20 Influential Quotes from Professional Athletes

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Muhammad Ali with boxing gloves

Successful sports figures inspire others to excel. Individuals subconsciously take notes and learn lessons while watching their favorite athletes play and talk about their games. These famous athletes set standards that others attempt to emulate in their own way. Even people who are not athletes can be encouraged by the overarching words of these famous sports figures.

Their messages and actions often serve as positive encouragement that helps others to persevere despite obstacles.

The following are 20 inspirational quotes made by sports figures to encourage you to achieve greatness.

  1. “Champions keep playing until they get it right.” – Billie Jean King
  2. “There may be people who have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.” – Derek Jeter
  3. “Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and 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
  4. “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” – Wayne Gretzky
  5. “Age is no barrier. It’s a limitation you put on your mind.” – Jackie Joyner-Kelsey
  6. “The more difficult the victory, the greater the happiness in winning.” – Pele
  7. “In the end, it’s the extra effort that separates a winner from second place. It takes desire, determination, discipline, and self-sacrifice. Put all these together, and even if you don’t win, how can you lose?” – Jesse Owens
  8. “I’m going to stick it.” – Mary Lou Retton
  9. “Sportsmanship for me is when a guy walks off the court and you really can’t tell whether he won or lost when he carries himself with pride either way.” – Muhammad Ali
  10. “Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way.” – Satchel Paige
  11. “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 again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
  12. “Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.” – Vince Lombardi
  13. “Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.” – Mike Singletary
  14. “If you can believe it, the mind can achieve it.” – Ronnie Lott
  15. “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” – John Wooden
  16. “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” – Bobby Unser
  17. “You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get.” – Michael Phelps
  18. “It’s not the will to win that matters – everyone has that. It’s that will to prepare to win that matters.” – Bear Bryant
  19. “I never worry about the problem. I worry about the solution.” – Shaquille O’Neal
  20. “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” – Heywood Broun

Through not only their wins and losses but their words as well, inspirational sports figures are able to serve as role models for children and adults alike. As the world watches these athletes push themselves to their limits and work to overcome immense physical and emotional challenges, they reveal that through commitment and hard work, anything is possible. If you are ever looking for motivation, observing and embodying their words can help you overcome even the most difficult of hurdles in life.

About Ohio University’s Master of Athletic Administration Online

Ohio University’s Online Master of Athletic Administration program can offer sports professionals the skills to recognize mental health issues among student-athletes and develop policies and programs that can help young people succeed. The university launched the nation’s first academic program in sports administration in 1966 and continues to be a leader in sports business education.

Ohio University’s Online MAA program is housed within the university’s College of Business, underscoring its dedication to providing world-class sports business education.


Entrepreneur.com, “15 Motivational Quotes From Legends in Sports”
Psychologytoday.com, “We All Need Role Models to Motivate and Inspire Us”