Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Former Sports Illustrated Associate Editor, Characteristics of Greatness
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Program Descriptions

What Makes the Great Ones Great
Don teaches the habits of high performing individuals, and guides your team on a personal pursuit of greatness. He will take your team on a journey through the career defining moments, and teaches your team the lessons learned from those such as Walter Payton, Warrick Dunn, Michael Jordan, and John Wooden.
*Part of this keynote includes 16 characteristics of great champions.

What Makes the Great Teams Great
The Great Teams Understand “The Why”. They are connected to a Greater purpose. Learn how to constantly remind your players and employees of who they are in service of while being acutely aware of downstream beneficiaries. The more a company creates “mission moments” for employees and team members to understand that Greater purpose, the better off the team will be when it comes to enduring any challenges along the way to achieving its goal. In this captivating session, Don Yaeger shares his findings from interviews with Olympic Gold Medal winners like USA Basketball Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K), 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant, and USA Basketball CEO Jerry Colangelo, as well as 4-Time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady, brilliant thought-leader Simon Synek and longtime Medtronic CEO Bill George.

What Makes A Great Teammate
Every winning team has an MVP... And every MVP has teammates. The Great Teammates immerse themselves into the fabric of high-performing organizations. They accept and commit to whatever role is needed to ignite momentum and yield winning results! Through remarkable insight from the GREATEST Teammates of our time, Don teaches you how to be invaluable without being most valuable. This universal lesson is one that is applicable to anyone in an organization from those at entry level positions to top level management. Fly the ‘W’ with Don as he breaks down business-applicable lessons that can be learned from former Cubs catcher David Ross and a World Series for the Ages, and many more.

Why Book Don Yaeger?

  • Don Yaeger reveals lessons learned from great winners that EMPOWER your team to pursue GREATNESS both professionally and personally.

  • As a result of more than 25+ years of researching and interviewing some of the greatest winners in sports, Don Yaeger has distilled 16 Consistent Characteristics of Greatness that have vital personal and professional applications.
  • Videos

    Biography Read more

    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 26 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 2018.

    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.
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    "Your "conversational" manner of delivering the message on What Makes the Great Ones Great, and being able to weave that message into every day activities was truly inspiring for all in attendance. There is no question as I listened to you and watched the audience that you were engaged with them and the qualities you spoke of were from life's lessons we could all benefit from."
    --Harrison Finance Company

    "Our attendees were a bit apprehensive at first not knowing how sports could relate to the field of Human Resources. However, you connected the two and shared such great stories on teamwork, preparedness, goal setting and relationship building. This insight provided a unique aspect on their everyday tasks and responsibilities. Not only are they trying to find "great" employees, they are also furthering their professional development."
    --Society of Human Resources Management

    "Your Characteristics of Greatness presentation was overwhelmingly rated as the best motivational speech the employees had ever heard."

    "He may be a sports writer, but he should be a speech writer. Don Yaeger is as polished with the spoken word as he is with the written. His speeches transcend age and gender. School kids and Fortune 500 executives will learn similar lessons about life, told in poignant and humorous anecdotes from Don's personal experiences."
    --Target Companies

    "Inspiring stories that make the audience stop and think. Even if you aren’t a sports fan, the stories transcend the sport into how we impact others around us." 
    --Infinex Financial Group