Sports Performance


So much of sports performance is confidence, isn’t it?

I worked with lady who does competitive Olympic-style weight lifting who had bombed out on a regional meet in New York. She became so anxious over participating in the next upcoming meet, that she considered quitting. The sport was simply no fun any more.

In hypnosis, I desensitized her to the past failure and had her visualize positive outcomes. I gave her pre-game rituals that focused her mind and boosted her self-confidence. She also visualized performing with excellence. She imagined the smiles on faces of her supporters after she competed. All this while under hypnosis.

She performed quite well in the meet and has not had a reported problem since.

In the Zone

In the Zone

Hypnosis can also help with visualization. Studies indicate that visualization is nearly as effective at preparing the mind for competition as actual practice. The athlete who visualizes the upcoming contest is going to have already performed many times in their head before the actual competition.

Getting into the Zone

Practicing a sport allows the repeated movement to be incorporated into the subconscious mind as a good habit of modeled behavior. It can then be performed instinctively, in a light hypnotic state, often called, “the zone”.

If practice does make perfect, visualization will give an athlete an edge by allowing them to relax and feel comfortable trusting their subconscious mind to get them into the zone.

That zone is a light hypnotic trance, where the subconscious mind performs complex athletic feats, largely autonomously. A basketball player who is in the zone is not self-consciously thinking about dribbling the ball or making a particular move. He focuses his higher level concentration instead on the defender and the movement of other players, looking for an opportunity. He then trusts his subconscious to react instinctively to pass or score.

Baseball batters must face a fast ball that crosses the plate in as little as .40 seconds. However, the conscious mind can only process information and respond in .50 seconds. Batters who try to judge the pitch consciously will swing after the ball has already crossed the plate. We see this happen with novice players.

After practicing thousands of swings, experienced batters have their behavior modeled and embedded at the subconscious level. Daily practice fine-tunes those models with very small refinements and adjustments.

Getting in “the zone” means trusting their subconscious to respond intuitively with pre-modeled behavior to an incoming pitch. The mind anticipates the pitch. It has a hunch of what model to apply at an early stage in the ball delivery process. This anticipation with pre-modeled, efficient behavior allows the swing to match the ball.

The catcher also has to anticipate the pitch. Fortunately for him, communication between the pitcher and catcher (hand signals) gives the catcher a good idea of where the pitch is headed.

Likewise, professional golfers visualize the exact landing spot where they will hit the ball, trusting their subconscious mind to carry out the details of the stroke with the intended result. Gymnasts visualize performing their routine in perfect form, seeing the smiling faces on the audience when they finish.

John Newman, C.Ht. is certified in Hypnosis for Sports Performance from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute (HMI).

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