One thing leads to another in man’s eclectic career

Dave Austin shares his journey

By Arthur Lightbourn


“Things take time; you have to be able to take the steps to go forward,” he said, recalling how, just before Christmas a year ago, he sat in this exact chair in the lobby of The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe when he was inspired to do a television series, “and now it’s coming to fruition.”

Patience and thinking positively are nothing new to Dave Austin.

He’s a former world-ranked pro tennis player, Hollywood actor, singer, record producer and real estate developer, who several years ago found his niche as a “mental performance” coach for athletes, corporate executives and anyone wanting to “exceed their potential.”

The weekly Internet TV series, “Beyond the Field: Players of Faith,” hosted by Austin, will feature top athletes, their lives and behind-the-scenes insights into what motivates them to succeed in their chosen competitive sport. The 21-episode series is tentatively scheduled to begin in August on a new Internet broadcasting network called Nvaleo.

“Internet television is growing,” Austin said, “so I thought, ‘Why not take people behind the scenes with me to really find what makes these players tick beyond their sport.’

“Most people don’t know what these athletes go through to have that success ... in the papers and on the news, they look like one thing. No one knows, behind the scenes, every little step it takes and all the challenges they are going through on a daily basis to get into that greatness.”

We interviewed the 58-year-old Austin the day before he was to fly to Minneapolis to mind-coach Baltimore Orioles’ designated hitter Luke Scott before the start of a four-game series with the Minnesota Twins.

“Ironically, Luke will be facing another one of my clients, Twins’ pitcher Scott Baker, " Austin said.

“But my work is really about the process. It’s not about the results. The results will take care of themselves,” he said. “You have to learn to appreciate and love the process. So when Luke gets up, he has to have the joy of the competition and stay within his intentions.

“He may have three to five intentions for the game. Any more than that is a distraction. Because when you compete, all kinds of things hit you, but if you are very strong in your intentions and you’re not derailed from your intentions, that is how true success comes. And whether you win or not, you can look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘OK, I came and I gave myself fully.’

“But, unfortunately or fortunately, there is a scoreboard. It is a result-driven business. But you can’t let that be your ruler.”

As it turned out, in the opening doubleheader, the cellar-dwelling Orioles scored a 7-3 win over the Twins with neither Luke Scott or Scott Baker playing; but the Twins bounced back with a 6-1 victory in the nightcap with Luke Scott homering the Orioles only run of the game against Twins’ pitcher Baker who pitched his season high of eight innings, allowing only three hits and Luke Scott’s lone home run.

All in all impressive showings for two of Austin’s clients.

Austin was born in Oakland. His dad, Henry (Hammerin’ Hank) Austin, was a U.S. Navy chaplain.

“We moved around a lot,” Austin recalled. And he discovered that as an athlete, when he was told by coaches that he was good and was given positive reinforcement, “in football I’d run for touchdown after touchdown,” and when, in North Carolina, he was put down by an always-angry, sergeant-major type of coach for being too slow and terrible, “I was terrible. I became what he told me I was.

“Luckily, when we moved to Hawaii when my dad got stationed there, a new coach said, ‘Hey, that new kid is kinda quick,’ and I went ‘Oh, I’m quick again. I don’t know why, but I’m quick again,’” because, he later figured out, he began to believe in himself again.

“So, I went back to being a really good athlete and out of that I had a chance to surf in the world championships, went to college on a football and baseball scholarship, ended up getting a tennis scholarship to SDSU [graduating in 1975] and in the late ‘70s went on the World Tennis Tour for a year. Crazy. But it just shows, when you allow yourself to be fully present and you’re passionate about something, I have the belief you can do anything.”

Afterward, for five years he played in various tennis tournaments. While playing in the Carl Reiner Celebrity Tournament in La Costa, he was discovered by a casting director who asked him to read for a movie.

“So I did and got the part and ended up moving up to L.A.,” he said. “Funny, that was 37 years ago, and I still get residuals. And then I did a war movie called ‘Uncommon Valor’ (1983) with Gene Hackman, and ‘Jagged Edge” (1985) with Glenn Close and Jeff Bridges. I did a TV show called ‘The Oldest Rookie;’ I did a mini-series, ‘Robert F. Kennedy, His Life and Times.’ I played Kennedy’s aide; and I did a lot of national television commercials for Diet Coke, Burger King, Chevron, Molson’s Beer, Olympia Beer.

“I must have a beer face,” he laughed. “Which was fortunate, because almost above everything else, the commercials paid the bills.

“I did that for five or six years and at the same time I decided to pursue a music career as a singer.” He joined with his pal Phil Earhart who founded the rock band Kansas and “we did the very first charity concert ever.” As a singer, he performed in concerts on stage with various bands, including Queen, Santana, Kansas and REO Speed Wagon.

In 1991, he won the Grammy’s Presidential Merit Award for his work raising money for various charities through concerts.

He also formed a record label called Granite Records.

And, in 1999, he wrote a faith-based book titled “Listen to the Voice Within,” published by Hampton Rhodes, and did a speaking tour promoting the book. “It became a book that a lot of people really embraced and a lot of people didn’t.

“And so after several years, I almost hid the book, because faith is something that everyone is so personal about. I didn’t want to have anybody pre-judge who I was.”

As he started working with the U.S. Olympic field hockey team and the LA Dodgers (as a mental performance coach), he let the book “get hidden a little bit,” but an agent, who had read and loved the book, approached him “and had me write a book that became a bestseller.

“It was totally different,” he laughed. “Because of my background in the music world, I wrote, with songwriter Jim Peterik (‘Eye of the Tiger’), and my wife, a book in the Dummies’ series called ‘Songwriting for Dummies.’”

A new, revised edition is slated for publication this June.

“I do the mental performance side of sports,” Austin explained. “I find my work is different than, say, sport psychology, even though I have a degree in psychology. I played professional tennis and traveling and playing. I learned so much what makes it work and doesn’t work for an athlete, almost more from my failures than from my victories. You can learn from everything.”

The brain is like a muscle, he says. “If I’m going to get stronger physically, I’m going to lift weights. But if I’m going to get stronger mentally, I need to know processes that can help my mind work for me rather than against me.”

In addition to working with professional athletes, he also coaches corporate executives “because what I do in sports relates to business,” and the same principles can be used to advance business careers.

“I’ve found my passion in life is right what I’m doing now,” he said.