Updated October 2021 – Now 39 Quotes!
The right kinds of quotes punch well above their weight. In other words for such short sentences, they can really make us think. The challenge is picking through them all to separate the good ones from the well-intended garbage (trash). So we have decided to put on the plastic gloves and do this for you. Below are some of our favourite sport psychology quotes. As you’ll see it’s a smörgåsbord of quotes from coaches, athletes and psychologists. Furthermore, we have unpacked each quote a little. Essentially, providing a quick explanation about why it has been included in this ‘best sport psychology quotes’ blog. A number of these quotes are from our very own team of psychologists. This might seem a little self-indulgent but if you got it, flaunt it.
If you would like us to add your favourite sport psychology quotes paste them into the comments section below. Enjoy and please share with your networks. You have our full permission to copy and paste any of these to inspire or motivate or whatever.
Sport Psychology Quotes By Athletes
“There’s no way around hard work. Embrace it. You have to put in the hours because there is always something you can improve on”Roger Federer
Comment: If you want to go after it in life and explore your full potential as an athlete or performer, you are going to need to put in the work. Accepting the difficulty that comes from doing hard work is essential. As one of the greatest tennis players ever highlighted here, we can all learn from Roger Federer by believing that we can always improve in some capacity. A concept known in Japanese as “kaizen”.
“Gold medals aren’t really made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts.”Dan Gable
Comment: This is such a great sport psychology quote. Maybe one of the best of all time hence why it’s at the top. So true. The medal, the trophy, the prize money are just symbols. The real reward is the actual hard work. To this end, I am aware of many medal winners who don’t even bother to display them. They are in boxes collecting dust somewhere.
“It’s not who’s put up the fastest time in the world that year, or who’s put up the fastest time in the previous four years, but who can get their hand on the wall first today.”Nathan Adrian
Comment: This quote perfectly sums up a lot of the early conversations we have with athletes. We have this idea that on game day we need to be feeling great and thinking positively, and that we won’t perform well if we aren’t. The reality is that no one feels great on game day. The athletes that come out on top are those that can put together the best performance despite how nervous they feel and how unhelpful their thoughts are.
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” and “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”Wayne Gretzky
“People say to me all the time, ‘You have no fear.’ I tell them, ‘No, that’s not true. I’m scared all the time. You have to have fear in order to have courage. I’m a courageous person because I’m a scared person.”Wayne Gretzky
Comment: Two quotes here by one of the greatest [ice] hockey players of all time. For the first one. It allows us to reflect on the risk and reward of taking chances. Mentally, many athletes prefer to play it safe when under pressure. To pass the ball or puck to a teammate instead of taking the shot. Players like Gretzky become great due mainly to their mental and tactical excellence at a time when it was not common for athletes to work on these areas. For the second one, a simple reference to an undervalues skills of perception and anticipation. Are you working on these areas in training?
“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.”Arthur Ashe
Comment: This quote is less well known but is no less inspiring. It correctly suggests that trying to feel more confident without reason is limiting. At Condor Performance we sometimes say to our clients ‘competence before confidence’. What we mean by this is the best way to feel more confident is by actually improving your skills and abilities. And the best way to do this is via the right quantity of high-quality preparation.
“People say to me all the time, ‘You have no fear.’ I tell them, ‘No, that’s not true. I’m scared all the time. You have to have fear in order to have courage. I’m a courageous person because I’m a scared person.”Ronda Rousey
Comment: We have this idea that athletes are superhuman – they don’t feel nerves or fear, and never doubt their ability. This just ins’t the case – the top athletes in the world feel all the same things we feel before an important moment, but through years of experience have just become really good at performing with all of those unhelpful thoughts and feelings present.
“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside of them; a desire, a dream, a vision.”Muhammad Ali
Comment: Not sure ‘the greatest’ meant to infer the following but anyway. Far too much of the sporting pathways overemphasise physical and technical. There is far too little on mental, tactical and personal.
Even More Quotes From Athletes …
“It’s fun to be in a race with Ledecki. We love racing each other. We don’t get to do it often”.Ariarne Titmus
Comment: Despite the pressure, hype and expectation, the main emotions Titmus felt in racing the legendary American swimmer Katie Ledecki at the 2021 Olympics in epic battles in the 200, 400 and 800 metre freestyle finals, were joy and excitement for the opportunity to do so.
“Dreams are free. Goals have a cost. While you can daydream for free, goals don’t come without a price. Time, Effort, Sacrifice, and Sweat. How will you pay for your goals?“Usain Bolt
Comment: This great quote gives us a possible sneak peek into why UB was one of the greatest of all time. He worked very hard in practice. He then relaxed (or tried to at least) on race day allowing that Time, Effort, Sacrifice, and Sweat to just bubble to the surface.
“I can only control my own performance. If I do my best, then I can feel good at the end of the day”Michael Phelps
Comment: One of the greatest Olympians of all-time talking about the importance of focusing on your own performance and effort. At Condor Performance, we believe in the importance of focusing on process over outcome. A sentiment echoed by Michael Phelps.
“I think that everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and you put the work and time into it. I think your mind really controls everything.”Michael Phelps
Comment: Michael Phelps on understanding the mind and how we can train it to help ourselves perform better. Phelps has always given significant credit to his mental conditioning as an overall factor for his success in competitive swimming.
“I was forced to learn a lot about psychology as a player, and as a captain to get the best out of others. There’s still a lot of scepticism about it in sport and the workplace, but dealing with fluctuations of form, and pressure, and being away from home is more important than your cover-drive.”Andrew Strauss
Comment: This quote is not one that we had not come across before until researching for this blog. Coming from one of the great thinkers of English cricket. It accurately explains that technical abilities (such as hitting a cover drive) don’t mean much without the mental side. Our coaching model Metuf explains this via the use of an analogy of an aeroplane.
“Preparation is everything and focus is the key. It’s easy to say you gave it your all out on the pitch. But the point is if you’d prepared you’d have had more to give and you’ve played better”.Eric Cantona
Comment: This is such a great point from the Manchester United legend. What it sounds like he’s saying is there is only so much you can do on match day. Performers who take short cuts in training hoping to “bring it” on match day are likely to be found wanting.
“The harder I work, the luckier I get.”Gary Player
Comment: This quote was originally linked with Samuel Goldwyn but later popularised by Gary Player. What he/they are saying is actually 100% accurate. If luck is the random stuff in sports we have no influence over then we can reduce the role this plays in terms of results by ensuring high-quality effort. You can read more on the psychology of luck in sport here.
“I got more bruises, grass-burns and cuts in practice than in match play.”Jonty Rhodes
Comment: This quote is from legendary South African cricketer Jonty Rhodes. Despite retiring more than 15 years ago he is still considered one of the best fielders to ever play the same. The full article, from which the above was taken, can be viewed here. As can be seen from the profile page of our founder Gareth J. Mole, Jonty is a real favourite of his.
“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”Kevin Durant
Comment: There is an argument that the whole concept of talent is a bit of a myth. Essentially, when people refer to talent they are basically meaning genetics. In other words one of the few factor of performance that we have no influence on at all. We will be writing a full blog post on this shortly, when done you will see the link here.
The Michael Jordan Section:
“I’ve missed more than 9000 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
Comment: This is arguably one of the best sport psychology quotes of all time. It helps us to understand that performances at all levels and all types are full of errors. Knowing that processes (effort) and outcomes (results such as winning) are separate is key here. And as performers knowing we have a lot more influence over the former also helps.
“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”Michael Jordan
Comment: Again Jordan is showing us that it was his mindset that made him so special. Being able to distinguish between effort (“trying”) and results (“failure”) is so very important. One way to do this is to forget about being able to control anything. Instead, consider the amount of influence you have. The more influence the more mental value you might put on those areas.
“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
Comment: This quote is all about creativity. For example, during the Corona Virus, which was full of obstacles, did you stop? Or did you find another way to do the tasks you value?
More Quotes From MJ …
“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, and others make it happen.”Michael Jordan
Comment: Actions and desires are not as linked as you might think. In the work we do as sport psychologists and performance psychologists we don’t do as much work on thoughts and emotions as you might imagine. Why? At the end of the day, especially in sport, it’s all come back to actions. Would you rather kick the ball in the right way whilst thinking negatively or kick it incorrectly whilst thinking positively?
“The minute you get away from fundamentals – whether its proper technique, work ethic or mental preparation – the bottom can fall out of your game, your schoolwork, your job, whatever you’re doing.”Michael Jordan
Comment: As knowledge of sport psychology and sport science explodes we are at great risk of getting away from the fundamentals. In other words, it is becoming harder and harder for athletes to stick to the basics. The great coaches can have it both ways. Their sport psychology knowledge can grow without letting this overcomplicate their coaching. Do you know what your fundamentals are?
Sport Psychology Quotes By Coaches
“It’s what you learn after you think you know it all that really counts.”John Wooden
Comment: John Wooden is considered by many as the first real mental coach in sports. He was either the first or one of the first to really take the mental side of performance seriously. In this sport psychology quote, he highlights the importance of never-ending learning.
“Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the Me for the We.”Phil Jackson
Comment: Phil is most known for how we managed the tricky team dynamics of the Chicago Bulls team from the 1990s. If you are yet to do so we highly suggest you watch The Last Dance documentary.
“Comfort the challenged, and challenge the comfortable”Ric Charlesworth
Comment: This quote is more or less about the concept of flow. Flow is basically trying to find the sweet spot between too easy and too hard. As coaches or psychologists, we’re trying to help those we work with to not only find this middle ground. But we also want them to have the skills to thrive once they find them.
Sport Psychology Quotes By Famous People
“Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles, and less than perfect conditions. So what? Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident, and more and more successful.”Mark Victor Hansen
Comment: Perfectionism is a common mental block in sport and performance. You can have some of the motivational qualities of it without the ugly side with a simple reframe. Instead of striving to be perfect aim to just be better. And do this through the right quantity of high-quality preparation. This quote is similar to a bunch that are related to ‘great being the enemy of good’.
“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”Vincent van Gogh
Comment: You might be starting to sense a theme from some of these great quotes now. Doing and thinking are not the same. Focus more on doing and less on thinking. Would you rather be the best thinker of the doer in your sport or performance area?
Some Less Famous Ones …
“Confidence is a habit that can be developed by acting as if you already had the confidence you desire to have.”Brian Tracy
Comment: Have you ever heard ‘fake it til you make it’? Maybe a better version for sport psychology consulting is ‘fake it til you feel it’. This is so powerful. Waiting until you feel a certain way before you act that way is so very limiting. If you don’t know how then hire an acting coach and ask for them to help you. Or get in touch with us and we can include this as part of a larger mental training plan.
“Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.”William Arthur Ward
Comment: It’s hard to be sure about this one. Does it mean that challenges in life are invaluable mental training? What is certainly clear is the proposition that there is a choice about how we respond to adversity.
“Successful people have fear, successful people have doubts, and successful people have worries. They just don’t let these feelings stop them.”T. Harv Eker
Comment: Similar message. Thoughts and feelings are not fused with behaviours. You can still do remarkable things regardless of how you might be thinking and feeling.
“The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear and get a record of successful experiences behind you.”William Jennings Bryan
Comment: In others seperate feelings from action. Accept the feelings but commit the the actions. Then remember you did this so you can repeat the process later.
Still More Quotes …
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover.”Mark Twain
Comment: This quote speaks for itself.
“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realised how seldom they do.”Eleanor Roosevelt
Comment: This is such a great quote. In sport, worrying about what others (teammates, coaches) think of you is so common. Yet, it happens so much less than we realise. Furthermore, this has been confirmed via a number of lab experiments.
Sport Psychology Quotes By Psychologists
“Multitasking is seriously overrated. Try to do one task at a time and learn to do it with more purpose. “Gareth J. Mole
Comment: I could write a whole book on this subject. Maybe I will one day! By multitasking I are not referring to doing more than one thing at a time. After all breathing is doing. It’s about trying to complete more than one non-automatic task at a time. For example, eating your lunch and typing an email. In my view these kinds of tasks are always best of being done separately. There are many reasons but the main one is this kind of multitasking means the quality of both tasks is compromised.
“What you do and who you are are not the same”Harley de Vos
Comment: Although what we do as an athlete or performer is an important part of our life, and may take up a large part of our life, it is important to remember that we are not defined by what we do and we should not define ourselves by what we do. As a person, our value and our self-worth is not determined by how well we played or performed.
“They don’t hand out winner’s medals to whose who were feeling the best on the day, nor to those who were thinking clearly and positively. The medals only go to those who did the best.”Gareth J. Mole
Comment: I am not sure if I can claim this or not. If it’s not something that popped into my head then I am not sure where it comes from. Regardless this is my favourite sport psychology of all time. If you are reading this and you believe you know the origin of this quote please email me and I will be happy to change the credit above.
“We have this thing in our mind of I gotta feel perfect, calm and confident and THEN I’ll perform well. Mate, if that’s the case you’re going to perform well a very, very small portion of the time.”Peter Clarke
Comment: This quote is taken from the first few seconds of Peter Clarke’s interview on the podcast Under The Lid with Scolls, Buck & Burkey. Once again it points out that we don’t need to be feeling a certain way in order to execute our motor skills under pressure. And in fact waiting to feel that way will limit the number of chances you give ourselves.
“Listen to everyone because even an idiot will have a good idea once or twice in their life. Then evaluate and pick out what works for you and commit to it.”James Kneller
Comment: Our own James Kneller reminds us about the importance of listening. In sport we so often talk about the importance of experience. Well that experience is comprised if you’re always listening to the same people over and over again.
Sport Psychology Quotes By Unknowns
“You are NOT your thoughts.”Unknown
Comment: This quote might not even qualify as a quote. Maybe it’s just a fact. And certainly, in the work we do as sport and performance psychologists it’s a fact worth remembering. These five words are so powerful that they are the ideal final sentiment of this extensive list of sport psychology quotes.
If you know of a quote that does appear above but feel it should then please add it to the comments section below and we’ll add it next time we update this page.