Sports are an emotional roller coaster. There’s a reason people riot after soccer games and burn couches when their team loses a championship. And when kids and parents are involved, the emotional stakes are even greater. This can be a bad thing — we all know the bad sports parent who spends their time heckling the ref — but it can also be a good thing. The emotional terrain of sports has given us some great sports inspirational speeches that can motivate kids like few other things can.
There’s a great motivational speech from the world of sports for every situation, from the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat. These are some of our favorites. They’re great to show your kids, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to run through a brick wall and/or shed a tear after watching them.
When They Taste Success: Kevin Durant’s MVP Speech
Not all sports speeches are about getting pumped up. Some, like Kevin Durant’s 2013–14 NBA MVP acceptance speech, are about acknowledging the family, friends, coaches, teammates, and everyone else who helped you achieve your dreams. It’s the sports version of “It takes a village,” but when an NBA player says it, your kid might think it’s cool to thank your mom after you mess around and get a triple-double.
Choice Quote: “So many people believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. So many people doubted me and motivated me every single day to be who I am. I failed so many times and got back up. I’ve been through the toughest times with my family, but I’m still standing.”
When Things Don’t Start as Planned: Apollos Hester’s Postgame Interview
East View High’s Apollos Hester has been coveted by college scouts for his incredible speed and agility, great hands, and optimistic attitude about life’s limitless potential. This speech marked the first time in history a teenager thought they knew more than every adult in the world and was actually correct.
Choice Quote: “Regardless of the situation, regardless of the scoreboard, you’re going to be successful because you’ve put in all the time, all the effort, all the hard work, and you know that it’s going to pay off.”
When It’s Time to Smash the Wall: Coach Flowers’ JV Championship Speech
Playing “Last of the Mohicans” as your personal background music while shouting scripted notes like DMX to fire up the JV squad might seem a little overboard, but … okay, it was way overboard. Still, admit you’d love to see a gang of 6-year-olds scream, “I AM A CHAMPION!” before tripping over a soccer ball for 40 minutes. For real, though, coach — decaf.
Choice Quote: “No one will deny me, no one will define me. And no one will tell me who and what I am and can be. Belief will change my world.”
When the Game Hits Hardest: Jim Valvano’s ESPY Speech
At their best, sports can teach life’s greatest lessons. That’s what Jim Valvano delivered in his acceptance speech for the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the first ESPY Awards in 1993. Ten years after leading NC State to an NCAA championship in the greatest upset ever, battling late-stage, terminal cancer, Valvano outlined his blueprint for a fulfilling life. Craig Sager, the late Stuart Scott, and others have since followed suit, all inspired by three simple words uttered by Jimmy V.
Choice Quote: “There are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”
When They Try to Put the “I” in Team: Tony Arcuri’s Pregame Speech
An important lesson for your kid, who almost certainly will face an opponent (or teammate for that matter) who is bigger, stronger, and/or faster than they are. Physically speaking. Your kid will long-divide circles around that goon! Sidebar — when did high school football coaches all become motivational as hell?
Choice Quote: “They’re bigger. They got athletes, they got guys going to Division 1 schools. All right? We can see that and so can everybody else. But nobody can see the intangible in us … be the intangible tonight!”
When They Lose the Big One: Dave Belisle’s Little League World Series Speech
Eleven- and 12-year-old boys aren’t naturally gracious losers, so when the Cumberland Americans were eliminated from the 2014 Little League World Series by just one run, a national TV audience could have witnessed an all-time adolescent meltdown. Instead, coach Dave Belisle delivered an all-time “heads up high” speech that turned tears of sadness into tears of joy. Whatever, tough guy — watch this and act like it isn’t dusty in here.
Choice Quote: “It’s OK to cry, because we’re not going to play baseball together anymore. But we’re going to be friends forever.”
When They Fall Down: Kid’s Speech After Learning to Ride a Bike
If your kid won’t take it from you, let ’em take it from one of their own. Hell, you take it from one of their own. If you believe in yourself, you will know how to deliver an inspirational speech to your kid. If you don’t, just keep practicing! Also, shout out to the dad who perfectly set up the kid to deliver the ultimate attaboy for every training wheel–hating kid. If they don’t play this before every Balance Bike World Championships, someone should lose their job.
Choice Quote: “Thumbs up, everybody! For rock and roll!”
When Everyone Deserves Credit: Drew Brees’ Speech After Breaking Dan Marino’s Record
If your kid gets a little arrogant on the field, show them this video. Drew Brees set the record for most passing yards in a season in 2011, and he gave a speech to his coaches and teammates after the game. Ever humble, he exhaustively lists every person who helped him along the way, from his teammates to the equipment managers. He also finds time to get in a ball joke. What a professional.
Choice Quote: “There may be only one name that goes in the record book, but it’s all about you guys.”
When the Coach Needs a Pep Talk: Darrel Green’s Hall of Fame Speech
Green’s NFL Hall of Fame acceptance speech is remembered as one of the most passionate of all time. It’s sure to motivate your kid, and it has a great reminder for you too. Plus, it rhymes, so it’s easy to remember.
Choice Quote: “They said, ‘No,’ and he said, ‘Go.’ The best encouragement you can ever get in life is when a dad encourages his son. Encourage your son. That’s what he did for us.”
When the Other Kids Have Mustaches: Herb Brooks’ Miracle Pregame Speech
Yes, it’s from a movie, which violates this list’s only rule; Herb Brooks’ speech before the 1980 Men’s U.S. Olympic hockey team pulled off the Miracle on Ice happened behind closed doors. But none of that matters because Junior can’t lose — not this game, not tonight. Also, because Miracle led to this kid reciting Brooks’ speech. Woah, inspiration-ception.
Choice Quote: “This is your time. Now go out there and take it!”
When They Have to Sacrifice Their Glory for the Good of the Team
Tony Romo lost his dream job, starting NFL quarterback, after a back injury and lots of missed time. His backup, Dak Prescott, proved himself worthy of the starting job with his play — and an 8–1 record, and he won the spot from the veteran Romo. In a press conference, Romo addresses the situation with grace and eloquence. Instead of sulking or complaining, he speaks from the heart about the darkness of not being able to play, gives thanks for the people who helped him when he was younger, and promises to do the same for his protégé.
Choice Quote: “There are special moments that come from a shared commitment to play a role while doing it together that’s what you remember not your stats or your prestige but the relationships and the achievement that you created through a group.”
When You Have No Words: Jason McElwain’s Scoring Spree
Because your play should speak for itself.
Choice Quote: [Crowd loses its mind as autistic team manager rains threes to score 20 points in four minutes]