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SportsJam with Doug Doyle: READY Nutrition Founder and Former Pitt Basketball Captain Pat Cavanaugh

Pat Cavanaugh
Sotiris Aggelou

READY Nutrition was founded by former University of Pittsburgh basketball team captain Pat Cavanaugh.

It wasn't long before Cavanaugh turned his cutting-edge sports nutrition company into a force in the competitive market. 

Pat Cavanaugh is the latest guest on SportsJam with Doug Doyle.  The two former point guards practiced social distancing as Cavanaugh joined the show from his home in Wexford, Pennsylvania.  Doyle has been hosting the award-winning podcast from his residence in Kenilworth, NJ since WBGO's employees have been working at home.

Cavanaugh says he cut his teeth selling flower seeds and shoes door to door in Grove City, Pennsylvania, where he grew up.  It was just the start of a great learning experience.

"With my playing days at Pitt one of the things I realized was that nutrition could have an advantage for you if you took care of yourself, in terms of what you would eat, etc.  In today's world sports nutrition is even more important.  All the studies show time and time again that as much as 25 percent of athletic performance is dictated by your nutrition.  So it was kind of a natural evolution for me to build upon my athletic career and start a company that focused on that kind of product." 

Pat Cavanaugh
Pat Cavanaugh at the University of Pittsburgh

Cavanaugh gathered knowledge during his time at the University of Pittsburgh.

"I'm able to have an understanding of what a student athlete or a professional athlete would go through in terms of their training, their careers, up and downs.  Then also from a coaching perspective as well, I think I can relate to the athletes today."

READY Nutrition has been at the forefront of health snacks and drinks for several years, partnering with the Atlantic 10 Conference, AAU and others.  But recently during the coronavirus outbreak, Cavanaugh’s company has reached out to medical centers, schools across the county and other outlets and donated several products to those impacted by the crisis.  

"One of the things that our company when I founded it, beyond having clean nutritional products, was to be able to give back and help people.  Our mission is to help athletes achieve their goals and that's one of the things we like to do is give back to the community.  In the Pittsburgh area, and you being from Pittsburgh can appreciate it, we've provided multiple products for Allegheny Health Network frontline works, UPMC, so we've delivered over 120,000  bottles of our protein water and our bars to those frontline healthcare workers just in our own backyard." 

Cavanaugh says his company is also helping frontline healthcare workers in the Philadelphia, New Jersey and California regions, and the Pasadena School district system.

Credit READY
READY drinks and snacks have been popular for years

What makes READY special?

"Number one they have to be all-natural  or organic.  They do not contain any sugar alcohols.  I think one of the things people can appreciate whether you're a competitive athlete or a health conscious consumer is that your GI system and kind of that "gut health" ,as they call it, is so critical to be able to perform at your best.  Then as we all know it can have the greatest nutritional label in the world if it doesn't taste good people aren't going to buy it again.  We really pride ourselves on having great tasting products.  We have a chief science officer.  We have food nutritionists that work with various ingredients to create the functionality that we need across the product line."

One of the most famous READY members is Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle and six-time Pro Bowl selection Aaron Donald.  Donald was an uninamous All-American at Pitt after a stellar career at Penn Hills High School.  

Cavanaugh says he's thrilled to have Aaron Donald (see in top photo) on the READY team.

"Aaron Donald is somebody I have a lot of respect for.  Not just because he's a great football player, most importantly because he's a great person and a great man. His head has stayed the same size whether he was at Penn Hills here in Pittsburgh or whether he's considered one of the top defensive players in the NFL.  So number one he's kept his head on straight. Number two he works out pretty much everyday, all year.  He trains hard and keeps himself in shape, eats clean and gives maxium effort everyday.  That's something whether you're in sports or you're in education or in business, those are great attributes to have."

Pat Cavanaugh
Pat Cavanaugh played point guard for Pitt under head coach Paul Evans

Pat Cavanaugh's leadership skills led him to become a two-time captain of the Pitt basketball teams in the late 1980's.  He was part of some talent-filled squads under the direction of head coach Paul Evans.

"My freshman year was actually Coach Evans' first year.  He had just come in from coaching David Robinson at Navy.  We had Curtis Aiken, Charles Smith, Jerome, Demetrious Gore, guys that were so talented and really just wanted to win.  Coach Evans was able to gel that group together to not only get our first NCAA Tournament win but also we were Big East Champions that year and the following year as well.  So it was a great experience for us to accomplish that and win our first Big East Tournament game at Madison Square Garden."

Cavanaugh grew up in Grove City, PA and gives his mom and dad credit for his success as an athlete and businessman. 

Pat Cavanaugh
Credit Sotiris Aggelou
Pat Cavanaugh is the founder of READY Nutrition

"Like a lot of boys, their fathers are a role model.  You know my dad was all that and more.  Both my parents were teachers.  I got a family of public school teachers and I'm very proud of that.  My dad being a coach in addition to being a teacher and having three kids, working extra jobs, selling insurance and cars, whatever he had to do to help the family, my brother and sister to provide them opportunties, he did that. So he was very motivating for me.  He and my mom, their work ethic was something that's made a lasting impression on me to this day."

Both Pat's parents had skills he now uses everyday in his company.

"My dad, I think he still holds the scoring record at Slippery Rock High School.  He scored 42 points with no three pointers, so he could definitely play.  Getting my athletics and coaching from my dad and the nutritional side from my mom (a dietician), I had a great supporting cast no doubt."

The entrepreneur has been reaching out to athletes during the coronavirus outbreak as teams and leagues are still very much in limbo.

Credit Sotiris Aggelou
READY has donated more than 120,000 bottles of protein water to frontline healthcare workers

"At the college level, I think there's a lot of uncertainty for the athletes that are coming back in terms of what that future is going to hold. I think for the athletes that are seniors who were in spring sports or had their basketball season cut short and couldn't play in the tournament they're trying to deal with a very difficult time in their life because they've worked their whole lives to get to a certain point and some of them will want to go on and play at the next level, they had to kind of refocus.  I've talked with them about kind of resetting that target and the timeline.  Just becaue their season, the pause button got hit or it ended that doesn't need to be the end of their career.  From a professional standpoint, the majority of the professional athletes I've spoke to, they are keeping themselves in shape and on point as much as they can with the modified training equipment they have," 

To find out more about Pat Cavanaugh's thoughts on nutrition, favorite READY products and his collegiate career, you can click above to hear the entire SportsJam conversation.  

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Doug Doyle has been News Director at WBGO since 1998 and has taken his department to new heights in coverage and recognition. Doug and his staff have received more than 200 awards from organizations like PRNDI, AP, New York Association of Black Journalists, Garden State Association of Black Journalists and the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists.