It’s all about the athletes; Coach Justin Kavanaugh


Justin Kavanaugh is the #1 best selling author of the book Man Up. Coach Kav has trained over 50,000 athletes and helped prepare hundreds of College and future NFL players for their combine and pro days. He is regarded as one of the top speed experts in the country. Coach Kav has worked with Olympic Gold Medalist, elite professional boxers and UFC Heavyweight Champions.

Justin Kavanaugh knows he’s not a pastor or a preacher. He’s a coach through and through. He believed he would coach someday but never thought he would get into it as young as he did. Once he became a coach full time, he pulled from the lessons he learned from his mentors to shape his own coaching philosophies.

In this week’s episode, I sit down with the founder and CEO of The Sport and Speed Institute to discuss what being a coach means to both of us. We discuss how a devastating injury ended Justin’s football playing career and shifted his focus to the coaching side. You’ll hear about Justin’s plan for building a culture in a program, what traits coaches look for in athletes, what it’s like to get players ready for the NFL combine, and how he uses his regrets as a coach to make him better.

This discussion gets passionate and personal as we dive deep into the mindset of one of the world’s top speed gurus. Justin even turns the tables and poses me some questions at the tail end of our talk. Authenticity and creating an environment to learn from are two of the big pillars of Justin’s ideals and you’re sure to come away from this talk with better ideas for yourself on how to lead.

Hear Justin open up about striving to help athletes keep their drive and flame going, why the messages from movies like A Bronx Tale and Dead Poets Society hold up, how you must believe in what you’re teaching, and why you need to be comfortable with your internal story rather than the one you have to brag about. This episode is a must-listen for people from all walks of life, as it gets down to the root of life’s success: getting the best out of yourself.


  1. Coaching is telling somebody something that is unknown and unnatural and getting them to do it.

  2. You must fight through pain, especially the pain that makes it harder to think.

  3. Communication skills are a vital attribute for any great leader.

  4. If you oversee people older than you in age, finding what works to relate to them is a key to the relationship.

  5. Take in lessons from the people around you. You never know where a valuable insight might come from.

  6. You have to live what you preach to be authentic. You can’t preach what you don’t believe in.

  7. Bring the things that could potentially beat you into your building to make you better.

  8. Some people will take the directions you give them and go with it, while others need to be pushed to stay motivated.

  9. Be accountable for your actions and for the people you work with.

  10. Throw your heart and soul into your passion, even though sometimes it’s not going to work. You want to be proud of your effort.

  11. Everyone falls back on their training. Make sure yours is worth falling back on.

  12. It is necessary to live with your regrets so you can learn from them.

  13. Finding what fuels you to be a leader is a must.

Justin Kavanaugh Career Accomplishments

  • Funder of Athlete HQ

  • Founder and CEO of The Sport and Speed Institute

  • Author of Man Up: The 5 Areas of Focus to Guarantee Your Athletic Success

  • Owner of the All American Football Camp

Key Conversation Takeaways

  • 5:56 – How trust became the deciding factor in starting Justin’s coaching career

  • 10:34 – Why communications skills are a main focus for him

  • 14:17 – Who his mentors were

  • 21:35 – The difference between a coach or an imitator

  • 26:08 – Why being let down by a coach shouldn’t be the end of a journey

  • 28:46 – The ideals for building a culture in a program

  • 33:00 – Teaching how to fight through when you’re behind on the cards

  • 36:34 – The success story of Trey Edmunds

  • 40:58 – What coaches look for in an athlete to know they’re coachable

  • 44:45 – The toughest thing for coaches to deal with

  • 48:40 – Seizing on the window of opportunity

  • 51:15 – What are regrets he has as a coach

  • ·6:58 – Justin asks Bruce a question to close it out

Notable Quotes

  • 4:45 – “Down in South Florida, speed is the game changer.”

  • 6:03 – No matter what, my agenda was the athlete’s goal.”

  • 8:57 – “When you lose (being an athlete), you lose part of who you are. Even though I was coaching, I wasn’t myself. I had to learn who I was.”

  • 14:19 – “The majority of coaches, their philosophies started with how they were coached. It goes back to how they were raised.”

  • 15:39 – “Part of a good script and preparing things is the ability to be adaptable and flexible in the environment that you’re given.”

  • 21:21 – “Do you embody the concept and principles of being a coach? Are you that guy or that gal or are you a fraud?”

  • 22:08 – “Pressure bears fruits. But it also makes diamonds.”

  • 25:15 – “If you don’t put the time in, you’re not going to get the results that you want.”

  • 28:50 – “The first thing is, you have to be honest with who you are.”

  • 34:23 – “Don’t complain if you don’t make it because there is a way. You just have to figure it out.”

  • 38:50 – “My job is to make you number two. You have to make yourself number one.”

  • 41:18 – “If they let that flame (their drive) die, it comes back with a level of regret in other parts of their lives.”

  • 45:05 – “Your problem is that you want to save everybody. You can’t save them all.”

  • 48:08 – “I’m just a competitor. I like competing.”

  • 51:44 – “Every single athlete I’ve ever encountered, I have regretful moments within their development because there’s something that I think I could’ve done better every single day.”

  • 53:03 – “In times when there’s adversity and times where someone’s uncomfortable is where they show their true colors.”

  • 58:54 – “Doing your absolute best. Win or lose, that is the highest high for me that I can possibly imagine because I know, that kid, their whole life is going to be different from that moment forward.”










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