|Not a Thane|
There are a number of variants (see Google and Google Books). To cut to the chase, more detailed Googling finds the real attribution is to the American football player and coach Fielding H Yost (1871-1946, nicknamed 'Hurry Up' Yost). There's a good secondary citation to a Boys' Life magazine article, in which the University of Michigan coach Bennie Oosterbaan recalls Yost's influence ...
He used to say that good sportsmanship was the golden rule in action. I remember such expressions as ... 'the will to win is worthless without the will to prepare to win.'... and another in a memorial publication:
- Michigan's Oosterbaan, Irving Crump, Boys' Life, Nov 1950, page 31
"The will to win is worthless without the will to prepare to win."There's also an older general corroboration that this was one of Yost's catchphrases:
- attributed to Yost in Magazine of Sigma Chi, Volume 67, Issue 1 (Fielding H. Yost, 1871-1946, Memorial Issue), 1948, page 60
He stated that we must give to get and that boys must be given the will to prepare to win else they would have nothing.But when and how did Yost get elevated to historical Scottish minor royalty?
- Yost, quoted at Boy's Club Federation Banquet, May 19th 1929, Hamtramck Public School Bulletin, Volume 3, 1929, page 223
A skim of Google Books hits finds one outlier to Forbes magazine in 1979 (Volume 123, page 98) - though you can't trust Google Books metadata without verification. Otherwise there's no clue to an origin. I didn't realise that "Thane" is a US given name - see Wikipedia, Thane (disambiguation) - and maybe someone misread a juxtaposition in text between Yost and someone called Thane. Whatever happened, the citation to the nonexistent "Thane Yost" has now propagated widely, and like many other garbage attributions on the Internet, it looks here to stay.
Addendum: Yost's aphorisms are distinctly formulaic. Another one cited in the Oosterbaan article - "It takes more backbone than wishbone to get anywhere" - is distinctly reminiscent of The Spinx's "You must be like the wolf pack... not like the six-pack" in Mystery Men. Then again, I'm sure The Spinx's slogans were satirising the motivational aphorisms of sports coaching.