Who doesn’t love a good motivational speech? Especially at the moment, when we all need examples of courage and resiliency — and the kind of leadership that’s all about working together. Sports are about athletics, but they’re also emotional activities. And competition breeds a lot of things, but one of its most enduring products is inspiration.
This fact has given us some incredible motivational speeches from the wide world of sports — and in situations both expected and unexpected that live on YouTube. There are inspirational speeches for every situation: the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, the importance of teamwork, the hard work and sacrifice required to reach great heights. With this in mind, we gathered some of the best inspirational speeches around, given by pro athletes, coaches, and even a little kid who dropped some knowledge after taking a tumble off his bike. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself feeling amped up and or shedding a tear after watching them.
1. Kevin Durant’s 2013-2014 MVP Speech
In Durant’s 2013–14 NBA MVP acceptance speech, he takes time to acknowledge all the hard work, setbacks, and sacrifices he endured to arrive at the moment as well as the friends, family, coaches, teammates, and supporters who helped him along the way. It’s the sports version of “It takes a village,” and it’s a beautifully articulated and touching way acknowledgement what it truly takes to be great.
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.”
2. Coach 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. It’s a masterclass.
Choice Quote: “It’s okay to cry, because we’re not going to play baseball together anymore. But we’re going to be friends forever.”
3. Apollos Hester’s Postgame Interview
East View High’s Apollos Hester is coveted by college scouts for his incredible speed and agility, great hands, and optimistic attitude about life’s limitless potential. As is obvious from this speech, he’s also one hell of a motivational speaker. 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.
4. This Little 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.
Choice Quote: “Thumbs up, everybody! For rock and roll!”
5. 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. And, well, that might be the case. 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.
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.”
6. Jim Valvano’s ESPY Speech
At their best, sports can teach life’s greatest lessons. In his acceptance speech for the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the first ESPY Awards in 1993, Jim Valvano, basketball player, coach, and broadcaster, delivered a masterclass in that premise. Ten years after leading NC State to an NCAA championship in the greatest upset ever, battling late-stage, terminal cancer, Jimmy V outlined his blueprint for a fulfilling life in three simple rules: Laugh, think, and cry. Every day. Do it, and you’ll be fulfilled indeed.
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.”
7. Tony Romo’s 2016 Press Conference About Dak Prescott
After a back injury and lots of missed time, Tony Romo lost his dream job — starting NFL quarterback. His backup, Dak Prescott, proved himself worthy of the starting job with his play. 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.”
8. Coach Tony Arcuri’s 2007 Pregame Speech to the Indian Hill Braves High School Football Team.
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!”
9. Drew Brees’ Speech After Breaking Dan Marino’s Record
In 2011, Drew Brees set the record for most passing yards in a season, and gave this speech to his coaches and teammates after the game. Ever humble, Brees 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.”
10. Darrel Green’s NFL 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 absolutely riveting — and full of excellent advice for parents and children alike. 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.”
11. Herb Brooks’ Miracle Pregame Speech
Yes, this speech is 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.
Choice Quote: “This is your time. Now go out there and take it!”
12. 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]