The Locker Room Speech

As I write this article, the Games of the 30th Olympiad are taking place in London. Regardless of the country you are rooting for, there is a technique used by every coach to motivate his or her players.  This technique is as ancient as Shakespearean times, and beyond, and every country in the London 2012 Olympic Games is using it as a tool to win a gold medal.  This method of motivation can make you a better leader in both your business and personal life.  Here’s the good news: you don’t have to follow or like sports to benefit from it.  It can make you a gold mentalist at your next presentation.  What is it?  It’s the “Going into Battle” Pep-Talk, also known informally as the Locker Room Speech.

The purpose of the Locker Room Speech is to motivate a group of individuals to achieve a common goal through teamwork and sacrifice.  This definition applies to not only the sports field or battlefield; it also applies to leadership in any field of endeavor (business, education, government, non-profit, family and friends).

Earlier, I mentioned Shakespeare.  This is one of the earliest recoded versions of the Going-Into-Battle or Locker Room Speech.  It is from Henry V – The St. Crispin’s Day monologue: ”We few… we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother!”

There are 10 qualities of an effective Locker Room Speech and you can use them to motivate people to take immediate action and be a better leader.

Let’s diagnose the 10 qualities of a Locker Room Speech:

  1. Short:  Under 10 minutes.  4-5 minutes is best.  I will share 3 audio clips; all less than 4 minutes long.
  2. Specific Audience:  Athletic team, soldiers, employees, fans, congregation,  volunteers
  3. Specific Purpose(s):
    1. General:  Foster team spirit
    2. Specific:  Motivate the players/employees to give everything to win
    3. Personal:  Show the players you are in this fight with them
  4. Singular Focus:  Only one message
  5. Simple Message:  They simplify the message without dumbing it down.
  6. Universal Theme:  A message or lesson that everyone can relate to.  For example, in one of the clips I will reference the theme is:  fight tooth & nail to gain every last inch on the field and in life.
  7. They use presenter’s  tools, such as metaphors, analogies, stories  and parables
  8. There is an appeal for personal accountability: “It’s about the guy who is next to you.”
  9. Pace:  Begin low and slow and end in a crescendo/climax.  This is not always the case.  I have provided one example where the leader does not work himself into a lather.
  10. Stick the landing:  They bring the message home.  Tie it all together and asking their players to go get the goal (win the game).
  11. Bonus observation:  These locker room presenters use the same strategies as pulpit presenters of a church, synagogue or mosque.

Here are some examples:

1.    Remember the Titans – Starring Denzel Washington as Coach Herman Boon:

This first example is an excerpt from the motion picture Remember the Titans staring actor Denzel Washington as Coach Herman Boon.  The movie is based on the true story of a newly appointed African-American coach (Boon) and his high school team on their first season as a racially integrated unit in 1971.  In this scene, coach Boon wakes the team up in the middle of the night for a run.  He takes them to the cemetery where the Battle of Gettysburg was fought and delivers a speech about hatred.

  1. Short:  It was one minute and thirty-seven seconds: 1:37.
  2. Specific Audience:  Black and white teenage American football players who were forced to play together for the first time during racial segregation.
  3. Specific Purposes:
    1. General:  Foster Team Spirit.
    2. Specific:  Motivate the players to give everything to win.
    3. Personal Purpose:  Show the players you are in this fight with them.
  4. Single Focus:  Teamwork.
  5. Single Message:  50,000 men died fighting the same fight that we are repeating today.
  6. Universal Theme:  Hatred destroyed my family.  If we don’t come together we too will be destroyed.
  7. Presentation Tool:  Story of Gettysburg.
  8. Asking for Personal Accountability:  “I don’t care if you like each other, but you will respect each other.
  9. Pace:  Even.  He did not get ‘lathered up.’
  10. Stick the landing:  “Maybe we will learn to play this game like men.

2.    Lord of the Rings:  Return of the King – Aragorn at the Black Gate

The second example comes from the award-winning movie trilogy The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.  Aragorn leads his men to the Black Gate of Mordor.

  1. Short:  Fifty-three seconds.
  2. Specific Audience:  His soldiers going into an attack.
  3. Specific Purpose:  Overcome their fear.
  4. Single Focus:  Forget your fears and fight.
  5. Single Message:  Fight.
  6. Theme:  Not on this day.
  7. Presentation tool:  Repetition – “But not on this day.”
  8. Appeal to personal Accountability:  “By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand!”
  9. Pace:  Urgent.
  10. Stick the Landing:  He pulled out his sword and charged forward.  The troops followed.

3.    Any Given Sunday – Starring Al Pacino as Coach Tony D’Amato

Any Given SundayThis film is a behind the scenes look at the struggles of modern American football.  This is the classic Locker Room Speech.  It is half-time and after a poor performance in the first half, Coach D’Amato is attempting to motivate the team to win in the second half of the game.


  1. Short:  Three minutes and thirty seconds.
  2. Specific Audience:  Miami Sharks football team.
  3. Specific Purposes:
    1. General:  Foster Team Spirit.
    2. Specific:  Motivate the players to give everything to win.
    3. Personal Purpose:  Show the players you are in this fight with them.
  4. Single Focus:  Come together as a team or die as individuals.
  5. Single Message:  The time is now.
  6. Single Theme:  Fight tooth & nail to gain every last inch on the field and in life.
  7. Presentation tool:  Inches metaphor.
  8. Appeal to Personal Accountability:  “Look at the guy next to you.  Look into his eyes.  Now I think you are going to see a guy who will go that inch with you.  You are going to see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows when it comes down to it, you are gonna do the same thing for him.”
  9. Pace:  Low, slow, crescendo.
  10. Stick the Landing:  He asks the question – “What are you going to do?” The team is ‘lathered up’ they go out and win the game.

The question is not “if” but “when” you will have a need for a locker room speech. The video on my website, “Three Questions” is a locker room speech.  In this case, I confront my nephews about lying to me.  Eventually, they tell me the truth.  Long term they turn into outstanding citizens.  You don’t have to like or be involved in sports to use this tool as a leader, to inspire others to action.  These ten qualities are useful under any circumstances.  ”We few… we happy few, we band of brothers.  For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother!”

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