There can only ever be one winner. The whole point of athletic competition is to determine who is the fastest, strongest, or most skilled in their athletic endeavor of choice, but victory is never guaranteed, and records are made to be broken. All athletes suffer defeat from time to time. The ones who return to the top of the podium over and over are the ones who get up after every fall, who train harder, practice longer, and push themselves further than they ever thought they could go.
In the pursuit of victory, mental toughness is just as important as physical fitness. In every competition there will be a critical moment when an athlete’s mind has more influence on their performance than their bodies do. Thankfully, mental endurance and strength can be fostered just as sure as our bodies can be trained to build muscle and flexibility.
One of the most important parts of mental training is positive self-talk. Seasoned athletes know that the words “I can’t” can be just as crippling as a twisted ankle, and the ones who persist replace that dreaded phrase with something else, such as “I’m getting stronger” or “I’ve got this.” Every athlete begins, in this way, by supporting themselves, but as they gain some skill and expertise, many find they have words of wisdom to share with other athletes traveling on that same path toward victory. Here are 12 quotes from athletes who have seen the lows, the highs, and everything in between.
The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.
– Roger Bannister, first man to run a sub-four-minute mile
Winning is fun… Sure. But winning is not the point. Wanting to win is the point. Not giving up is the point. Never letting up is the point. Never being satisfied with what you’ve done is the point.
– Pat Summitt, head coach of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team
An endurance challenge is a lever for personal growth. What’s most critical is how you evolve and grow as a result of the attempt.
– Rich Roll, ultra-endurance athlete
Have a dream, make a plan, go for it. You’ll get there, I promise.
– Zoe Koplowitz, author and marathon runner with multiple sclerosis
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
Never let your memories be bigger than your dreams.
– Laird Hamilton
Winning a rowing race is not like winning anything else. Here’s my theory: You’re facing backwards, so you’re looking at the people you’re beating — and there’s something exquisite about that.
– Hugh Laurie, actor and former rower
The only reason I enter an event is to win.
– Tiger Woods
For me, winning isn’t something that happens suddenly on the field when the whistle blows and the crowds roar. Winning is something that builds physically and mentally every day that you train and every night that you dream.
– Emmitt Smith, football player
Winning doesn’t always mean being first. Winning means you’re doing better than you’ve ever done before.
– Bonnie Blair, speed skater
There are always new, grander challenges to confront, and a true winner will embrace each one.
– Mia Hamm, soccer player
It doesn’t matter what other people think. Not everyone is going to always support you 100% but as long as you are doing you and you know that you’re becoming a better person then that’s what’s important.
– Gwen Jorgensen, triathlete