Entrenamiento y salud Más Psicología Deportiva

The Pre-game Motivational Speech (II)

The first part this Pre-game Motivational Speech article looked the definition of this type of speech, some motivation theories and their characteristics, in this second part is on the focus is on the structure, rhetoric words and a case study of a motivational speech.


When consider the structure of a pep talk,  Searle (2017) article in coach-logic.com, this explains that most of the movies about sports, the storyline follows an identical outline, when the team starts trouble and faces adversity and then the coach delivers a “magical” pep talk to helps everyone.

Despite of what is normally exposed in the sports movies, coaches and people around sports know that there is not a magical potion to achieved the desired results, however researching about the structure and how to organise a pep talk, an article wrote by Blackman (2014) points out five top tips for pre-match team talks and suggest to  get the arms around shoulders and huddle in a circle as a part of the delivery strategy, see Figure 3.

Figure 3: Team Talk (Doherty, 2018)

Blackman (2014) five top tips:

Top number 1 tip as “Your best tips”; try using the opposite of what you normally would usually say.

As number 2 tip: “One size doesn’t fit all”; no all players respond in the same way against one type of speech.

The Number 3 is “Be prepared”; remember what players have been working on, focusing on key points and be brief in the message. Afterwards continued explaining

Top Number 4:” Communication and being vocal”; Encourage players to talk and play music, support his point saying that raise heart rate as a warm-up exercise and prepare them to be ready for the game.

The final 5 tip is” Final reminders”; suggesting sharing any knowledge with the players regarding the pitch, opposition and the referee.

Rhetoric words:

The idea of a pep talk is to persuade the players to improve their performance and this is when the rhetoric devices are used to deliver powerful messages.

There are numerous rhetoric devices that can be used in a speech, as Somers (2018) explains in his article that rhetorical devices are tools that can be used to create a case or make it more persuasive, also exposed the rhetoric devices organised in four categories:

  1. Logos: To convince via logic and reason the listener.
  2. Pathos: Persuade the audience appealing their emotion.
  3. Ethos. Based on the character of the speaker.
  4. Kairos.  The timeliness of the opinion is part of the argument.

Somers (2018) continue his document creating a top list of the most important rhetorical devices: Alliteration, Cacophony, Onomatopoeia, Humour, Anaphora, Meiosis, Hyperbole, Apophasis, Anacoluthon, Chiasmus, Anadiplosis, Dialogismus, Eutrepismus, Hypophora, Expeditio, Antiphrasis, Asterismos. 

Another author, Forman (2016), has another list of top rhetorical devices: Alliteration, Anaphora, Antimetabole, Antithesis, Asyndeton, Enthymeme, Epiphora, Metaphor, Onomatopoeia, Paralipsis, Personification, Prolepsis, Repetition, Rhetorical question, Simile, Tricolon.

Rhetorical Devices (Forman, 2016)

Case Study:

An example of a pep talk scenario, characteristics, structure and how rhetoric devices are used is Renne (2009) analysing the fill Miracle (Ebert and O’Connor, 2004) see Figure 4. The story of a coach, Herb Brooks, with his team based on real events that took in 1980.

In the final speech before the crucial game, coach Brooks used repetition, using the word “tonight” several times to tell his players that there is ONLY night. However, the coach does not use the word ONLY as that would scare the players.

Brooks also repeat the word “we” to transmit the fact that it is a team effort, Though Brooks’ strongest plead is his appeal to emotion to emotionally engaged his players and boost their confidence.

The coach only mentions the opponent once, as he does not want to increase the fear in his players, focuses on his team insisting that they are more important than the opposition.

Through the speech, Brooks used the silent in full advantage to let the information get into the players, also takes time to look at the players to transmit the sense that he cares about them and respect them.

Coach Brooks also creates credibility with their players, as through the process of the events his players already know he is a very good coach and in this last speech Brooks also dress in sharp clothes making him more convincing.

Figure 4: Miracle (Ebert and O’Connor, 2004)

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Blackman, A. (2014) 5 Top Tips for Pre-match Team Talks: Motivate your team, sportplan.net. Available at: https://www.sportplan.net/drills/blog/top-team-talk-tips-19-09-2014.jsp (Accessed: 12 December 2018).

Ebert, R. and O’Connor, G. (2004) MIRACLE, rogerebert.com. United States: Buena Vista Pictures. Available at: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/miracle-2004 (Accessed: 12 December 2018).

Forman, S. R. (2016) 16 Rhetorical Devices to Spice Up Your Speech, betheltoastmasters.files.wordpress.com. Available at: https://betheltoastmasters.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/image.png (Accessed: 12 December 2018).

Mayfield, M. and Mayfield, J. (2015) ‘The Effects of Leader Motivating Language Use on Employee Decision Making’, International Journal of Business Communication. SAGE Publications Inc, 53(4), pp. 465–484. doi: 10.1177/2329488415572787.

McGinn, D. (2017) The Science of Pep Talks, hbr.org. Available at: https://hbr.org/2017/07/the-science-of-pep-talks (Accessed: 5 November 2018).

Renne (2009) Miracle of 1980-Rhetorical Analysis, ulstad.wordpress.com. Available at: https://ulstad.wordpress.com/miracle-of-1980-rhetorical-analysis/ (Accessed: 12 December 2018).

Searle, S. (2017) Pep Talks – does a motivating pre-game speech suit every athlete?, coach-logic.com. Available at: https://www.coach-logic.com/blog/pep-talks/ (Accessed: 11 December 2018).

Somers, J. (2018) What Is a Rhetorical Device? Definition, List, Examples, thoughtco.com. Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/rhetorical-devices-4169905 (Accessed: 12 December 2018).

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