Over the last 10 years, I've tried to make a note of every time a player said, "Coach always says...". I'd see an article, highlight it, and toss it in a file.
During that time, I've come across hundreds of examples across every sport. It's a simple reminder of what messages players retain and recall, sometimes years after they've left the field or the gym.
Here's a selection of them.
Coach always said...
"Nobody is going to outwork us, but nobody will have more fun either."
"You have to go out and find the best competition.”
"If you are not doing it the right way, why are you doing it. Learn how to do it the right way and practice it the right way."
"If it was easy, everyone would be doing it."
"You'll be remembered by your last performance."
"They can't cut you if you hustle."
"It's not about how many times you get the ball, it's what you do when you do get the ball."
"Toughness is a skill."
"Don't let anyone know that you're frustrated."
"The only rankings that matter are at the end of the season."
"You can't think you're good. If you think you're good, you're never going to get better."
"Referees can't help you play the game, so don't change your style just to please the referee."
"You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken s--t. You need the athletes and the horses to win."
"If you do the little things right you’ll win."
"The more things you can do, the longer you'll be around here."
"What you put in is what you get out."
"You’re six inches away from success." [Six inches is the distance between your ears.]
"Winning isn't like a light bulb. You can't just switch it on when you need it."
"You don’t improve during the playoffs. You improve at practice."
"If you look good, you play good."
"If you want to be a champ, you have to surround yourself with champs."
"Let them have the excuses for losing. Let us offer the reasons for winning."
"The season is a marathon not a sprint. What matters is that our team gets better with each game."
"Fix the small problems and the big problems correct themselves."
"Don't leave the court on a miss. Always finish with the result you want."
"Life is a journey, not a destination."
"We either get better or we get worse. We never stay the same."
"Hesitate and you're dead."
"Offense sells tickets; defense wins championships."
"You have to go hard on every play because it could be the difference in the game."
"An excuse is the easiest thing in the world to make."
"Smaller players have to play meaner."
"I don't want excuses. I want results."
"What’s a mismatch one way is a mismatch the other."
"Rest on offense. Use all of your energy on defense."
"In every crisis lies opportunity."
"The game doesn't teach character, it reveals it."
"You're a play away from starting."
"Games typically come down to five plays. You either make those plays or you don't."
"Find somebody you admire and try to make yourself like him."
"Keep your mouth shut and keep working."
"If you can't be creative on the basketball court, you should be a chess player."
"You have to rise to the occasion."
"The mental is to the physical as 4 is to 1."
"Just get better every game."
"You never have a rebuilding year, you rebuild within yourselves."
"Concentrate on effort; the results will take care of themselves."
"Stop talking about doing it and do it."
"Good things happen to good people who work hard."
"It's hard being at the top and having to stay at the top."
"If you get a five-point lead, push it up to 10. If you have a 10-point lead, push it to 20."
"The more wind you have, the more wins you'll have."
"Who you are will show up on film."
"Great players make great plays."
"Life is about relationships."
"Turn the page. Good stuff, bad stuff, just turn the page."
"You have to fight the hardest when you're number one."
"Let the system work for you."
"Effort is good, but intelligent effort is what we want."
"As long as we do well as a team, individual things will come."
"The three-point line is the great equalizer in basketball. If you're hitting them, and they aren't, you're more likely to win."
"If we've got five guys running, somebody's going to get rewarded."
"The opponent is nameless and faceless."
"Action is quicker than a reaction."
"If the team is winning, good things will happen to the players."
"When you focus on defense, the offense gets better."
"In a 30-game season, for five games you're better than you really are; for five games you're worse. You are who you really are for about 20 games of the season."
"To win a title, your stars have to be superstars and your superstars have to be Hall of Famers."
'We're not playing our opponent. We're trying to beat the game. The opponent is just another hurdle."
"Have your teammates' back."
"Great teams always make runs."
"No one can stop us from playing defense."
"It's a four-quarter game."
"You can't play on a railroad track. You have to be able to change, to do something different."
"Do your job and half of somebody else's."
"The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there."
"It's not the quantity of practice, it's the quality."
"The advantage goes to the aggressor."
"The guys who move ahead are the ones who are ready when their opportunity comes."
"Two or three bad things happen to you every game. You just have to come back and make another play."
"It's like a bundle of sticks. If you are one stick alone, it's easy to break, but if it's 11 sticks all together it's hard to break."
"Come back harder after you're hurt."
"No negative body language."
"You only go as far as your seniors take you."
"Hard work doesn't guarantee success."
"You've got to get wins on the road to be a good team."
"When you reverse the ball, it opens everything up."
"Turn the bad into good."
"Take advantage of every opportunity that comes along. You may only have one chance."
"The way you play in the game is a reflection of how you practice."
"Forget about the last play. Think about the next play."
"There is no such thing as a comfortable lead."
"Playing unselfish is one of the best things you can do in basketball."
"Play within the system."
"A zone is bad a man-to-man."
"If you make a mistake, make an aggressive mistake."
"The game starts in the layup line."
"If you have a passion for something, then do it as hard as you can -- and as well as you can -- every time."
"No possessions off."
"Confidence and success go hand in hand."
"Don't take a rest on the court, rest on the bench."
"'Potential' is a scary word. It takes work to be good."
"The team that makes the most plays and wins the turnover battle is going to win the game."
"Don't put your head down if you miss a shot."
"Pride comes before a fall. Be proud; don't be prideful."
"Emotion comes and goes; passion is forever."
"If you have a good shot, someone else has a great shot."
"The game is in thirds -- one-third offense, one-third defense and one-third special teams."
"There are expectations for the position, not the player."
"The first three minutes of the third quarter can make the difference."
"Enthusiasm is like rippling water; it spreads."
"Mismatches don't beat you, uncontested shots beat you."
"Make the easy play."
"Make them miss, don't hope they miss."
"Throw yourself into the game."
"There are always extra opportunities for people when other people are not hitting shots or making plays."
"You can know everything about defense there is to know, but if you aren’t aggressive, it doesn’t make any difference."
"This is the time when the ants eat the elephants. Gather together and beat the giants."
"Play until your lungs are burning."
"It's better to be a small thing climbing up than a big thing crashing down."
"Would you rather play in front of 200 people or play on the road in a packed house."
"The wrong defense played the right way by the right guys is going to be the right defense."
"The best way to get more minutes is to be more than an offensive or defensive player. Be able to do other things."
"There's a fine line between not having enough enthusiasm and having too much."
"Coaches find ways to keep the game close, but kids are the ones who have to win it in the end."
"Don't let your mind convince you that you can't do something."
"Play with your heart on defense and your head on offense."
"The next play is the biggest play."
"The pain of regret is worse than the pain of disappointment."
"Let the mistakes go because if you hold on to them you're going to keep making mistakes."
"Finish the half strong."
"Shoot the ball in rhythm."
"Practice is not about punishment, it's about improvement."
"How do you want to be remembered?"
"To try to jump into his arms when you're trying to draw the foul."
"In 10, 15, 20 years, we won't remember the scores but the times we had."
"Something that is moving tends to keep moving, and things that are stopped tend to stay stopped."
"Don't fear who you play, even if you know they have an advantage over you."
"He wants to see how you work when you're tired."
Coach always says, 'Every day you work for your job,
"Offense comes and goes, but defense is everlasting."
"Leads are dangerous."
"You can’t control the uncontrollable."
"A silent defense is a flat defense."
"We have to take care of home and sneak a few on the road."
"Offense sells tickets, defense wins games and rebounding wins championships."
"If you make a mistake, don't lie down and cry."
"The more players you can play the more successful the team will be."
"It's all preseason until the playoffs."
"If you can't be on time, be early."
"Stay calm and play your game."
"Every play matters."
"Things in the past don't matter, it's what's going on now that counts."
"Don't take anyone for granted."
"To apply guard pressure, because it makes it hard for the opponent to start their offense."
"If someone hits you, hit back."
"To be ready on the bench."
"Keep a cool head in a hot situation."
"Not to settle for jump shots -- attack the basket."
"Rebounding is an attitude."
"The best offense is fueled by defense."
"Not to think about ourselves; think about your teammates."
"There are only two directions we can go -- up or down."
"When we're down somebody has to step up."
"Guys coming off the bench have to bring energy."
"Don’t let the day go by."
"Not to be afraid to win."
"To imagine the one or two people that would most inspire you to perform at your best sitting in the crowd watching you play."
"The best man plays."
"Never get too high or too low."
"A game is just a practice with more people."
"We need to have a balance."
"Shoot the ball with confidence."
"Play with poise."
"Great teams find a way to win when their shots aren't falling."
"Playing a privilege, not a right."
"Pressure doesn't like pressure."
"Assume a shot is going to be missed."
"The first one on the floor gets the ball."
"The lower man wins."