This article was last updated on January 31, 2022
In the sports world, motivation is everything. It can drive us to continue our passions and give us the necessary push to tear down any obstacles in our way. Motivation ignites inspiration and encouragement, lifts spirits, and sends waves of confidence through your entire being. Much of this can be found in quotes from athletes because who better to inspire than someone doing what you do? So, take a look below at 22 motivational words from athletes like yourself that can serve as a catalyst to get you on your feet and ready to conquer anything.
30 Motivational Quotes for Athletes by Athletes
- “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
Running into someone better than you are is inevitable as no one is perfect at everything. However, don’t use it as a crutch. Train hard even if there are a thousand people better than you are; that doesn’t mean they all push themselves as hard.
- “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” – Michael Jordan
Athletes understand that obstacles come with the territory. What matters is how you decide to handle them. Tear them down any way you can, just don’t let them tear you down to the point that you decide to give up.
- “One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than 50 preaching it.” – Knute Rockne
The idea of sportsmanship is touted to every athlete from day one no matter how old they are. However, all the talk about it, about respecting your fellow players and the game itself, can be lost if someone doesn’t actually demonstrate it. Don’t talk about it. Do it.
- “The hardest skill to acquire in this sport is the one where you compete all out, give it all you have, and you are still getting beat no matter what you do. When you have the killer instinct to fight through that, it is very special.” – Eddie Reese
Everyone loses at some point. It’s as unavoidable as facing off with someone more skilled than you are. The fact that we give it our all and don’t take home the win can break our spirits, but don’t let that happen. Find within yourself the drive to keep going, and you’ll come out stronger in the end.
- “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky
A simple quote that conveys a simple act: do it. If you don’t do something, then there’s no point. You can sit around wondering “what if?” all you want. It won’t get you anywhere. So, get up and go do what needs to be done.
- “What to do with a mistake: recognize it, admit it, learn from it, forget it.” – Dean Smith
We all make mistakes. Understanding them so that you learn from them ensures they won’t reoccur. Harping on them only allows them to fester and makes certain that you will make that mistake again. Let it go.
- “When you’ve got something to prove, there’s nothing greater than a challenge.” – Terry Bradshaw
A challenge means everything. When someone or something pushes us, only then does a true hunger to improve ourselves, to show that we can do anything, awakens inside.
- “In baseball and in business, there are three types of people. Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happened.” – Tommy Lasorda
Be the person that does something. Don’t stand around so that you turn into a spectator or miss it. Get out there and make memories. If you don’t, someone else surely will.
- “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life a champion’.” – Muhammad Ali
There isn’t an athlete around that hasn’t felt overwhelming pressure to quit after strenuous training. It can wear on the body and mind, break the spirit at points. Just remember the end results: your pain in the gym pays off with your skills out there in the world.
- “Can I jump over two or three guys like I used to? No. Am I as fast as I used to be? No, but I still have the fundamentals and smarts. That’s what enables me to still be a dominant player. As a kid growing up, I never skipped steps. I always worked on fundamentals because I know athleticism is fleeting.” – Kobe Bryant
We’re not always going to be the same at the age of 40 that we were at the age of 20. Life happens and things change. What doesn’t have to change are the roots. Keep in mind the basic principles we all learn in the beginning to carry you through the rough patches.
- “You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the further you get.” – Michael Phelps
Sometimes, you just need some encouragement to shoot for the stars, so to speak. Don’t limit yourself in what you aim to achieve. Jump high and you’re bound to land somewhere great.
- “Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way.” – Satchel Paige
When things get rough, it’s nice to have a solid motivational quote like this. Hardships are a part of life, so we must learn to handle them and not give them the chance to consume us.
- “If you don’t have confidence, you’ll always find a way not to win.” – Carl Lewis
Confidence is key, right? You need to be confident in yourself, in knowing that even if you lack the skills, you have the potential to learn them. Self-doubt is the foundation of failure.
- “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” – Muhammad Ali
Sometimes, the most rewarding prize out there is the one that comes with the most risks attached. Playing it safe works sometimes, but too often can lead to missed opportunities. Take a chance sometimes and see what happens.
- “Age is no barrier. It’s a limitation you put on your mind.” – Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Many hesitate going into sports because they feel too old or too young. If you feel that way, then you’ll behave that way. Take the notion out of your mind that only those of a certain age can become athletes. Anyone can do anything as long as they apply themselves.
- “Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like muscles of the body.” – Lynn Jennings
When you’re in the gym giving it your all, don’t forget about that muscle in your head. Mental fortitude goes a long way; a strong mind spells the difference between someone who carries on and someone who quits.
- “One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
In a team-led sport, playing well with your fellow teammates is vital. Nobody likes someone who grandstands when there are a dozen other people around them. Keep respect alive; be a team player.
- “Sportsmanship for me is when a guy walks off the court and you really can’t tell whether he won or lost, when he carries himself with pride either way.” – Jim Courier
Another great trait every athlete should have is pride. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished even if you’ve lost. Don’t let a speed bump wound you and carry yourself with dignity.
- “Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement.” – Matt Biondi
Losses happen, but perseverance plays a large role here. Carry on despite any failure. The harder you fight, the more likely you will learn from any mistake you may have made and achieve something great later on.
- “Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.” – Dean Karnazes
Ever get to the point where you just can’t do it anymore? You can’t go another round in the ring. You can’t run or bike another mile. Your arms just won’t push through the water as fast anymore. It’s okay to slow down. Pace yourself, let yourself recover, and keep going. It doesn’t matter how you get there. Just get there.
- “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
Hearing such a legendary athlete speak candidly about the many times he’s been unsuccessful shows us all to not hide from our failures. Embrace them and let them be known. It’s a good way to keep some humility about you as well as act as determination to push you to keep improving yourself.
- “Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.” – Mike Singletary
- “The only way to prove that you’re a good sport is to lose.” – Ernie Banks
- “When you’re riding, only the race in which you’re riding is important.” – Bill Shoemaker
- “I always felt that my greatest asset was not my physical ability, it was my mental ability.” – Caitlyn Jenner
- “A trophy carries dust. Memories last forever.” – Mary Lou Retton
- “Number one is just to gain a passion for running. To love the morning, to love the trail, to love the pace on the track. And if some kid gets really good at it, that’s cool too.” – Pat Tyson
- “Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game one foot from a winning touchdown.” – Ross Perot
- “You have to do something in your life that is honorable and not cowardly if you are to live in peace with yourself.” – Larry Brown
- “The five S’s of sports training are: stamina, speed, strength, skill, and spirit; but the greatest of these is spirit.” – Ken Doherty
With all the talk about winning and losing, sometimes we forget why we play in the first place. We go into sports because we love it. It’s exciting and fun even with all the risks. You’re doing something you love because you enjoy it, not because you have to. Remember that. Whether you’re a budding athlete or have been in this game for years, it never hurts to get a motivational boost every now and again. Did you find any of these as uplifting as we did? Heard of some others that we didn’t mention? We’re always interested in discovering more encouraging words.