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Don Yaeger        

Award-Winning Leadership Speaker and Seven-Time New York Times Bestselling Author

As an award-winning keynote speaker, business leadership coach, eleven-time New York Times best-selling author, and longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, Don Yaeger has fashioned a career as one of America’s most provocative thought leaders. As a speaker, he has worked with audiences as diverse as Fortune 500 companies and cancer survivor groups, where he shares his personal story.

He is primarily sought to discuss lessons on achieving greatness, learned from first-hand experiences with some of the greatest sports legends in the world. He is also often retained by companies and organizations to coach their leaders, management teams, and employees on building a culture of greatness by studying great teams in sports and discerning the business lessons we can learn from them.

Additionally, as an Executive Coach, Yaeger has worked with a range of leaders from the president of the largest bank in the Caribbean to CEOs of financial services companies to technology executives. His coaching model is based on years of experience and study with those who have inspired championship-level teams.

Throughout his writing career, Don has developed a reputation as a world-class storyteller and has been invited as a guest to almost every major talk show – from The Oprah Winfrey Show to Nightline, from CNN to Good Morning America.

Few journalists can lay claim to as exciting and colorful a career as Don Yaeger.

In the three decades since he accepted his first newspaper job in Texas, the breadth of his assignments has been astounding. He has traveled the world in pursuit of stories as diverse as:

  • Hiking through Afghanistan with the Mujahadeen as they fought the Soviets
  • Going into Baghdad with the victorious Iraqi soccer team as the battle between insurgents and the US military waged around them
  • Visiting China in pursuit of underworld characters counterfeiting American golf clubs
  • Heading to Damascus to find the last living terrorist from the 1972 Olympics
  • Living with football legend Walter Payton and his family as Payton was dying
  • Journeying around Europe and the Middle East interviewing Iraqi athletes tortured by Saddam Hussein’s son Uday, chairman of the Iraqi Olympic Committee
  • Traveling with candidates from both parties during presidential campaigns
  • Chronicling the high-profile Duke lacrosse scandal

Yaeger began his career as a reporter for the San Antonio Light where he rose through the ranks to pen investigative features for the daily. He later moved on to the Dallas Morning News. Following his time in Dallas, Yaeger worked as a political editor for the Florida Times-Union.

After four years, he decided to dedicate himself to the pursuit of writing books. Yaeger’s first book, Undue Process: The NCAA’s Injustice for All, was published in 1990. In the nearly 30 years since, he has penned 28 more books, including eleven New York Times best-sellers, including:

  • Under the Tarnished Dome: How Notre Dame Betrayed its Ideals for Football Glory
  • October 3, 1993
  • Never Die Easy: The Autobiography of Walter Payton
  • October 1, 2000
  • Ya Gotta Believe: My Roller-Coaster Life As a Screwball Pitcher, Part-Time Father and My Hope-Filled Fight Against Brain Cancer (with Tug McGraw)
  • March 7, 2004
  • It's Not About the Truth: The Untold Story of the Duke Lacrosse Case and the Lives It Shattered (with Mike Pressler)
  • July 7, 2007
  • I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness, to the Blind Side, and Beyond (with Michael Oher)
  • February 27, 2011
  • Play Like You Mean It: Passion, Laugh, and Leadership in the World's Most Beautiful Game (with Rex Ryan)
  • May 22, 2011
  • Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: How I Went from Gang Member to Multimillionaire Entrepreneur (with Ryan Blair)
  • August 21, 2011
  • George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution (with Brian Kilmeade)
  • November 19, 2013
  • Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War that Changed American History (with Brian Kilmeade)
  • November 22, 2015 (Paperback reached #1 in November 2016)
  • Teammate (with David Ross)
  • May 28, 2017
  • Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans: The Battle that Shaped America’s Destiny (with Brian Kilmeade)
  • October 24, 2017

Yaeger also wrote A Game Plan For Life, with legendary coach John Wooden. It was published on Coach’s 99th birthday in October 2009. Movie rights to four of Yaeger’s books have been sold, with two slated for nationwide release in 2019.

After several years of freelancing for Sports Illustrated, Yaeger joined the magazine’s staff full-time in July 1996. Two years later, he was promoted to Associate Editor where his job was to cover not just sporting events but also the off-the-field happenings that affect the world of sports. He took an early retirement from full-time work at SI in 2008, but continues to freelance for the magazine.

Yaeger and his co-author William Nack were finalists for a 2000 National Magazine Award in the public interest category for their cover story “Who’s Coaching Your Kid?: The frightening truth about child molestation in youth sports.” This important piece triggered follow-up reports by programs such as Dateline, 20/20 and The Oprah Winfrey Show. It also resulted in changes to the law in several states and several youth sports organizations, including Little League of America, which changed rules to require background checks of coaches and volunteers. Born and raised in Hawaii, Yaeger has traveled extensively and lived abroad in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Japan and Great Britain. A 1984 graduate of Ball State University, Yaeger currently lives in Tallahassee, FL. He also owns a political consulting business and a public relations firm. He and his wife Jeanette have a son and a daughter.

Speech Topics


What Makes the Great Ones Great

Don has had a front-row seat with some of the greatest winners of our generation. Each is a legend in his or her own right, but their career wasn't built strictly on physical gifts. Remember, Jordan wasn’t even the first pick of the draft. O’Neal didn’t make his high school varsity team until he was a junior. Payton had to go to a small black college because bigger schools didn’t want to risk a scholarship on him. Connors, at 5-10, 155 pounds, was dwarfed by most of his competitors. But each became a champion through strengths and skills that had nothing to do with physical prowess.

Using rich, personal accounts gathered from more than 25 years of interviews, Don has distilled Sixteen Consistent Characteristics of Greatness that you will find consistently in the super-achievers. He will share with the audience these characteristics - in how they think, how they prepare, how they work and how they live – that truly make the great ones great. Then he’ll explain how every audience member can apply these characteristics to their personal and professional lives.

Don works with every organization to customize his presentation by determining which characteristics and stories to discuss. Depending on the theme of your event and the needs of the audience, he may choose to tell the story of John Wooden and how he demonstrated the Value of Association or how Michael Jordan showed him that hating to lose is more important than loving to win, among many others.

Building Your Personal Brand

Everyone recognizes the value of a brand. In fact, BusinessWeek magazine once said that Coca-Cola’s brand alone is worth $67 BILLION. But you don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to be a brand. Today, in the Age of the Individual, every one of us is a brand. And, just as executives at Coca-Cola must do, it is your responsibility to increase your brand value daily.

Don Yaeger is a nationally recognized expert on the development of Personal Brands, having worked with business leaders, elected officials and world-class athletes on building their brands. In this workshop, Don challenges your audience members to work on the fundamentals of personal branding, including: identifying what they want their brand to be; understanding what intentional acts they must take to get to that place; and discussing the responsibilities of brand ownership.

Why should your employees or members attend this session? Because those who possess, develop and constantly work on their personal brand find their path to professional success a little smoother. People do business with those they enjoy, trust and respect, all are characteristics of a strong brand. Like most skills, some people do these things intuitively. But, most of us must work on these things intentionally. This program lays the framework for that growth.

Institutional Reputation Management

Don Yaeger, a four-time New York Times best-selling author, major newspaper veteran and former Sports Illustrated associate editor, has covered some of America’s most challenging stories over the last two decades.

This session will cover everything from tips on how to create a well of good will with today's media to developing a communications plan to guide you through any potential crisis.

Crisis Management

As the author of the best-selling book on the Duke lacrosse scandal - a spectacular example of poor crisis management - Don has studied ways to prepare for and manage potential crises. This seminar is a shortened version of a one-semester course that he taught at a major university.

When The Media Comes Calling

In today's age of instantaneous communication, companies and individuals alike need to be more knowledgeable than ever when it comes to media relations. If a member of the press contacts you, will you be ready for that call? How will you react when a question comes your way that you weren't expecting? And what if you actually want to tell your story? Is there a trick to getting a reporter to see your story as worth telling?

Don Yaeger has developed a national reputation for answering these questions. His expertise has been sought out by countless high-profile athletes, business leaders and elected officials. As a New York Times bestselling author and former associate editor of Sports Illustrated, Don has been on both sides of the microphone. He has conducted interviews around the globe and has been interviewed on countless national television and radio shows about his work. His 20-plus years of experience gives him the qualifications to teach you how to win the battle between a professional interrogator and an amateur respondent.

Sixteen Consistent Characteristics of Greatness.

Don shares these lessons with audiences in an easy, engaging style, which helps participants realize that they, too, can achieve a higher level of personal success. In his most popular speech, Don illustrates how the great ones achieved their own greatness by detailing common characteristics in:

How they think;
How the prepare;
How they work; and
How they live.

Turning Adversity into Advantage.

Don, a cancer survivor, relates stories and lessons taken from those who have encountered great challenges and become better, not despite them, but because of them. In this speech, he reminds his audience that adversity is one of the most potent forces in life – it can build you up or tear you down. Your reaction to adversity – big or small – shapes your character, clarifies your priorities and defines your path. And, as described in this speech, it can fuel your greatness. He has discussed this subject with athletes and entertainers like Tim McGraw, who watched his father lose a battle with brain cancer. McGraw's experience preceded the release of Don’s monster hit, "Live Like You Were Dying."

Books


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The Senior
2008

News


Don Yaeger shares characteristics of greatness in new book

Don Yaeger has spent many years in the world of professional sports interviewing legendary athletes. He has written 22 books from his experiences and recently wrote another called "Greatness: The 16 Characteristics of True Champions."

Don Yaeger Slated to Speak at Vitality 2015

Everything we do and stand for here at Vi is building up to one momentous event—Vitality. This year we’re excited to announce business leadership coach and eight-time New York Times Best selling author Don Yaeger as our keynote speaker.

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