100 Most Inspirational Sports Quotes Of All Time

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For sports fans, sports are the epitome of hard work and dedication. To get to the pinnacle of their sport, even the most naturally gifted athletes have to give it their all.

Yes, we watch sports for the excitement, but even more so for the drama. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing a team come back to win that 4th game after being down 0-3, or a fighter getting off the canvas to score a comeback after a knock-out.

Sports are about those incredible moments where sheer human will and desire overcomes the odds. These are the moments we remember.

Given the nature of sports, it’s not surprising that athletes have had some inspiring and motivational things to say about hard work, perseverance, leadership, winning, and much more. Here are the most inspirational sports quotes for athletes and fans.

100 Inspiring Sports Quotes

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

Age is no barrier. It’s a limitation you put on your mind.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee
A Wilson tennis ball sitting at the intersection fo two lines on a tennis court
“Only he who can see the invisible can do the impossible.” – Frank L. Gaines

I always felt that my greatest asset was not my physical ability, it was my mental ability.

Bruce 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
A baseball player holding two baseballs during a New York Yankees practice
“There may be people that have more talent than you, but theres no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.” – Derek Jeter

Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.

Ted Williams

One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than 50 preaching it.

Knute Rockne

The five S’s of sports training are: stamina, speed, strength, skill, and spirit; but the greatest of these is spirit.

Ken Doherty

An athlete cannot run with money in his pockets. He must run with hope in his heart and dreams in his head.

Emil Zatopek

Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back… play for her.

Mia Hamm
Two blue lanes on a 100 mete sprint track
“When you’ve got something to prove, there’s nothing greater than a challenge.” – Terry Bradshaw

Never give up, never give in, and when the upper hand is ours, may we have the ability to handle the win with the dignity that we absorbed the loss.

Doug Williams

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

Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement.

Marv Levy

I’ve learned that something constructive comes from every defeat.

Tom Landry

Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears.

Laird Hamilton
A man looking off a cliff at a vast valley below him
“Set your goals high, and don’t stop till you get there.” – Bo Jackson

I became a good pitcher when I stopped trying to make them miss the ball and started trying to make them hit it.

Sandy Koufax

If you can’t outplay them, outwork them.

Ben Hogan

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.

Rogers Hornsby

Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.

William James

Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.

Mike Singletary
Several marathon runners competing in the 1956 Boston Marathon
“If at first you don’t succeed, you are running about average.” – M.H. Alderson

Continuous effort — not strength or intelligence — is the key to unlocking our potential.

Liane Cardes

Good is not good when better is expected.

Vin Scully

The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s determination.

Tommy Lasorda

Champions keep playing until they get it right.

Billie Jean King

You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours.

Herb Brooks
PNC Park filled with fans before a Pittsburgh Pirates game in April
“What you lack in talent can be made up with desire, hustle, and giving 110 percent all the time.” – Don Zimmer

If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.

Mark Spitz

How you respond to the challenge in the second half will determine what you become after the game, whether you are a winner or a loser.

Lou Holtz

Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement.

Matt Biondi

Sports serve society by providing vivid examples of excellence.

George F. Will

The principle is competing against yourself. It’s about self-improvement, about being better than you were the day before.

Steve Young
Two safeties chasing a wide receiver with a ball down a football field
“The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.” – John Madden

You are never really playing an opponent. You are playing yourself, your own highest standards, and when you reach your limits, that is real joy.

Arthur Ashe

What makes something special is not just what you have to gain, but what you feel there is to lose.

Andre Agassi

The more difficult the victory, the greater the happiness in winning.


It ain’t about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.

Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa

Most talented players don’t always succeed. Some don’t even make the team. It’s more what’s inside.

Brett Favre

One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Memorial Stadium and the Sea of Red fans before a Nebraska football game
“Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it.” – George Halas

Stubbornness usually is considered a negative; but I think that trait has been a positive for me.

Cal Ripken Jr.

You’ve got to take the initiative and play your game. In a decisive set, confidence is the difference.

Chris Evert

When you win, say nothing, when you lose, say less.

Paul Brown

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

The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.

Arnold Schwarzenegger
A boxer behind his gloves thinking of a Joe Frazier quote to get inspired
“When I go out there, I have no pity on my brother. I am out there to win.” – Joe Frazier

During my 18 years I came to bat almost 10,000 times. I struck out about 1,700 times and walked maybe 1,800 times. You figure a ballplayer will average about 500 at bats a season. That means I played seven years without ever hitting the ball.

Mickey Mantle

I never left the field saying I could have done more to get ready and that gives me peace of mind.

Peyton Manning

Leadership, like coaching, is fighting for the hearts and souls of men and getting them to believe in you.

Eddie Robinson

You win some, you lose some, and some get rained out, but you gotta suit up for them all.

J. Askenberg

Always make a total effort, even when the odds are against you.

Arnold Palmer
A Spalding basketball swishing through the net at an NBA game in Brooklyn
“You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.” – Michael Jordan

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

Show me a guy who’s afraid to look bad, and I’ll show you a guy you can beat every time.

Lou Brock

You can motivate by fear, and you can motivate by reward. But both those methods are only temporary. The only lasting thing is self motivation.

Homer Rice

You find that you have peace of mind and can enjoy yourself, get more sleep, and rest when you know that it was a one hundred percent effort that you gave–win or lose.

Gordie Howe
The feet of a runner in Nike shoes running up stone steps in Edinburgh
“If you train hard, you’ll not only be hard, you’ll be hard to beat.” – Herschel Walker

My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging.

Hank Aaron

I didn’t believe in team motivation. I believe in getting a team prepared so it knows it will have the necessary confidence when it steps on the field and be prepared to play a good game.

Tom Landry

Your biggest opponent isn’t the other guy. It’s human nature.

Bobby Knight

If you can believe it, the mind can achieve it.

Ronnie Lott

If you don’t have confidence, you’ll always find a way not to win.

Carl Lewis
The 20 yard line of a football field before the NFC Championship Game
“Without self-discipline, success is impossible, period.” – Lou Holtz

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

Make each day your masterpiece.

John Wooden

Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.

Pat Riley

Win If You Can, Lose If You Must, But NEVER QUIT!

Cameron Trammell

Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.

Mike Singletary

If you have everything under control, you’re not moving fast enough.

Mario Andretti
Three runners sprinting down a track in an empty stadium
“Just keep going. Everybody gets better if they keep at it.” – Ted Williams

What do do with a mistake: recognize it, admit it, learn from it, forget it.

Dean Smith

Push yourself again and again. Don’t give an inch until the final buzzer sounds.

Larry Bird

If you aren’t going all the way, why go at all?

Joe Namath

You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get.

Michael Phelps

Do not let what you can not do interfere with what you can do.

John Wooden
A cyclist riding his bike down a hot desert road in Nevada
“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” – Lance Armstrong

Wisdom is always an overmatch for strength.

Phil Jackson

The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.

Joe Paterno

Adversity cause some men to break; others to break records.

William A. Ward

Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way.

Satchel Paige

Some people say I have attitude – maybe I do…but I think you have to. You have to believe in yourself when no one else does – that makes you a winner right there.

Venus Williams
A baseball tucked into an old leather baseball glove
“Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” – Babe Ruth

It is not the size of a man but the size of his heart that matters.

Evander Holyfield

I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’

Muhammad Ali

There are only two options regarding commitment. You’re either IN or you’re OUT. There is no such thing as life in-between.

Pat Riley

A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.

Jack Dempsey

It ain’t over till it’s over.

Yogi Berra

You’re only as strong as your weakest link.

Phil Jackson
The inside of Texas Stadium before a Monday Night Football game in 1992
“You’re never a loser until you quit trying.” – Mike Ditka

Never give up! Failure and rejection are only the first step to succeeding.

Jim Valvano

You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.

Wayne Gretzky

The highest compliment that you can pay me is to say that I work hard every day, that I never dog it.

Wayne Gretzky

Gold medals aren’t really made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts.

Dan Gable

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
A tight end running down a football field for a touchdown with a safety behind
“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.” – Vince Lombardi

Hope you enjoyed these 100 inspirational quotes for athletes. If we left anything out, we’d love to hear the quotes that make you love sports and get you motivated to play them.

Photo of author

Quincy Seale

Quincy is KIM's editor, and has collected and shared inspiring quotes and stories since 2005. Quincy holds an MBA from the University of Dundee and an MSc from the University of Edinburgh, and lives in San Antonio with his wife Natalie, son Alex, and his dog Oban.

8 thoughts on “100 Most Inspirational Sports Quotes Of All Time”

  1. Here is my favorite: “Never say never, because limits, are often just an illusion.” This is the quote that made me play basketball, and I say it to myself everyday.

  2. A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.”
    – Jack Dempsey
    I think that this is a very strong and inspirational quote to kids that are in sports and are struggling and getting let down by teammates or coaches if according to other players on the team or the coaches. So, thanks to Jack by coming up with this amazing quote.

  3. “Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success.” by Ross Perot This is one of my favorites. All too often in everything we do we just fall short of reaching our goals. Just a few more steps, just around the next corner, we just need to keep on pushing through and we’ll get where we want to be.


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