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The psychology of sport

2012 has been the year of the Olympics and the Paralympics, with the world’s top athletes all geared up to showcase their talent for the ultimate prize of recognition and acclaim by their peers and the world.

Working with nutritional experts, sports coaches and psychologists, they put in hours of practice, day in, day out, training their bodies to reach the highest standards necessary for success.

Yet, despite all this preparation, the tiniest doubt in their belief is sufficient to scupper their ambitions. This doubt, unless halted and erased, rapidly spawns into a multitude of fears questioning their ability to perform to their potential. Fears concerning past and potential injury, lack of strength and stamina, inability to execute intricate manoeuvres, meet expectations set by their camp and general media, and, ironically even the fear of success are just some examples.

Cumulatively, the mental strain and stress, that arises as a consequence, gains the upper hand, creating the psychological barriers giving rise to real and imagined psychosomatic problems to achieving success.

Sportsmen and women that have managed to control their psychological fears are not only freed from potential barriers to success, they can constructively employ them to excel and achieve what may have been thought impossible.

Sports psychology has played a significant part through history in determining the outcome of success. Hypnosis and imagery have been utilized by many athletes, professionals and amateurs, to give them an edge over their own limitations, improve their performance, transform their body and mind to anchor a winning mentality. It is particularly effective for:

Competition Nerves
Building Confidence
Improving Focus & Concentration
Overcoming Slumps in Performance
Mental Blocks
Returning from Injury

Top level sport performers that have used hypnosis for many years in their sport include:

– Athletes: Iwan Thomas, Vince Hancock (Olympic Skeet), Steve Hooker (Pole Vault), Roger Bannister, Adrian Moorhouse (Swimming), Roger Black (400m).
– Basketball: Shaquille O’Neal.
– Boxers: Frank Bruno, Steve Collins and Nigel Benn, Kevin McBride, Ken Norton.
– Cricketers: Mike Brearley (England cricket captain).
– Footballers: Crystal Palace and Swindon Town teams, Pele, Andy Cole.
– Golfers: Ian Woosnam, Tiger Woods, Frances Bondad, Nick Faldo, Deana Rushworth, Jack Niklaus.
– Rugby: Dan Luger.
– Surfers: Russell Winter.
– Tennis: Greg Rusedski, Pat Cash, Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors.

What might a session of sports psychology involve?

Physical skills and fitness are essential to achieve good performance and nurturing raw physical talent goes some length to enhance performance. However, the difference between great performance and good performance, or between winning and losing, is often down to the psychological and emotional states rather than solely physical ability.

Having worked with a number of athletes, it is critical to remember that you can only be as good as your physical limitations – you can’t be hypnotised to swim as fast as Michael Phelps or run as fast as Usain Bolt.

Based on your personal objectives, a session might involve discussing, in detail, the positive results you want to achieve.

Strengthening the core psychological skills such as concentration, goal setting, relaxation techniques and imagery are only part of the mix necessary to develop mental toughness and mental strength in an athlete.

In parallel, mastering the volatility and turbulence of emotional highs and lows, such as anxiety, motivation and self confidence, can be used positively and powerfully to overcome challenges to facilitate performance enhancement. The key is to gain precise control over your physical and psychological actions, by learning and using techniques that will enable you to access these internal signals on tap.

Everything is geared towards creating the winning environment for your success.

Edensgate Hypnotherapy focuses on teaching practical and autogenic techniques and working with you to help utilise your own natural resources to help create an optimum state of performance.

The techniques focus upon strengthening the core skills such as concentration, goal setting, relaxation techniques and imagery to develop mental toughness and mental strength in an athlete. You will be able to:

– Overcome issues of self-doubt and fears which may be keeping you from moving to the next level.

– Hone your skills, fine-tune a technique, and create within you a level of self-belief and confidence that will enable you to excel beyond what you may have previously thought possible.

– Use mental rehearsal, imagery and creative visualisation to achieve the intense focus necessary to create as lifelike an image as possible through the use of multiple senses (e.g., sight, smell, touch), proper timing, perspective, and accurate portrayal of the task, and, be alert to anticipating potential outcomes.

– Overcome performance anxiety, pre-game jitters or mental blocks.

– Learn and dissociate from the physical aches and pains, speed up the recovery process from injury to accelerate the healing process and build confidence when returning to fitness.

– Manipulate and convert the negative distress into the positive eustress.

– Achieve a state of mental relaxation and physical alertness.

– Give positive self-affirmation, through effective goal setting – so that on meeting each milestone, confidence and motivation as well as positive self image and behavioural change are reinforced.

Bansi Shah
Bansi Shah is a registered clinical hypnotherapist with the British Society of ClinicalHypnosis (BSCH) and the General Hypnotherapy Register (GHR).

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