, Mount Sinai native, is passionate about coaching. For 12 years he spent time as the New York Yankees strength and conditioning coach, and along the way got to pick the brains of some all-time
He didn’t think he would eventually become an author, but he views his book, “Habits of a Champion: Nobody Becomes a Champion by Accident,” as an extension of coaching.
“I never had the intention of writing a book, but I was reading these self-help books and I felt there was a gap from what I was reading and what I was seeing on the baseball field working with these athletes,” he said. “That’s what drove me toward writing this book, I wanted to write a handbook, that people can use as a utility as they navigate life.”
Interactions with Yankees fans also inspired him.
“It also came about being at the stadium and fans coming up to me asking me questions about their own lives, about how they could improve their performance in a certain area,” Cavalea said. “I’d give them an answer, and then they would come back to another game during the season and they would ask another question.”
The Mount Sinai native pointed to a family friend, coach Billy King as a big reason why he chose to pursue his career path and started his training journey.
“He was a big influence on me, when I learned what he was doing, he was in the gym training, watching what he eats, and I was like wow that’s pretty cool,” he said.
Cavalea was 19 years old attending the University of South Florida and working as a strength and conditioning intern for the school’s football team when he was offered an unexpected opportunity.
A professor at the university told him that the Yankees, who were in the midst of spring training at nearby Legends Field in Tampa, were looking for an intern to help out.
Cavalea, who just so happened to have visited the ballpark as a fan the previous day, drove over the next day and was put into Yankee gear and was on the same field stretching with pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. The Mount Sinai native worked as an intern for three years, then became an assistant, before becoming a coach at 23 years old.
“The Bronx is only about 60 to 70 miles away from here but I had to go 1,800 miles away in order to get there,” he said.
The performance coach said he took those experiences and wanted to write something in his own style, so people could tell it was written by him and it was authentic.
“[Coach Billy King] was a big influence on me, when I learned what he was doing, he was in the gym training, watching what he eats, and I was like wow that’s pretty cool.”
— Dana Cavalea
“Habits of a Champion” is split into 15 lessons designed to help the reader succeed in different aspects of life. Cavalea shared some of those lessons at a Feb. 8 book-signing event at the Smithaven Mall in Lake Grove.
Those included: “If someone doesn’t respect your time, they don’t respect you,” something Yankees Hall of Famer Derek Jeter would say, stressing the importance of being on time. Another was “never get too high and never get too low.” Cavalea mentioned that a person’s attitude or mood can determine their daily success.
“It all comes down to how you control your own emotions,” he said. “Whether you are an Olympic athlete or a high schooler that has a big test or presentation.”
In addition to writing books, Cavalea now works as a life coach and motivational speaker. Some of the clients he coaches are business executives, athletes and CEOs of companies. He has been asked to speak at a number of big corporations, nonprofit organizations and schools.
“The messages and lessons are very universal,” he said. “When you’re a coach you are trying to learn as much as you can, and how you can maximize human potential.”
Despite the busy schedule, Cavalea said he enjoys writing books and has plans to release a children’s book sometime in April. He has already written two children’s books: “Champion Kids: Johnny ‘The Jet’ Saves the Day” and “Girls on the Run: Starring
“It’s fun for me, It’s great being able to share these lessons with others,” he said. “If the best of the best need help, so does everyone else.”