A sports psychologist for a U.S. Olympic team once noted that 80 to 90 percent of an Olympic athlete’s performance is in the mind. In the 1960’s in East Germany, Olympic trainers were working with athletes using hypnosis. Today hypnotherapists work with trainers and sports psychologists at the college and professional levels as well as Olympic athletes. Using your mind to improve physical performance can be of real value to you. And hypnosis is a great way of using your mind.
An issue for which clients come to see me is improving athletic performance. I have seen people who are professionals wanting to improve their performance in every sport from football to golf. Students come to see me hoping to release fears about getting hit by a ball or a tackle or improving their skills enough for a scholarship. I have worked with Olympic hopefuls in diving, swimming and gymnastics. all recognize that hypnosis can be a valuable tool to improve their skills in their chosen sport.
There are a number of different ways that hypnosis can improve athletic performance. Using visualization is a key part of such improvement. Back in 1984, Mary Lou Retton competed in the Olympics. She described her nighttime ritual of visualizing her routines. “I see myself hitting all my routines, doing everything perfectly. I imagine all the moves and go through them with the image in my mind.” She did just that in competition. Note that the hypnotherapist does not need to know a great deal about your sport, you will give her a description and the words that will be used in your session.
Thomas Tutko and Umberto Tosi in their book SPORTS PSYCHING talked of using visualization which they called “Mental Rehearsal”. In this rehearsal, you picture your goal clearly, going through a routine, shot or stroke in exactly the same pattern as you hoped to do it in competition. In this mind rehearsal, every movement is clear and positive. These mental rehearsals improve neuromuscular coordination and emotional confidence and affirmation.
Using visualization can heighten your awareness of each movement and improve your technique. It can improve your coordination, concentration and agility. As these improve, it will also increase your enjoyment of your chosen sport as it eases the pressure of competition while increasing competitiveness.
Eliminating fears, anxieties and other obstacles which can hold you back from your best athletic performance is another way to use hypnotherapy. Over the years, I have seen many clients who had an actual fear of their sport. Little-leaguers afraid of being hit by a ball, gymnasts afraid of falling offf “the” horse or equestrians afraid of falling off “a” horse are some of those issues.
But there are other fears that may stand in the way of peak performance. Sometimes the fear is of failing. Some of the children I see have been competing in their sports for much of their lives. They know the many hours and much money that has been spent to get them to the competition and the pressure and fear of failing can be enormous. Professional athletes no prime performance is necessary to stay competitive and employed.
Sometimes the fear is of moving up to the next level and fear of a stronger and more powerful competition is causing problems for the athlete. Hypnosis can be used to eliminate those fears and allow the athlete to compete and enjoy their sport.
Other emotional issues can also be addressed when they are affecting athletic performance. Besides the fears mentioned above, anger and resentment can affect all areas of life including sports. Some children and adults feel pressures from parents or coaches and respond with distractedness, lack of self-confidence or inappropriate aggressiveness. Releasing these negative fears allows room to overcome fears and pressures and to develop a winning attitude.
Occasionally, a client will call because they are experiencing a slump. Golfers talk about “losing their game”. Baseball players lose the ability to play automatically which interferes with their ability to pitch or hit the ball as they had in the past. These issues can be addressed by regressing and reconnecting back to a time when they were pitching or hitting successfully.
Almost always as a part of the hypnosis session, I will have the client picture and imagine their perfect game or meet. Using very positive words and suggestions, I have the client go through the competition in their mind, “moving perfectly, in exactly the right way”. Using the terminology of their sport, I lead them through the competition with their body, strong yet relaxed, their mind clear and focused, playing the game with strength and power.
As Bob Reese, a New York Jets trainer, once commented, “There is no guarantee that if you create a vision in will happen. There is a guarantee that if you don’t have a vision, it will never happen.” Hypnotherapy is a way of creating that vision.
Some people may think, “I can’t use hypnosis for athletic performance because I don’t play baseball or compete in gymnastics.” But hypnosis works in much the same way for other competitions as well. Whether you are on a bowling team, go to the firing range, left weights or play indoor games like chess, bridge, Scrabble or on line, you may be amazed at the results of a hypnosis session to improve your performance.