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Don Yaeger

Award-Winning Leadership Speaker, Executive Coach & New York Times Best-Selling Author
"We should all strive to be extraordinary, and that starts with a focus on our own capabilities instead of those of our opponents."
Don Yaeger

Get to Know Don Yaeger

As an award-winning keynote speaker, an eleven-time New York Times Best-selling author, host of the top-rated Corporate Competitor Podcast, Executive Leadership Coach, and longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, Don Yaeger has fashioned a career as one of America’s most provocative thought leaders.  

He is primarily sought to discuss lessons on achieving Greatness, learned from first-hand work alongside some of the greatest sports and business legends in the world.  Additionally, Don has been retained by companies and organizations to coach their leaders on building a culture of Greatness, using the framework built through his exhaustive study of Great Teams in sports and business, discerning the lessons we can learn from them.  Throughout his writing career, Don has developed a reputation as a world-class storyteller, in fact, renowned thought leaders such as John Maxwell and Simon Sinek have called Don the best storyteller they have ever worked with! Because of these achievements, Don has been invited as a guest to every major talk show – from Oprah to Fox Business News, from CNN to Good Morning America. In 2020 Don launched the Corporate Competitor Podcast, which Podcast Magazine quickly recognized as one of the Top 50 Podcasts in America. By 2022 Spotify had listed Corporate Competitor Podcast in the top five percent of the most followed and shared podcasts in the world. Among the guests interviewed by Don for episodes of the podcast have been former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the CEOs of Disney, Delta Airlines, Bank of America, Hendrick Motorsports, KPMG, FanDuel, Chick-fil-A, Insight Enterprises, TopGolf, Mayo Clinic, BET Media and Ritz Carlton.

Few journalists can lay claim to as exciting and colorful a career as Don.  In three decades of reporting, the breadth of his assignments has been astounding.  He has traveled the world in pursuit of stories as diverse as:

  • Walking into 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 PLO terrorist from the 1972 Olympics
  • Living with football legend Walter Payton and his family as Payton was dying.
  • Roaming the Middle East interviewing Iraqi athletes tortured by Saddam Hussein’s son Uday, chairman of the Iraqi Olympic Committee.
  • Covering the first free national elections in El Salvador.
  • Traveling with candidates from both US parties during a Presidential campaign.

Don 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 stint in Dallas, he worked as a political editor for the Florida Times-Union. After four years, he decided to dedicate himself to the pursuit of writing books.  Don’s first book, Undue Process: The NCAA’s Injustice For All, was published in 1990.  In the 30+ years since, he has penned more than three dozen books, including an incredible ELEVEN New York Times Best-sellers.  Among his Best-sellers are:

  • Never Die Easy: The Autobiography of Walter Payton
  • 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
  • It’s Not About the Truth: The Untold Story of the Duke Lacrosse Case and the Lives It Shattered
  • I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness, to the Blind Side, and Beyond with Michael Oher
  • Play Like You Mean It: Passion, Laugh, and Leadership in the World’s Most Beautiful Game with Rex Ryan
  • George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution
  • Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War that Changed American History
  • Teammate: My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages with David Ross                                                                                  
  • Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans, The Battle That Shaped America’s Destiny

Don also wrote A Game Plan For Life, with legendary UCLA coach John Wooden.  It was published on Coach’s 99th birthday in October 2009. Movie rights to Turning of The Tide, a book about the 1970 football game between the last all-white team at the University of Alabama and the fully-integrated team from the University of Southern California, have been sold.

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

Don Yaeger and his colleague William Nack were finalists for the prestigious 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 Don’s appearances on 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, to require background checks of coaches and volunteers.

Born and raised in Hawaii, Don has traveled extensively through his career.  A graduate of Ball State University where he was selected as one of the university’s “50 Graduates of Distinction” over its first century and subsequently was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2022, Don now resides in Tallahassee, Florida. He and his wife, Jeanette, have a son (Will) and a daughter (Madeleine).

Don Yaeger Resources

Best Seat in the House

Best Seat in the House

Best Seat in the House gives us eighteen valuable lessons that Jack Nicklaus II learned from his father, PGA champion Jack Nicklaus.

Great Teams

Great Teams

Great Teams is the ultimate intersection of the sports and business worlds and a powerful companion for thought leaders, teams, managers, and organizations that seek to perform similarly.

Corporate Competitor Podcast

Corporate Competitor Podcast

Join 11-time New York Times Best-Selling Author Don Yaeger on his journey to sit with some of the brightest executives in the world as we discuss how sports shaped their professional trajectory in life.