My Dad – My Coach – My Mentor – My Friend
Canadian defensive coordinator Andy Cavalier, left, poses with his late father, and Pampa’s legendary coach, Dennis, years ago. Cavalier shares what he learned growing up from his dad. [Provided photo]
Nearly all my daily habits, professionally and personally, are derived from what I learned from my time with him. Let me first say that it is hard to even mention my dad without thinking of my mom, Kathy Cavalier. The love, devotion, and respect they had for each other is what makes a family and the great thing about coaching is this relationship had much the same impact it had on me on thousands of coaches and student-athletes, and then through them – generations to come.
So, this is a collaboration of ideas of what we all learned and continue to teach because God chose to intersect our lives with the life of my dad, Dennis Cavalier.
El Norma (The Norm) — The standard we measure ourselves against. This standard has very little to do with a visible score or tabulated outcome. It is much more about doing your very best, holding yourself accountable to that, and being willing to do that regardless if anyone is watching. Through this process you begin to gain an edge as you realize that not everyone is willing to do this. We learned that there is a simple formula… Be here every day – Have a great attitude every day –- Work hard every day – You are in control of all of these and none of these require talent or skill.
Work Hard Together — He used football to create a path to teach young men to believe in themselves. Teaching them to embrace hard work and to understand that you are a part of something greater than yourself. Now, when all your hard work pays off on the field, remember that wins are extremely hard to come by. He showed us to never take them for granted, as a matter of fact, enjoy and celebrate every one of them together.
Have Fun — I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to work with my dad on his staff. That is when I realized how much fun the men he worked with had. He was always the first to greet our players with excitement when they get here and as they leave shake their hand to tell them they are important. He just had a unique ability to know exactly how to push people hard and be so likeable that we all wanted to hang out with him outside of work. Part of this involved surrounding himself with great people, developing camaraderie by letting them do their job, and never asking anyone to do anything that he was not already doing. He showed us that no matter your rank or your position of influence, you never outgrow any job.
The Next Play is the Most Important Play — No matter if you experience success or failure, make a huge mistake or a great play, the most important aspect of any situation is right now. The past cannot be changed, the future cannot be predicted, so the present needs all your attention… This applies to so much more than football. He showed us that you will not win every game or succeed in all life’s endeavors, however, if you will take responsibility for the outcome then you can be ready to answer the bell for your family, your friends, and your community.
Live with Empathy — And Love Others – His ability to build relationships with all people, young and old, all races is probably what he was best at. In the world we live in today with everything being so self-oriented, he taught us that when you give a man a chance and never give up on him, that self-centered viewpoint will have a chance to change into a love for his brother. We learned to work hard to see things from other’s perspective and to thenlook for ways to serve. In my first year of coaching a parent brought a complaint about me and I was floored, absolutely could not believe it. He immediately sat me down and the first thing he said was, “First of all you’ve never been a dad. You have absolutely no idea what it feels like to see your son be disappointed. So, until you can put yourself in his shoes, just trust me when I tell you he is acting out of love for his son.” He showed us and expected us to understand that every athlete and every student and every parent that we encountered has a story and when we truly get to know that person, we can make an impact on their life.
Win without Bragging, Lose without Excuse — I think this phrase sums up the way my dad lived better than any other I can think of. He was a lover of teamwork – so are we, and sportsmanship – so are we, and competitiveness – so are we. He loved building a team. Although he won most games, it was in the losses where he truly had a knack to teach lessonsand make his team feel like champions even in defeat. Absolutely no excuses about referees, about luck, about this or that… his team would be proud of themselves because of the effort they had given and the growth that had bonded them.
We love you Dennis Cavalier — your legacy lives on in all of us. Your kids, your players, your coaches, your friends.