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Football Pump-Up Speech

TJ Hoisington speaking to h.s. football team

Yesterday I spoke to my son’s high school football team on their first day of practice. They have a small team (20 or so players), but I challenge them not to think small. I told them, “You may be small in number, but that doesn’t have to mean you’re weak! That doesn’t mean your wins have to be few either!”

I challenged the team to commit to three areas of focus and discipline:


There are three types of players:

First, is the player who wants to play football, but does the bare minimum.

Second, is the player who shows up and works hard in practice and in games. They play hard, but only when they are expected to.

Third, is the player who demands the best from himself or herself on and off the field. This may mean they run an extra set of stairs after each practice before heading in to the locker room. It may mean they take time in the back yard to commit the plays to memory. Research consistently shows that relying on talent alone isn’t enough to succeed. Consistent hard work separates the mediocre athletes from the great–from the winners. You must push yourself to go beyond what’s expected from others. What do you do with your free time? How do you privately ‘pay the price’ for desired success when others are relaxing? Champions sacrifice what they want in the moment, for what they want long-term and that typically comes in the form of discipline. Period.


When elite athletes talk about high performance, they will often say things like, “The difference between good and great is 10% physical and 90% mental.” Great athletes control their focus and thinking.

Words are tools. You think at a rate of 800 to 1300 words per minute. This means that during a football game, at a minimum, you will think over 60,000 thoughts. These words trigger images, which trigger emotion. The words you use send signals to your muscles that affect your state of mind – hence your confidence, effectiveness and performance. Great athletes use their internal self-talk purposefully to predict the performance they DO want rather than the performance they DON’T want.

You can’t always control the environment, (coaches, players, opposing teams, injuries, weather, officials), but you can always control the internal environment. Mindset management is the slight edge that will make the difference.


No one goes it alone. In football, other sports, and business alike, teamwork is key. It takes everyone’s commitment and mutual respect. Create a brotherhood. When teammates have each other’s backs they play differently. They build rather than destroy. I’m always reminded of the quote, “The ax forgets, but the tree remembers.” Be a builder.

I challenged the team to buy into the “David and Goliath” mentality. With roughly 20 players on my son’s team, they will go up against teams that have 40 and 50 players. Decide now that you’re going to prove to the doubters, dream killers, pessimists, and naysayers that miracles can happen.

I then ended with everyone imagining they were in the championship game. The game was on the line. The ball is about to be hiked. As they closed their eyes and imagined themselves in the game, I asked them what they were thinking? What did they see? What words were going through their mind that would ensure high performance? As they did this, I could see their bodies and facial expressions changed to reflect confident imagery. I then had them say with confidence, “It’s Possible!”

The key to their success and your success will depend on your willingness to; step by step, go out every day, and work hard to turn your dreams and ambitions into reality. Will positive thinking guarantee success, you may ask. Maybe. Maybe not. But one thing I know for sure is that negative thinking WILL guarantee failure. It’s a choice. It’s your choice. Believe in possibilities!


About TJ Hoisington:

TJ Hoisington is the bestselling author of “If You Think You Can!” and “The Secret of the Slight Edge.” He has authored other books and training programs on peak performance, personal development, and leadership. As a motivation speaker and organizational performance expert, TJ Hoisington has been invited speak to audiences of 10 executives or 15,000 people. TJ's mission is to provide inspiration and tools that empower people and organizations achieve their goals by unleashing the greatness within. TJ Hoisington is the co-founder of Dunn Hoisington Leadership International.


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