TOP OF THE GAME

For­mer Yan­kee per­for­mance coach brought out the best in team

The Record (Troy, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Paul Post ppost@dig­i­tal­first­media.com Re­porter

TROY, N.Y. >> Dana Cavalea helped the Yan­kees per­form at their ab­so­lute best, and he has the World Se­ries ring to prove it.

He spent 12 years with the or­ga­ni­za­tion as a strength, con­di­tion­ing and per­for­mance coach, work­ing with all-time greats such as Derek Jeter, Mar­i­ano Rivera and Alex Ro­driguez.

But some of the most valu­able in­sights he ever learned came from train­ers that han­dle an­other type of world-class ath­lete, the thor­ough­breds at Saratoga Race Course.

“I’m one of the few peo­ple that come to Saratoga and never bet,” Cava- lea said. “But I love get­ting to the track early in the morn­ing, go­ing to the back­stretch and talk­ing to train­ers about how they de­velop power, strength en­durance and win­ning within the horses.”

On Satur­day, Cavalea vis­ited Mar­ket Street Books to dis­cuss his new book, “Habits of a Cham­pion: No­body Be­comes A Cham­pion By Ac­ci­dent.”

His wife Lau­ren’s fa­ther, John Caglione Jr., lives in Troy.

“I’ve been for­tu­nate enough to work with some of the great­est play­ers, man­agers and lead­ers both in sports and busi­ness,” Cavalea said. “I spent so much time read­ing other books about lead­er­ship and how it’s sup-

posed to be done. I found them to be very the­ory and text­book based.

“This is a real prac­ti­cal so­lu­tion I want to cre­ate for peo­ple based on my real life ex­pe­ri­ences with some of the top ath­letes, team own­ers and CEOs in the world. I kind of dis­till it into 15 lessons plus one bonus by Reg­gie Jack­son and a for­ward writ­ten by Joe Gi­rardi.”

Orig­i­nally from Long Is­land, Cavalea went to the Univer­sity of South Florida where he be­came a strength and con­di­tion­ing in­tern for

the school’s foot­ball team.

Two weeks be­fore spring train­ing one year, the strength coach he worked for told him the Yan­kees were look­ing for an in­tern, too. So he drove to Leg­ends Field in Tampa, where he’d spent the pre­vi­ous day as an awestruck fan, not know­ing quite what to ex­pect.

“I was a ner­vous wreck,” Cavalea said smil­ing. “I parked my car, walked into the front of­fice and they said, ‘Are you Dana Cavalea? Come with us’.”

“They put a lan­yard around my neck, put me in Yan­kee gear and the next thing you know I was in the mid­dle of the field dur­ing team stretch with guys I’d been tak­ing pic­tures of the day be­fore, like Roger Cle­mens and Andy Pet­titte. It was amaz­ing!”

Af­ter three years work­ing for free as an in­tern, he be­came an as­sis­tant and then the head man, still just 23 years old. By the time he left, Cavalea had be­come di­rec­tor of strength and con­di­tion­ing/per­for­mance en­hance­ment, lead­ing all the staff that work in each of these ar­eas.

“Re­ally my job was to over­see $300 mil­lion-plus in hu­man cap­i­tal and make sure those as­sets were pro­tected for the Stein­bren­ner fam­ily in terms of their per­for­mance, both phys­i­cal and men­tal,” Cavalea said. “When you’re work­ing with a guy, if he gets in­jured,

you’re also work­ing on his mind­set.

“We did have a train­ing staff, a men­tal con­di­tion­ing coach and re­hab spe­cial­ists. We all worked in a very in­te­grated way. My job was to de­ploy in­sights from ev­ery­one and get guys back and ready to play.”

In 2009, when the Yan­kees won their last World Cham­pi­onship, Cavalea won the Nolan Ryan Award, an honor given an­nu­ally by Pro­fes­sional Base­ball Strength and Con­di­tion­ing So­ci­ety to an in­di­vid­ual whose ac­com­plish­ments re­flect an ex­em­plary ded­i­ca­tion to the field.

But af­ter a dozen years, he and the Yan­kees parted ways am­i­ca­bly in 2014.

To­day, Cavalea runs his own busi­ness, do­ing much of what he did pre­vi­ously, but with play­ers from many dif­fer­ent teams, plus top cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tives as well.

“It’s based on agent rec­om­men­da­tions,” said Cavalea, of Stam­ford, Ct. “When a vis­it­ing team comes to town, an agent might call and say, ‘ I have short­stop Jose Igle­sias. I need you to work on him. It’s 100 per­cent cus­tom­ized. That’s one part of my busi­ness.”

“The other part is CEO and ex­ec­u­tive coach­ing where I put to­gether health and lifestyle plans and strate­gies,” he said. “I also do cor­po­rate speak­ing, go­ing into com­pa­nies and mo-

ti­vat­ing their work­force, al­most treat­ing them as if they’re one of my play­ers.”

Of course, hav­ing met and worked with so many great Yan­kees, he can’t help miss­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion, es­pe­cially on Old-Timer’s Day when the likes of Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra would show up.

“For years I used to take care of Yogi, put him on the tread­mill and take care of his work­out,” Cavalea said. “All of those play­ers, Ron Guidry, Wil­lie Ran­dolph, it’s a big fam­ily.

“What’s so in­ter­est­ing is that you don’t see them very of­ten, but when­ever you do, it picks up right where you left off. It’s like a big fra­ter­nity. It was great.”

PHOTO PRO­VIDED

Dana Cavalea, left, worked with many all-time great Yan­kee play­ers such as Derek Jeter, right.

PAUL POST PHOTO

Dana Cavalea, for­mer New York Yan­kees di­rec­tor of strength and con­di­tion­ing/per­for­mance en­hance­ment, vis­ited Troy on Satur­day to dis­cuss his new book, “Habits of a Cham­pion.”

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