athletic · athletic performance · Behaviour Therapies · CBT · Cognitive Behaviour Therapy · EFT · Holistic Therapies · Humanistic · hypnosis · Hypnotherapy · Meditation · Psychology · Relaxation · Stress Management · Uncategorized · Visualisation

Athletic Potency: Psychology, Skill or Practice?

There have been references made in regards to the use of Hypnotherapy to enhance sports performance going back 1932. More recently, in his book ‘Golf My Way ‘(Nicklaus &

Bowden, 1974), Jack Nicklaus describes the power of imagery as the single most

important element in achieving high levels of performance.

The ‘The Effects of Hypnosis on Flow States and Golf-Putting Performance’ states that “Studies from the sport psychology literature have also indicated imagery has a positive influence on golf performance.”[1]

We know that today, Hypnosis is widely recognised and highly recommended and used with Olympic athletes and a variety of professional athletes. Here’s why:

  • Enhance sensory awareness and muscle control
  • Increase concentration, control internal dialogue, and decrease awareness of unimportant external stimuli.
  • Control anxiety, anger and emotionality
  • Enhance motivation and enthusiasm
  • Enhance performance skill.
  • Resolution of unconscious blocks and conflicts.
  • Management of discomfort
  • Increase self-esteem, confidence and self-efficacy
  • Control perception of time and focus on the present experience time contraction and expansion)[2]

This will include everything from study skills and academic performance, memory retain, and examination panic.


Conventional therapy

Counselling, Psychotherapy and CBT have been known to be useful and effective in helping to improve athletic performance, although the process takes much longer. Within a Counselling framework, past experiences and beliefs about your previous performances will be examined. Family history and where you are placed within the family framework is important to determine some aspects of the way you perceive yourself within the sport, and amongst others.

Psychotherapy will be similar, however it can be more anxiety provoking and may not be examined in isolation from your entire life.

CBT will focus on your thoughts about your performance, your behaviour, and what that produces. Any previous experiences may be examined. And your beliefs may be challenged.

All ‘inner work’ is useful and it will present the outer work that may need to be changed.

A holistic therapist may include the spiritual component, which may include previous past lives and your soul’s journey and life purpose.


Dr Laura Miele, an expert in fitness with specific expertise in sports psychology states in Psychology Today states that in terms of addressing an athlete’s performance “To combat these powerful effects, coaches and athletes can focus their efforts on tactics such as goal setting, routines, visualization and confidence.” She also states that “Athletes who can visualize themselves having success will be successful. Individuals must battle the inside voice that is telling them they cannot complete their goals. To silence this negative voice, athletes can visualize success and practice self-talk. Positive self-talk goes hand in hand with visualization with the athlete both hearing and seeing success.”

Visualisation is form of hypnosis, where you quieten your thoughts and focus on creativity. [3]

Any therapist, be they physiotherapist, hypnotherapist or other conventional or alternative therapist may suggested visualisation and focusing on your goal. In light of the Olympics 2016, that may be the gold medal. At your high school it may be getting a first in your class. For a performance actor it may be winning a Golden Globe, Emmy or Oscar, some kind of statue.


Winning will be fuelled by a combination of the following:

  1. Skill and talent
  2. Psychology: mind set and beliefs
  3. Hard work

The first 2 may not necessarily be in that order. Many may argue that you do not have to be the best actor, but it just may be ‘your lucky day’. An athlete may argue that a fighter ‘lucked out’ when his opponent lost his concentration for a millimetre of a second, resulting in a knockout. Are any of these scenarios due to skill, luck or psychology only.

More research can be done on how mind set and psychology affect our ability to perform, and how much an athlete’s psychology determines how well he does in his sport. But enough research has been done to determine that visualising your goals sets you up for an advantage, and persisting in this instance can produce results.

[1] Journal of Applied Sports Psychology, 13: 341-354. ©2001 by the Association for Advancement of Applied Sports Psychology.

[2] Hypnotic Suggestions and Metaphors, D. Croydon Hammond, PhD. 1990


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