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Sport Psychology Quotes

I am Motivation QuoteSport psychology quotes can be helpful in illustrating the importance of psychological factors in sports performance. From understanding motivation to how to manage pressure they provide an insight into the thought processes of elite athletes and coaches.  They can be useful in illustrating concepts and can form a useful part of sport psychologists' consulting process. They can also be useful in illustrating the psychological quirks of many of our top sports stars! Below are some of our favourites.

“When Andy gets mad his game really suffers, so it was important not to get involved.  If he stays calm and focused and keeps on doing what he is doing, good things will happen.”

Brad Gilbert (coach) talking about Andy Roddick (Ronald Atkin, The Independent on Sunday, 29th June, 2003)

“Singles is sometimes so much about winning that the joy can get lost.  It can only be a relief if you win.  When you have a close match you get really into it as that’s what it’s all about. If you lose three and three then that’s not much fun, if you win three and two then you think its easier than you thought it would be.  But when you get to 7-5 in the third that’s when the chips are down and it’s real fun.  I think all these players like that and hope they can enjoy themselves today.”  

Martina Navratilova (The Guardian, 1st July, 2003)

“Eliminate all negative thoughts until they don’t exist”.

Marvin Hagler (The Guardian 8th November, 2003).

“To try to dilute some of this heavy emphasis on perfection, Harrington has even started chatting to sports psychologists.  Apparently, Bob Rotella, the current guru of choice in the United States, considered his client’s plight for a while and then advised Harrington to ‘live in the moment’. This old chestnut came as something of a revelation to a player who often sets up residence in the immediate past and what went wrong.” 

Bill Elliott writing about Padraig Harrington in the Observer (4th April, 2004 p. 8)

“Jack rarely trusted the food at grounds, especially on tour, and his lunch on match days consisted of two Weetabix, which had to be soaked in milk eight minutes before he came off the field.  He could tell when they had been in for only five minutes and on these occasions the 12th man was in for a rollocking.  He would also use the same tea bag for the 20 or so cuppas he would drink during a test match.”

Angus Fraser talking about Jack Russell (The Independent, 23rd June, 2004, p. 48)

“I love the relay. Track is such an individual sport, so it’s fun to do something together.”

Allyson Felix (Olympic 200m gold medallist)

“Maybe it’s lame of me (and maybe it’s part of what drives me), but I’ve never thought, at any level I’ve ever played, that my opponent was just better.  If I lost, there was always a reason (they were bigger, they were from California, etc.) (p.24)

John McEnroe (Taken from ‘Serious’ by John McEnroe and James Kaplan, 2002.  London, UK: Little, Brown.)

“England won the World Cup because they were mentally tougher than any other side.  That sort of mental toughness is born out of experience, both of winning competitions and of losing.  It was by losing Grand Slam games, by losing every now and then at the final hurdle despite the fact that people are calling you the best team in the world, and going through those lows together that England built up that experience.  When you get to that stage again you know what you have to do not to slip up.

Josh Lewsey (The Independent, 24th November, 2004, p.46).

“However much the supporters are hurting, we are hurting just as much when we lose.  You are as frustrated as anyone and you take it more personally than anyone.  It’s just a horrible experience ... when you get back home, you don’t want to go out anywhere.  You just want to stay in.  Your missus is saying ‘come on, let’s go out,’ but you just don’t want to leave your front door.  That’s what it’s like being a Wales rugby player after a defeat.  You don’t want to go to the supermarket, you don’t want to see anyone because you just end up having to explain yourself a thousand times over, trying to explain what went wrong. It’s a tough time.” (pp. 7-8).

Martyn Williams (Taken from ‘The Magnificent Seven’ by Martyn Williams and Simon Thomas, 2008.  London, UK: John Blake Publishing Ltd)

"The will to win has always been the same for me. When I was a kid growing up I hated losing. Going through school, though the academy at Sunderland, playing for Sunderland and Liverpool that hunger has never changed ... A lot of it is down to what I went through as a kid. I'd always miss out a little bit. When I was young, one of my good friends would win player of the year. In the academy, there would be somebody better. As I was getting older there was always someone who would get in the first team before me. I've been trying to prove people wrong, that I am worthy and capable of being a footballer. "

Footballer Jordan Henderson (The Times - Sport, 19th December, 2020, p. 2).

“I’d defy any leader in a major competition to switch off.  After the one-dayers I was struggling because I just didn’t know how to relax.  I was really tired but I had some one-to-one sessions with a sports psychologist called Karl Morris and he helped me work on some techniques when I needed a rest.” 

Michael Vaughan talking about the Ashes series in 2005 (The Guardian - Sport, 18th October, 2005, p. 6).

“I don’t visualise because my creative mind is too wide.  What I do is feel the shot”

Tiger woods talking to David Owen (The Observer Sport Monthly, November 2006, p. 26)

"Champions aren't made in gyms, champions are made from something they have deep inside them a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill."

Muhammad Ali, in Talent Is Never Enough: Discover the Choices That Will Take You Beyond Your Talent (2007) by John C. Maxwell, p. 141

“You know the biggest and most important thing in playing a golf shot is committing 100 per cent to your decision.  Commitment in terms of the stroke, your emotion and your feel.  Sometimes that level of commitment needs verbal affirmation.  It is what gives you the bottle to ignore the little voice saying, ‘This can go wrong and that can go wrong’.”

Nick Faldo talking to Matthew Syed (The Times – 16th July, 2008, p.66).

“I was looking across at her and she couldn’t make eye contact with me.  I was trying to put over the image of someone who felt totally in control and relaxed. I was looking at her, but she was looking as though she thought it was all over. It was quiet comforting for me. I felt: ‘This is mine. She’s given up. She’s settled for second already’.”

Victoria Pendleton talking about facing China’s Shuang Guo at the 2007 world sprint final (The Independent, Olympic Supplement, July 2008, p.16).

"You're still focused. You're still pumped. But before, I was focusing too much on everything happening outside the stadium or dramas from the precious week in the media. Now, just before the whistle is the moment I talk to myself. Doesn't matter if it's a semi-final or a final with thousands of people, I just say to myself, 'Block the sound. Be here in this moment.'" 

Raheem Sterling  on his use of meditation ( The Times Magazine, 4th December, 2021, p.13).

“Literally as soon as I could walk, I had the ball at my feet ... It didn’t really matter what sort of ball it was – plastic, a tennis ball, anything I could kick around. Sometimes, I would even take the ball to bed with me.” (p.17)

George Best (Taken from ‘Blessed’ by George Best and Roy Collins, 2001.  London, UK: Random House)

"One of the big differences between pros and amateurs is how they react to a bad shot. A pro will do his best to forget about it and move on. your average amateur will still be cussing himself out three holes later" (p. 257). 

John Daly. In Daly, J., & Waggoner, G. (2007). My life in and out of the rough. London, UK: Harper Collins.

“I always felt pressure before a big fight, because what was happening was real.  Boxing isn’t like a movie where you know how things will turn out in advance.  You can get cut; you can get knocked out; anything can go wrong.” (p. 271)

Muhammad Ali (Taken from Thomas Hauser, 1997, Muhammad Ali.  London: Pan Books.)

“I’m quite composed and a bit internal.  You need to be over such a long competition, because it will all go downhill if you let your frustration take over.  You have to control your emotions and get on with it. In heptathlon you are competing against yourself most of the time, which makes you think differently.  We’re not like the sprinters, strutting around trying to impose ourselves on the others, we’re motivated by the event.  You have to conquer your own nerves, run your own race, do your own competition because you’re running and jumping for points.  It only really becomes really competitive against everyone else in the 800m [final event] when the medals are at stake and you have to watch what other people are doing.” 

Jessica Ennis talking to Andrew Longmore (The Sunday Times, Sport, 9th August, 2009, p. 19).

“If you want to be a player of influence then what you do has to reflect in the players around you.  If you hide, the other will hide.  If you’re having a go, they’ll have a go.”

Sir Bobby Charlton talking to Paul Hayward (The Observer, Sport, 11th January, 2009, p.11).

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing." ...

... “I wish to hell I’d never said the dammed thing. I meant the effort, I meant having a goal. I sure as hell didn’t mean for people to crush human values and morality.”

Vince Lombardi (American Football Coach)

“You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don't take.” 

Wayne Gretzky (Ice Hockey Player)

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

Wayne Gretzky (Ice Hockey Player)

“I learned four years ago that the motivation to perform at this level does not come from a coach or even from simply being at the Olympics – it comes from within.”

Denise Lewis (The Independent on Sunday, 17th September, 2000)

“I truly don’t know how I made the final putt, I was definitely shaking” 

Ernie Els describing his feelings as he holed a 3 foot putt to win the 2002 British Open (The Guardian, 22nd July, 2002).

"... in the big games his team talks were very good. Before we won the Champions League (final in Moscow against Chelsea, 2008) we had 30, 40 minutes on the poverty in Russia. He talked about how you have 90 to 120 minutes to play a game and after you'll go back to your big houses, go back to your nice cars - but these people over here are working to survive, to live, provide." 

Wayne Rooney talking about Sir Alex Ferguson (The Sunday Times, 15th March, 2020). 

“It isn’t easy to get up for road-work at dawn on a bitterly cold morning when you are wearing silk pyjamas.”

Marvin Hagler (The Independent on Sunday, 4th January, 2004)

“The most we can hope for is to create the best possible conditions for success, then let go of the outcome. The ride is a lot more fun that way.”

Phil Jackson - Basketball Coach (Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success)

“... right up until the last minute at the Millennium Stadium last night [before playing England in the six nations], till we had to get into a huddle and the captain said his bit, I had a book with me ready for a quiet read.  I do it all the time now.  It helps me relax before games and not think about anything too much to do with the match before I go out on the field.”

Lee Byrne - Welsh Rugby International (The Independent on Sunday, Sport, 15th January, 2009)

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

Dan Gable (American Freestyle Wrestler and Coach)

“... the day before [a test match]. I’ll go out to the square for 20 minutes and put myself in the position of the first morning of a Test.  Imagine I’m bowling to Tendulkar or Ponting, trying to nip one back to them.  So when the game starts, I feel like I’ve already been there.” 

Stuart Broad (England Cricketer) talking to Paul Wilson in The Red Bulletin, April 2010.

"As part of our preparations [for the 1958 World Cup] the team psychologist Dr Joao Carvalhaes, had conducted tests on all the player.  We had to draw sketches of people and answer questions - which would have helped Dr Joao make assessments about whether we should be picked or not.  It was either ahead of its time for football or just odd, or maybe both.  About me he concluded that I should not be selected: 'Pele is obviously infantile.  he lacks the necessary fighting spirit.' Fortunately for me ... Feola [manager] was always guided by his instincts rather than experts and he just nodded gravely at the psychologist, saying, 'You may be right.  The thing is, you don't know anything about football.  If Pele's knee is ready, he plays!'" 

Pele.  In Pele (p. 90): The Auobiography with Orlando Duarte and Alex Bellos (2007): Simon & Schuster, London, UK.

“I sat in the same changing room in Sydney after that epic battle [2003 World Cup Final] until pretty much everyone had left.  I didn’t want to wave goodbye because I didn’t want to let go of the moment and give in to its inevitable passing.  I had already begun to feel the elation slipping away during the lap of honour around the field ... I couldn’t believe that all the effort was losing its worth so soon... I’d achieved my greatest ambition and it felt a bit empty.”

Jonny Wilkinson (England Rugby Player) in The Times,  21st November, 2009. P. 11.

"So we have the paradox of a man shamed to death because he is only the second pugilist or the second oarsmen in the world. That he is able to beat the whole population of the globe minus one is nothing he has 'pitted' himself to beat that one; and as long as he doesn't do that nothing else counts."

William James (Psychologist)

“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 (Basketball Player)

"In one of my first games I bowled five wides in the first over and I thought 'this is never going to end'. I soon learned, at 15, that nerves are good. The brought the best out of me. That stood me in good stead."

Jimmy Anderson (England Cricketer)

We hope you have enjoyed these sport psychology quotes. If you do wish to find a sport psychology consultant to help you with your sport then why not search our directory of sport performance specialists.