Rick Sheridan looks at the public speaking lessons that can be taken from sports coaches’ motivational speeches.
Many of the winning sports coaches can deliver powerful speeches that are capable of motivating their athletes to accomplish great performances.
Characteristics of pep talks
Here are some characteristics of pep talks that Sellers (2012) identifies that are very similar to what is taught in the college-level Fundamentals of Public Speaking:
1. Don’t be afraid to show some passion
The top coaches believe in what they are saying, and are not afraid to get emotional and show some passion.
They often have a mastery of their tone and body language that inspires and motivates the players.
2. Include real-life examples the audience can identify with
The top coaches often include real-life examples in their pep talks that the players can relate to and identify with.
This might include an anecdote about a well-known player, a picture, a chart, an old helmet, a championship ball, etc.
3. Pause after key statements so your message can be processed
They know their audience. They know what will work and what won’t.
They make eye contact frequently with almost everyone in the room.
They pause after making key statements, giving players time to process what they said.
They are able to go from sombre to passionate in the same sentence.
How to give a speech before a championship game
Further lessons from sports coaches can be summarised from the article ‘How to Give a Speech Before a Championship Game’ (cited below):
4. Remind your audience why they are there
Remind your team how they got this far. There are reasons why your team is playing for the big game.
Talk to your team about everything they have gone through during the season, especially any obstacles they have overcome.
Your team will remember this part of the speech during the game, especially if they find themselves trailing at some point.
5. Remind them of what they have already achieved
Tell your team how proud you are of them.
It’s important to let your players know that they’ve already achieved so much by just getting this far.
Don’t be afraid to criticise poor performance at the same time.
6. Take steps to eliminate over-confidence
Emphasise how talented the opposing team is. Many teams lose big games due to over-confidence or a belief that the other team is a joke.
Make sure your players know just how good the opposing players are – and that they never let their guard down during the game.
7. Encourage self-belief
Explain to your team why you’re going to win the championship game.
Many players and coaches believe that it is a risk to have this much confidence heading into a championship game.
Any good coach or player will tell you that if you don’t believe you’re going to win a game, you won’t.
Do everything you can to make your team not just believe, but know that they’re going to win the championship game.
8. End your speech on a high
End your speech emphatically and dramatically. You could end it with a quote from a famous coach or player or by yelling your closing points.
The hope here is that your players will come roaring out of the locker room ready to win a championship.
In conclusion, public speakers should examine sports coaches’ pep talks as a way to improve their own performance and delivery.
Although sometimes the coaches’ language is too rough for typical public speaking, we can still learn some amazing skills from the best pep talks.
Many of the techniques are similar to the skills that we learn as public speakers, only they are often delivered with more passion.
Here a few great (YouTube) pep talks to get you started:
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J97F53CAA1I (From the movie, Coach Carter).
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jv7EULkarfI (Pre-game football speech by Tony Arcuri, Indian Hill Braves football team).
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdzEJwFq9Ow (Delivered by famous U.S. athlete Ray Lewis).
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEL8PYu4RR4 (We Are Marshall- movie).
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qg8j87S2lZs (Top 10 sports movie speeches)
With thanks to Rick Sheridan, a journalist and assistant professor of communications at Wilberforce University in Ohio, USA.
- How To Tips for Pregame Speeches, by Mike Sellers, 2012. Retrieved, October 7, 2014, from http://www.pregamespeeches.com/
- How to Give a Speech Before a Championship Game. (n.d.) In WikiHow. Retrieved, October 8, 2014, from http://www.wikihow.com/Give-a-Speech-Before-a-Championship-Game