Even though hypnosis still remains a controversial topic among most average citizens, its practice has been widely applied in therapy, surgery and even unlikely fields such as sports.

Hypnosis is when a person is induced or induces themselves into a conscious state whereby the person loses the power of voluntary action and instead becomes highly receptive to suggestion or direction. In this article, we look at how this technique has been used in the sports industry to help professional athletes perform at their maximum potential.

What is sports hypnosis?

As the name suggests, sports hypnosis is a type of hypnosis which is specifically designed to enhance the performance of an athlete in whatever kind of sport. Historically, the Soviet Olympic Squads in the 1950s employed the use of a team of psychologists to help improve their chances of winning medals.

Today, sports psychology has grown to become a huge industry as well as a discipline that is taught in numerous universities. As a result, all the major league teams across all kinds of sports are now hiring full-time psychologists to handle the mental well-being of the players, which has got a lot to do with their performance.

How sports hypnosis is used to improve the performance of athletes

Sports hypnosis is a part of this shift and is normally employed as a practical sport psychology strategy for achieving great results. Let us see some of the interesting ways psychologists apply different hypnotic techniques to help athletes perform at their peak.

Visualization and mental rehearsal

Visualization and mental rehearsal is one of the main strategies that sport psychologists use to improve an athlete’s performance. First of all, visualization, in itself, is a kind of hypnosis due to the fact that one must use their imagination to picture what might happen in the future. Actually, humans do this all the time without even realizing it due to its ordinary nature.

For instance, when solving normal day to day chores such as; waking up in the morning, doing some cardio for fifteen minutes before hitting the shower and going to make breakfast.

Subliminally, your brain runs all these things through your head. Hypnosis is able to set the necessary foundation to use this powerful ability of our mind while sports hypnosis focuses it for the purposes of improving the performance of a player.

For example, a basketball player might use sports hypnosis to visualize shooting the best three-pointer while considering all the minute details. A boxer can, in a state of hypnosis, experience a sharp and effective knockout combination.  A soccer player, on the other hand, can practice shooting accurate free-kicks from a particular distance, say 18 yards, with the utmost precision.

In all of the scenarios above, visualization is able to provide the same foundation for success. This is so because our brains cannot tell the difference between events that have taken place and those that have been imagined, more so in a state of hypnosis.

In reality, the brain forms the exact same neural pathways as when actually doing these things. The identical muscle reactions will also be set in motion whether you are hitting a golf ball out in the field or imagining it.

In a nutshell, applying hypnosis for mental rehearsal is now being utilized by professionals and athletes all over the world due to its ability to improve performance. As a bonus, you can practice more frequently in your mind, which may not be always the case with doing it physically.

The Mind-Body Connection

Sports hypnosis is based on the almost divine connection that exists between the mind and the body. In Western medicine, it was of popular opinion that the mind and the body were two totally separate things. In the recent years, however, this notion has been proved false, thanks to the advancement in neuroscience and neuropsychology.

As a matter of fact, the mind and body are deeply and intricately connected and are always in communication. Our brains constantly send a flux of neurotransmitters to the body which tells it what to do behaviourally, to the smallest detail. On the other hand, the body is also in a constant state of response, telling the brain exactly how to perceive and feel.

In sports, this has a major impact since hypnotherapy and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) have proven effective in inspiring the right message to be conveyed from an athlete’s mind to their body.

As an example, a boxer keeping their shoulders in the right position while tucking their chin in to protect their jaws, hence inspiring the correct stance and posture. Similarly, a soccer player can use this technique to achieve better focus, conviction and calmness in the field.


What makes sports hypnosis so effective is that it creates a direct pathway to the unconscious mind. For that reason, NLP and sport hypnosis go hand in hand when it comes to helping athletes achieve better results on the field since they are able to incorporate things like fast reflex and reaction times which can only be achieved sub-consciously.

By restructuring the quality of unconscious reactions, hypnosis affords players an incredible edge. This gives them an opportunity to enhance their performance to levels they could not achieve previously. There are other techniques that psychologists apply to help contestants win games. Be sure to check them out on the second part of this series.