Since he was a child, Jaime Cavazos dreamed of becoming a university professor and following in the footsteps of his parents in pursuing a career in education. One class at The University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA), however, would steer the Mission native away from the classroom and into the gymnasium.
"I took exercise physiology and that was it. I was hooked. I loved it," he said.
The course changed Cavazos' life and turned him into one of the premier athletic performance trainers in South Texas. Hard work, perseverance and an unshakeable work ethic have made him a successful businessman, and the most sought after sports expert for local top-echelon athletes.
The 30-year-old UTPA alumnus owns the Cavazos Sports Institute (CSI), a 7,000 square foot facility in north McAllen. It is the place where he works tirelessly to mold young men and women into standout athletes.
"I love watching my kids compete. It makes me feel good to know that I am doing my job and seeing them succeed," he said. "My goal is to get them to go to college."
Attending college was never an option for Cavazos. It was an expectation. Both of his parents are longtime elementary school educators.
"I always knew I was going to go," he said.
The 1999 Mission High School graduate resisted the temptation to move away. All his friends were headed upstate, but Cavazos chose to stay home and attend UTPA. He says it turned out to be one of the best decisions of his life.
"A lot of my buddies were going to A&M and I knew that would be a bad idea. I would probably get fat and not go to class and not graduate. I needed the discipline of being here," Cavazos said.
Cavazos graduated in 2004 with his bachelor's degree in kinesiology and was promptly hired by the University as a lecturer as he worked on his post graduate degree. He taught weight training, fitness, motor development and strength conditioning to future Rio Grande Valley coaches.
"I had a really good experience at UTPA. I had fun and I think college is what you make of it," he said. "I saved a lot of money by living at home. All my friends who went away have hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans. I have no regrets, and that is what I tell my students."
After graduation, Cavazos set his sights on the difficult strength and conditioning state exam. The UTPA instructor was the only one out of 35 people to pass the test and received the highest certification for athletic performance.
His next goal would be to earn his master's. Again, Cavazos chose to stay at UTPA where he eventually earned his master's in sports science in 2006.
"It's the same books you use in a bigger university. Unless you plan to specialize in a certain program, if you have a degree from UTPA or from UT, you are still going to get paid the same," he said.
Despite his qualifications, Cavazos said it was difficult to break into his career field. Few people understood his strategies. While he continued lecturing at UTPA, Cavazos began training only one student from Edinburg. Cavazos turned him into a remarkable football player.
"I got two more students from him because his friends were wondering what he was doing to get better. Then it just grew and grew," Cavazos said. "I started in a public gym and trained a couple of kids there. Then I went to a small personal training gym. I was even in an attic at another facility with about 15 kids."
Cavazos then leased a 2,000 square foot facility in McAllen. In four short years, he outgrew the gym and decided to make the jump into ownership and training full-time. CSI was born.
"It just got too small and I had too many kids and I got tired of paying rent. This is my building. I own everything now," Cavazos said.
Cavazos says his institute is a far cry from a regular fitness gym. His training is for elite athletes who aim to maximize their performance.
"We work on multi-muscle, multi-joint movement patterns. We mimic the movement of the sport so you can play your position and your sport better," Cavazos said.
The specialized training is unique to each athlete and their game.
"If you play volleyball and you jump, then we are not going to have you run miles because that doesn't mimic the sport. We are going to do a lot of short shuffles and jumps and things to make you quicker," Cavazos said.
The business is thriving though he does very little advertising. Volleyball, football and basketball competitors make up the bulk of his clientele, but Cavazos caters to every sport.
"It is word-of-mouth and kicking butt on the court or on the field where someone eventually has to ask how my athletes are getting so good. It is their performance that says it all," he said.
Cavazos has a phenomenal track record in producing results. Since 2005, 41 college athletic scholarships have been awarded to students he has trained.
"I have been pretty successful," he said.
Not every athlete qualifies to join CSI; it is a selective process Cavazos said. He puts students through a rigorous 15-part assessment to evaluate their agility, quickness, strength and flexibility. If they meet his standards, then athletes are incorporated into his afternoon group training program. Most of his clientele are high school and college students. His youngest athlete is 10. The goal is to capitalize on each athlete's strength to enhance their performance.
"This is not for beginners. This is for the cream of the crop, for kids who are at the top of their sport."
On average, he instructs 80 students per month. Cavazos says he is tired of athletes upstate outshining Valley students and he plans to bridge the gap.
"It is not a perception. It is reality. We are slower. We are not as strong. I think our coaching is getting better but we are lacking training facilities and a work ethic," Cavazos said. "CSI is closing the gap."
Every athlete who qualifies is under Cavazos' instruction. He has no employees.
"I love being here," he said. "As long as I can handle it I will stay this way. I love coming to work."
The future is bright for Cavazos.
"I already have my own gym. That was my ultimate goal. Now, my next goal is to expand, and open up in Harlingen," Cavazos said. "I want to have another facility for those kids on that side of the Valley. I just feel like the possibilities are endless."