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25 All-Time Best Inspirational Sports Quotes To Get You Going

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25 All-Time Best Inspirational Sports Quotes To Get You Going

We often use sports as a metaphor for life. Overall, sports often package life’s lessons into neat 60-minute games or into perfect soundbites that summarize to achieve at a high level. For this reason, we sifted over the glories of all sports, seeking to find a few uber-inspirational sports quotes.

1. “I don’t count my situps. I only start counting once it starts hurting. ” -Muhammad Ali

    Muhammad Ali, the inventor of the modern overconfident athlete persona and multiple time world boxing champion, has many quotes that could have made this list, but we thought we’d get him out of the way early.

    2.  “Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.” – Jimmy Valvano

      The speech Jimmy Valvano gave at the 1993 ESPY awards is choked full of wisdom and tightly-packed emotion, and it was hard to pick just one phrase from it. In it, legendary NC State basketball coach Jim Valvano is given the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, with everyone in the room knowing that he was going to die within a few weeks. It’s worth a watch.

      3. “I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

        The world-renowed basketball player Michael Jordan is always thought of as the victor, the one who took the shot no one else could make, the one who transformed the game. In these simple lines quantifying his failures, Jordan shows that getting to success is never easy, and that the failures are what make us who we are.

        4. “The only way to prove you are a good sport is to lose.” – Ernie Banks

          No one knows enthusiasm and integrity better than Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks. A Hall Of Fame Shortstop, Banks knew about losing, playing mostly for terrible Cubs teams.

          5. “There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.” – Derek Jeter

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            Recently retired First-Ballot-Hall-of-Fame shortstop accomplished a lot in his career with the New York Yankees, and was widely thought of as a class act. Jeter was a player’s player, a hard worker, and here he shows what got him there: hard work.

            6. “If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.” – Mark Spitz

              Nine-time Olympic champion Mark Spitz was an amazing swimmer, and nothing got him to where he wanted to be more than preparing. Spitz records stood until Michael Phelps broke them recently, so I’d say he has room to talk about preparation.

              7. “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.” – John Madden

                John Madden may be known for being a broadcaster and owner of a popular video game franchise, but before that, he coached the Oakland Raiders to two Superbowl Championship. In this, Madden shows how it wasn’t easy to get where he ended up.

                8. “Stubbornness usually is considered a negative; but I think that trait has been a positive for me.”- Cal Ripken, Jr.

                  Cal Ripken Jr. holds the streak in baseball, for most consecutive games played, with 2,632 games over the course of more than 16 years. You can see how he may consider himself stubborn, as he just trotted out there, every day, for more than a decade and a half.

                  9. “To uncover your true potential you must first find your own limits and then you have to have the courage to blow past them.” – Picabo Street

                    Olympic gold medalist Picabo Street, as an alpine skier, blew past her limits pretty consistently. Whizzing down a mountain at high speeds does take courage, and so does achieving your goals.

                    10. “Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.” -Mike Singletary

                      During his Hall-Of-Fame career with the Chicago Bears, Mike Singletary was known for his tenacity and his eyes. This must have been the result of a child-like vigor that he brought every day.

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                      11.“Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way.” – Satchel Paige

                        Legendary Negro League pitcher Satchel Paige was big on creativity and perseverance. Sometimes thought of as one of the greatest pitchers to ever live, Paige would never quit, and never let his emotions take over.

                        12. “It is not the size of a man but the size of his heart that matters.” – Evander Holyfield

                          World Heavy Weight Boxing Champion Evander Holyfield knows a lot about fighting and the heart. He was the man who had his ear bit off by Mike Tyson, and was at one point the undisputed world boxing champion.

                          13. “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

                            The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, was widely regarded as the best hockey player to ever play the game. In his best season, he had in average more than one goal per game, and was a four-time Stanley Cup Champion with the Edmonton Oilers. He never saw a shot he didn’t like.

                            14. “Wisdom is always an overmatch for strength.” – Phil Jackson

                              Hall-of-Fame NBA Coach Phil Jackson won a total of eleven (!!!) championships during his coaching career: six with the Chicago Bulls and then five more with the Los Angeles LAkers, which complimented two he had as a player with the Knicks. He worked with the aforementioned Jordan, as well as with Shaquille O’Neill, with Kobe Bryant, with many others, such as Scottie Pippen.

                              The man knows how to win, and, if he says wisdom is more vital than strength, you better listen.

                              15. “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.” – Vince Lombardi

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                                Vince Lombardi is the man the Super Bowl Trophy is named after. He was a legendary coach with the Green Bay Packers, and won the first two SuperBowls. Full of hard-nosed wisdom, Lombardi’s quote is one to live by.

                                16. “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” – Tim Notke

                                  Tim Notke, a high school basketball coach, said this in a motivational speech to his players to encourage them to work hard in order to be the best.

                                  17. “Never say never because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.” – Michael Jordan

                                    Michael Jordan is an American retired professional basketball player. He was said to be too short to be signed by Adidas, but with his hard work and persistence, he is now said to be “the greatest basketball player of all time”.

                                    18. “Good is not good when better is expected.” – Vin Scully

                                      Vin Scully is an American retired sportscaster. He has seen lots of good and great players and so he knows everyone has room to improve all the time.

                                      19. “Without self-discipline, success is impossible, period.” – Lou Holtz

                                        Lou Holtz is a former American football player, coach, and analyst. He is the only college football coach to lead six different programs to bowl games and guide four different programs to the final top 20 rankings.

                                        20. “It’s not the will to win that matters — everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.” – Paul “Bear” Bryant

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                                          Paul “Bear” Bryant was an American college football player and coach. He was best known as the head coach of the University of Alabama football team. He set a record (later broken) for more games won than any other collegiate coach.

                                          21. “A trophy carries dust. Memories last forever.” – Mary Lou Retton

                                            Mary Lou Retton Kelley is a retired American gymnast. At the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, she won a gold medal in the individual all-around competition, as well as two silver medals and two bronze medals. But to her, the process of doing the sports still matters more.

                                            22. “Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.” – Dean Karnazes

                                              Being hailed as one of the fittest men on the planet, Dean Karnazes can run for three days and nights without stopping. His persistence is definitely the key to his success.

                                              23. “What makes something special is not just what you have to gain, but what you feel there is to lose.” – Andre Agassi

                                                Andre Agassi is an American retired professional tennis player and former world No. 1 player. This is how he motivated himself to keep going and keep winning.

                                                24. “You win a few, you lose a few. Some get rained out. But you got to dress for all of them.” – Satchel Paige

                                                  Once again, Satchel Paige’s wise words have taught us to face failures positively.

                                                  25. “Never give up! Failure and rejection are only the first step to succeeding.” – Jim Valvano

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                                                    Last but not least, here we have Jim Valvano again, who had an excellent coaching career at multiple teams. He always encouraged his teams to never give up, no matter how hard it might be.

                                                    Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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                                                    Last Updated on January 19, 2022

                                                    What Is Fear-Based Motivation And Does It Work?

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                                                    What Is Fear-Based Motivation And Does It Work?

                                                    If you’ve ever thought or said something like this, then you are using fear-based motivation:

                                                    • “If I don’t get that promotion, I’m going to be seen as a failure so I better stay up all night to work on this proposal.”
                                                    • “If I speak up for school reform, the internet trolls are going to get me, so I better be quiet even though I care a lot about this issue.”
                                                    • “If I don’t exercise enough, I’m going to look like crap, so I better go to the gym six days a week, even if my body is killing me.”

                                                    Fear-based motivation is exactly what it sounds like—getting yourself and others to do things out of fear of what will happen if you don’t do it and do it well.

                                                    What you might not know is that while fear-based motivation might work in the short term, it can have long-term detrimental effects on your performance, relationships, and well-being.

                                                    Is Fear-Based Motivation Helpful?

                                                    If using fear as motivation comes naturally for you, you aren’t alone. Our brains use fear to keep us out of trouble. Normally, you want to move away from what feels harmful towards what feels safe.

                                                    This brain function is important when there is a genuine threat to your well-being, like if there is a rattlesnake on the hiking trail. Your brain will use fear to motivate you to move away from the snake as quickly as possible. But when you use fear-based motivation to accomplish your life and career goals, the constant state of fear puts unnecessary stress on your mind and body and can end up working against you.

                                                    The Darkside of Fear-Based Motivation

                                                    Take, for example, when your trainer at your gym motivates you during your workout by yelling things like, “Bikini season is coming! You don’t want your cellulite to be the star of the show!” or “Burn off that piece of birthday cake you ate last night!”

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                                                    Sure, you might be motivated to do ten more burpees, but what is going on in the back of your mind? You probably have an image of a group of people standing around you at the beach laughing at you in your bikini, or you feel guilty about eating that piece of cake and criticize yourself for not being able to control yourself.

                                                    Reliance on Negative Thinking

                                                    For most of us, this type of thinking causes stress and can bring down our energy levels and mood. The reliance on negative thinking is the problem with fear-based motivation. It forces us to put our attention on what is wrong or what could go wrong instead of anticipating and celebrating what is right. This, in turn, narrows our focus and prevents us from seeing the bigger picture.

                                                    When your brain senses a threat, whether it’s a rattlesnake hiding in the grass or the possibility of being laughed at in your bikini, your brain will move you into a protective stance. Your vision narrows and you prepare to fight, flee or freeze.

                                                    You can probably imagine what this looks like in the case of a rattlesnake, but how does this impact your bikini experience?

                                                    The High Cost of Fear-Based Motivation

                                                    Imagine that you plan a beach vacation with your friends three months from now. The first thing you picture is sitting on the beach with your tummy rolls and cellulite. You immediately sign up for three months of boot camp classes at the gym and banish all sugar and booze from your diet. You are determined not to make a fool of yourself on the beach!

                                                    Will the fear of not looking like a supermodel under the beach umbrella motivate you to get in shape and eat better? Possibly. But at what cost?

                                                    For three months, every time you picture yourself looking “less than perfect” in your bikini, you feel fear of being ashamed. Shame makes you want to hide, and that makes it harder to find the motivation to go to the gym instead of sitting on the couch eating ice cream.

                                                    You become so focused on how you are going to look on the beach that you lose out on all the fun and joy of life. You pass up on going shopping with your friends for new outfits because you aren’t at your goal weight yet. You stop doing the things you love to do to spend more time at the gym. You avoid family gatherings where you will be confronted with tempting food. You over-train to the point of hurting yourself.

                                                    The Healthier Alternative to Fear-Based Motivation

                                                    Now, there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel good in your bikini! If that’s important to you, keep your goal in mind but change the way you motivate yourself. Instead of using the fear of feeling ashamed to motivate you, try using love-based motivation.

                                                    Love-based motivation uses love instead of fear to lead and inspire you. It comes from a different part of your brain than fear-based motivation. Love-based motivation comes from the part of your brain that is responsible for joy, creativity, and passion.

                                                    5 Questions of Love-Based Motivation

                                                    There are many ways to deploy love-based motivation. The trick is to use one or all of the following to motivate you towards your goal: empathy, curiosity, innovation, vision, and heart-centered action.

                                                    Here are five questions you can use to motivate yourself using love-based motivation.

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                                                    1. What Would You Say to a Friend?

                                                    Chances are that you talk to your friends in a much kinder way and with more empathy than you talk to yourself. You wouldn’t tell a friend, “you better starve yourself and hit the gym three times a day to look good in that bikini!” Instead, you would probably say something like, “I’m so excited to go on this vacation with you! I can’t wait to spend time catching up while sipping margaritas on the beach.”

                                                    Talk to yourself the way you would talk to your friend.

                                                    2. What Are You Curious About Learning That Might Help You Get to Your Goal?

                                                    More often than not, achieving our goals is more about the journey it took us to get there than the goal itself. Curiosity makes journeys more fun. Perhaps you are curious about doing a triathlon but you don’t know how to run. If you spend three months learning to run, you would get into better shape and learn something new.

                                                    3. How Can You Get to Your Goal in a Way That Feels Good?

                                                    Using the “Yes, And” game is a great way to come up with innovative ideas for working towards your goals. If your first instinct is to go to the gym six days a week but you aren’t jazzed about it, find something that you like about that idea and make it better.

                                                    For example, if what you like about going to the gym is that you work up a sweat, what if instead of the gym, you join a dance class where you can learn some new moves to show off on your vacation?

                                                    4. What Is Important to You About Your Goal?

                                                    When you dig into your goal, chances are that you’ll find a deeper meaning. If your goal is to “look good in a bikini,” ask yourself why that’s important to you.

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                                                    For example, “I want to look good in my bikini because I want to have fun on vacation.” Then, ask yourself how much having fun on your vacation depends on how you look in your swimsuit.

                                                    5. What Heart-Centered Action Can You Take That Will Help You Reach Your Goal?

                                                    Whether your goal remains bikini-focused or changes to ways of having a good time on your vacation, choose an action that you can take that feels like it is coming from a place of love instead of fear.

                                                    For example, suggest to your friends that you take scuba diving classes as a group before vacation. It will get you moving and bring your friends together.

                                                    Long-Term Happiness and Satisfaction

                                                    Fear-based motivation may help you achieve your goals in the short term, but it won’t lead to long-term happiness and satisfaction. Fear isn’t designed to be used for long periods, and you will eventually tire of the fear and give up on your goals. Love, however, is designed for longevity.

                                                    Finding your motivation in a place of love will fuel you to reach your goals, whether your goals are about feeling good in a bikini, getting a promotion at work, or speaking up for what you believe in.

                                                    More Tips on Boosting Motivation

                                                    Featured photo credit: Jeremy Perkins via unsplash.com

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