What do you think of when you hear the word “Sports?”
Many think of their hometown professional team or their recreational pick-up league. Some think of being in an arena or stadium with thousands of screaming fans. Or, what about that closet full of jerseys, tee shirts, and hats that feature that special logo?
For many of our speakers, sports take on a different meaning. These speakers have competed under the highest pressure and come out the other side victorious. Sports, to them, evoke memories of dedicated late-night workouts and early-morning practices. The perseverance that brought them to the peak of their personal mountains. A lifetime of striving to be the best on their field through self-motivation. Finding that extra bit of inspiration needed to go above and beyond the rest.
Just as there are numerous types of professions within sports, there are an equal number of talented sports speakers to consider. Below you’ll find some of All American Entertainment’s top-rated and highly inspirational sports speakers.
Legendary Sports All-Stars
Just because a professional athlete has called it a career, doesn’t mean that their competitive drive has left them. They may not be making appearances on SportsCenter anymore, but the impact they left on their respective games will be felt for decades to come.
“Strong leaders encourage you to do things for your own benefit, not just theirs.”
Tim Tebow was one of the most prolific and accredited NCAA quarterbacks during his tenure at the University of Florida. Tebow won two national championships with the Gators and was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. He proved the naysayers wrong with his tenacious leadership and winning drive, leading the Broncos to an upset playoff victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tebow also pursued a professional baseball career with the New York Mets and penned three New York Times Best Selling books. He currently speaks about overcoming adversity and his journey as a Christian athlete.
“Few of us are granted the grace to know ourselves, and until we do, maybe the best we can do is be consistent.”
Former World No. 1, Olympic gold medalist, eight-time Grand Slam champion – there isn’t much Andre Agassi hasn’t accomplished in the world of professional tennis. Agassi, dubbed “The Punisher,” was the first male player to win all four Grand Slam tournaments on three different surfaces, a tribute to his adaptability and versatility. Agassi openly struggled through personal issues after achieving his No. 1 ranking in the mid-1990s and saw his ranking drop to No. 141 in 1997, prompting rumors of the end of his career. Fast forward to 1999 as Agassi overcame his struggles to once again claim the top spot in men’s tennis. After retirement, Agassi founded the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation and the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, both focusing on helping at-risk children.
“I like to play by my own rules.”
While it might seem that the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree when it comes to Laila Ali’s career path, she would beg to differ. Ali, the daughter of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, formed her own personal style when it came to boxing. While her father was boisterous and rowdy, Laila preferred to let her gloves do the talking. She remained poised and steadfast until the bell rang. She used this approach to lead her to a perfect 24-0 record, while becoming a four-time undefeated boxing world champion. Ali has served as President of the Women’s Sports Foundation and as a spokesperson for Title IX, pushing for equality for women in professional and collegiate sports.
“You are either getting better or getting worse, but you are never staying the same.”
Recently retired from playing professional football for the New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees has achieved success, both on and off the field. In his 16 seasons (including five with the San Diego Chargers), the 2009 MVP has been elected to a dozen Pro Bowls, named 2004 Comeback Player of the Year, 2006 Walter Payton Man of the Year, 2008 and 2011 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, and won the big game. Brees is also a dedicated civil servant, establishing the Brees Dream Foundation and raising over $30 million for children and families in need. He is an outspoken proponent of veterans and other US military groups. He has participated in five separate USO trips, traveling all over the world to speak to active troops.
“We get so caught up in winning all the time, but it’s also even more important to be a good person.”
Aly Raisman served as the team captain of the unbeatable Women’s Gymnastics teams in the 2012 and 2016 games, claiming gold medals both times. She remains the second most decorated American gymnast of all time and was the first American to win gold in the floor exercise. A leader on and off the floor, Raisman now uses her platform to promote positive body image and feeling comfortable in your own skin. Raisman has also contributed toward the eradication of sexual abuse in youth sports, speaking out about her personal story of survival.
“It is better to look ahead and prepare than to look back and regret.”
“The Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century,” according to Sports Illustrated, Jackie Joyner-Kersee accumulated six medals (including three golds) over the span of four consecutive games. Not only did Joyner-Kersee dominate her competition at the time, but her 7,291 points in the heptathlon remain a world record to this day. While her accomplishments are well documented in the record books, Joyner-Kersee is also a remarkable philanthropist, advocating for a variety of topics including children’s education, racial equity, social reform, and awareness around complications associated with asthma, from which she has suffered throughout her life.
“Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”
The man that spearheaded one of the most famous upsets in sports history as the starting goaltender of the 1980 US Men’s Hockey team. Coming into the 1980 games, and amidst the backdrop of social and political unrest in the world, the Soviet Union’s Men’s Hockey team had not lost a game in over a decade and had claimed the previous four gold medals convincingly. On paper the amateur team that the US fielded presented little challenge to change that pattern. Led by the spirited leader and fiery goaltender Jim Craig, the group of college kids pulled off one of the most meaningful and dramatic upsets over their USSR counterparts and went on to win the only gold medal for the United States in the past 60+ years.
“If we can see past preconceived limitations, then the possibilities are endless.”
Bacterial Meningitis. That is the disease that took both of Amy Purdy’s legs from her at just 19 years old. While this would deter most from their lifelong passion of snowboarding, Purdy refused to let this be the end of her journey. Today, she is the most decorated Paralympic athlete in US history, a best-selling author, and even a contestant on ABC’s hit show, Dancing with the Stars. Purdy has inspired millions of people through her various motivational speeches and promotes her dedicated “Live Inspired” message across her social media platforms, urging others to live their best life and not focus on their obstacles.
“All you can do is just continue to grind, continue to work, and show everybody what you’re capable of.”
As the second woman to ever hold a full-time NFL coaching position and the first openly gay NFL coach, Katie Sowers has certainly faced her share of adversity. Sowers, now listed as one of the 100 Most Influential Women in Sport, has worked with some of the most talented NFL wide receivers as an offensive assistant with the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons, eventually becoming the first woman to ever serve as a full-time coach in the big game.
“It’s not the circumstances that affect you, it’s how you deal with them.”
There are coaches, then there are icons. Bill Cowher will forever be remembered as a Pittsburgh Steelers icon. In an industry with a high turnover rate among head coaches, Cowher led his Steelers for an incredible 15 seasons before announcing his retirement from the game. Cowher’s Steelers teams were the benchmark of consistency during his tenure, capturing 10 playoff berths, eight division titles, two AFC Championships, and a championship title. Cowher has been a CBS Sports NFL Analyst since 2007.
“Respect everyone and fear no one.”
Few coaches in NCAA basketball history have achieved the type of success that Roy Williams has. The recently retired head coach has been racking up victories for over three decades as the head coach of both the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the Kansas Jayhawks. Williams’ career at Kansas was impressive on its own, amassing four Final Four appearances and five regular season Big East titles. Williams then went back to his roots and joined the UNC program in 2003. Under his guidance and leadership, UNC went on to become considered one of the perennial powerhouses of college basketball, winning nine regular season ACC titles, three ACC Tournament championships and, most impressively, three National Championships.
“I want to be able to coach people, impact people, win football games.”
Very few coaches can match the fire and passion that Ron Rivera has for both the game of football and the players that play it. Rivera seems to make long-lasting relationships everywhere he goes, including his time as an assistant coach with Chicago Bears and San Diego Chargers, and as the head coach for the Carolina Panthers and Washington Football Team. He has twice been recognized as the NFL Coach of the Year and been a part of two championship games. “Rivera Strong” is also a notable moniker associated with the coach as he has not only successfully beaten squamous cell cancer, but also returned to coaching shortly after.
Inspiration Sports Stories
“If I can see it, I know it’s going to get done.”
For those who watched Super Bowl LV, you might remember the Toyota commercial that featured Jessica Long and her inspirational backstory. Jessica was born with a rare condition that led to the amputation of both of her legs at a young age. Not letting her physical limitations prevent her from achieving her dreams, Jessica is nowa 13x Paralympic Swimming gold medalist and World Champion who consistently inspires and encourages young women and disabled persons to continue to push forward in athletics. Long is also passionate about supporting various causes that benefit women’s sports and the Pathfinders for Autism.
“I worked very hard. I felt I could play the game. The only thing that could stop me was myself.”
To spend over a decade pitching in the MLB is quite the achievement. Winning Rookie of the Year and throwing a no-hitter adds you to a very select list of athletes. Now doing all of this with only one hand… That’s simply, as Jim Abbott describes in his memoir, improbable. Abbott achieved success at every level of baseball despite being born without a right hand. Refusing to let his limitations affect his game, Abbott spent hours perfecting a custom pitching style that he could use to his advantage.
“In most of our decisions, we are not betting against another person. Rather, we are betting against all the future versions of ourselves that we are not choosing.”
Annie Duke entered the male-dominated world of professional poker and made quite the name for herself along the way. Throughout her career, Duke amassed over $4 million in winnings and even claimed the top spot in the 2004 World Series of Poker, beating out over 230 other players for the title. She has transitioned her career focus from raising the stakes to raising money for countless charities, with causes as diverse as international refugees, improving education, building children’s hospitals, and helping young people develop essential life skills.
Coach Ken Carter
“Sports taught me how to compete on the court and taught me how to compete in life. Sports and life run parallel with one another.”
Most people know the Coach Carter that was immortalized on the big screen by Samuel L. Jackson, but not many know just how accurate the portrayal of his character was. Coach Carter took the Richmond High School basketball team from a group that was failing on the court and in the classroom and transformed them into a contender for a state championship with a roster of players who improved their attitudes and GPAs along the way. Coach Carter has since coached at various levels of basketball and is the founder and chairman of the Coach Ken Carter Foundation, helping provide educational resources and mentoring programs for minority youths.
When these legendary sports figures were breaking records, winning championships, and overcoming obstacles throughout their careers, they were doing much more than proving themselves capable of achieving greatness. They were also accumulating experiences and life lessons that inspire, challenge, and motivate audiences of all kinds. When you’re ready to book one of these sports speakers for your next event, AAE is ready to show you why 97% of our clients say they would recommend us to a friend.