TED Talk “What Soccer Can Teach Us about Freedom”: Speech Summary, Text, & Analysis

March 26, 2023

5 min read

Marc Bamuthi Joseph, wearing a blue button-up shirt and a red hat, delivers his TED talk on soccer.

In Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s 3-minute TED talk “What Soccer Can Teach Us about Freedom,” he explores how the exhilaration of the game can provide a sense of liberation and empowerment to those facing boundaries and limitations.

Through his personal stories, he shows us how utilizing the same muscle used to plan the next goal can also be used to navigate the next block.

TED Talk “What Soccer Can Teach Us about Freedom” Speech Summary

We analyzed Joseph’s TED talk using the free, AI-powered communication coach, Yoodli. You can get started at http://www.yoodli.ai and view the speech here.

  • The two moments where the speaker feels most free are in dance and scoring a goal in soccer.
  • The speaker is a curator at a contemporary arts center and believes in art that has a practical application.
  • Soccer is a means for the speaker’s immigrant family to foster a sense of continuity and community.
  • The speaker has created a curriculum that intertwines soccer, politics, and art to access the concept of freedom for immigrant youth
  • The curriculum is called “Moving and Passing” and uses soccer as a metaphor for political enfranchisement
  • Soccer is the only thing everyone on the planet can agree to do together and connects joy to immigrants moving in search of a better position

TED Talk “What Soccer Can Teach Us about Freedom” Speech Text

Using AI, the Yoodli speech coach platform provides this TED talk, “What Soccer Can Teach Us about Freedom”:

"The two places where I feel most free aren’t actually places. They’re moments. The first is inside of dance. Somewhere between rising up against gravity and the feeling that the air beneath me is falling in love with my body’s weight. I’m dancing and the air is carrying me like I might never come down. The second place that I feel free is after scoring a goal on the soccer pitch. My body floods with the chemical that they put inside of EpiPens to revive the dead, and I am weightless, raceless.

My story is this: I’m a curator at a contemporary arts center, but I don’t really believe in art that doesn’t bleed or sweat or cry. I imagine that my kids are going to live in a time when the most valuable commodities are fresh water and empathy. I love pretty dances and majestic sculpture as much as the next guy, but give me something else to go with it. Lift me up with the aesthetic sublime and give me a practice or some tools to turn that inspiration into understanding and action.For instance, I’m a theater maker who loves sports.

When I was making my latest piece /peh-LO-tah/ I thought a lot about how soccer was a means for my own immigrant family to foster a sense of continuity and normality and community within the new context of the US. In this heightened moment of xenophobia and assault on immigrant identity, I wanted to think through how the game could serve as an affirmational tool for first-generation Americans and immigrant kids, to ask them to consider movement patterns on the field as kin to migratory patterns across social and political borders. Whether footballers or not, immigrants in the US play on endangered ground. I wanted to help the kids understand that the same muscle that they use to plan the next goal can also be used to navigate the next block.

For me, freedom exists in the body. We talk about it abstractly and even divisively, like “protect our freedom,” “build this wall,” “they hate us because of our freedom.” We have all these systems that are beautifully designed to incarcerate us or deport us, but how do we design freedom? For these kids, I wanted to track the idea back to something that exists inside that no one could take away, so I developed this curriculum that’s part poli-sci class, part soccer tournament, inside of an arts festival. It accesses /peh-LO-tah/’s field of inquiry to create a sports-based political action for young people. The project is called “Moving and Passing.” It intersects curriculum development, site-specific performance and the politics of joy, while using soccer as a metaphor for the urgent question of enfranchisement among immigrant youth.

Imagine that you are a 15-year-old kid from Honduras now living in Harlem, or you’re a 13-year-old girl born in DC to two Nigerian immigrants. You love the game. You’re on the field with your folks. You’ve just been practicing dribbling through cones for, like, 15 minutes, and then, all of a sudden, a marching band comes down the field. I want to associate the joy of the game with the exuberance of culture, to locate the site of joy in the game at the same physical coordinate as being politically informed by art, a grass-laden theater for liberation. We spend a week looking at how the midfielder would explain Black Lives Matter, or how the goalkeeper would explain gun control, or how a defender’s style is the perfect metaphor for the limits of American exceptionalism. As we study positions on the field, we also name and imagine our own freedoms.

I don’t know, man, soccer is, like, the only thing on this planet that we can all agree to do together. You know? It’s like the official sport of this spinning ball. I want to be able to connect the joy of the game to the ever-moving footballer, to connect that moving footballer to immigrants who also moved in sight of a better position. Among these kids, I want to connect their families’ histories to the bliss of a goal-scorer’s run, family like that feeling after the ball beats the goalie, the closest thing going to freedom.Thank you. (Applause)"

TED Talk “What Soccer Can Teach Us about Freedom” Speech Analysis

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Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s Word Choice

Joseph’s word choice analytics were pretty insightful. We found out that he used from less than 1% of filler words and less than 1% of weak words. He also didn’t use any non-inclusive language, which is a win. For reference, it’s best to have less than 4% in both of those areas.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph's word choice was great overall.
Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s word choice was great overall.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s Delivery

The delivery of Joseph’s TED talk was also successful. During his entire speech, he used appropriate body language, like facial expressions and gestures. He also implemented strategic but natural pauses to let his audience sit with the information for a moment..

However, Yoodli highlighted two areas of improvement for Joseph: eye contact and centering. Still, Joseph was speaking to a large audience and was recorded, so those two metrics are more of a reflection of the recording.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s delivery was awesome, especially his speaking pace.
Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s delivery was awesome, especially his speaking pace.

The Bottom Line

You don’t have to be a TED talk speaker like Joseph to take advantage of speech and speaking pattern metrics. In fact, using Yoodli can help you improve not only your public speaking skills, but also your everyday conversation skills. Don’t hesitate: try it out (for free) today.


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