top of page

The Mental Edge

Hypnosis and NLP in sports

With the Commonwealth Games finishing up in the Gold Coast this month, Jarvis Hypnotherapy has been thinking about what gives elites athletes an edge over the competition.

How can we help these athletes, as well as your average weekend warrior, find that extra level of determination and help them perform optimally?

Elite athletes often use imagery and visualisation before and during their event – by closing their eyes and focusing on achieving their goal, they can improve their performance. This technique is especially beneficial when the sport requires a brief burst of energy.

Athletes who picture themselves crossing the finish line first are more likely to do it. Visualisation effectiveness has been proven by Russian scientists who conducted a study comparing the training schedules of four groups of Olympic athletes. The research team found that the group who used a combination of 25% physical training and 75% mental training performed the best during the Olympics.

Most sportspeople have experienced times when they are 'in the zone', where they are performing at their physical and mental best in what some describe as a state of “flow”. It is an unconscious process and it is outside of their normal conscious awareness.

Even if you are not training for the Olympics or competing as a professional athlete, hypnosis can help you attain higher levels of performance in whatever sport you are involved in.

Mental simulation is another area of therapy that is helpful in sports. German sports psychologist Paul Tholey suggested that athletes can go into a sort of virtual training session via their lucid dreams. The lucid dream allows for many attempts and failures, without actually bringing any physical damage or strain on the dreamer. This means that sensory-motor skills can be practiced practically without end.

A 2015 study in the Journal of Sports Sciences adds new evidence to the idea that physical skills in waking life can be improved by practicing those skills in lucid dreaming. The premise is that a mental simulation of physical behaviour is neurologically the same as a “real” enactment of that behaviour, with the difference that the former does not extend to bodily movement, while the latter does. Dreamed actions use the same processes as actual actions, except that they aren’t executed. You can ready more about this area HERE.

Of course there are many factors influencing sporting abilities at the elite level including genetics, fitness and technical skills. However the mental side of the game should not be neglected at whatever level you are.

Therapy can also help an athlete overcome issues of self-doubt, which may be keeping you from moving to the next level. It can help hone skills, fine-tune a technique, and have a level of self-belief and confidence, which will enable you to excel beyond what you may have previously thought possible.

Another way that hypnosis and NLP can help athletes is in dealing with pain and injuries. Learning to dissociate from the pain can help them better cope with it and perform in spite of it. Relaxation methods can also be particularly helpful when it comes to managing pain, which is a part of most sports.

NLP in particular allows people to learn and adopt the strategies, techniques and physiology used by our sporting role models to achieve excellence often in a fraction of the time. Athletes can often use NLP unconsciously however if you learn to use NLP with purpose you can really begin to play your sports at a new level.

If you are preoccupied with something at home or at work your game is affected. If, as you serve in your tennis game, something like a noise or unexpected movement catches your attention your serve is affected. If a member of the opposing team irritates you this can seriously affect your concentration.

NLP in sport, at its most basic, enables us to manage our mind-body so that we are in the best mental and physical state for successfully and enjoyably performing.

Jarvis Hypnotherapy uses a combination of proven methods, including hypnotherapy and NLP. If you play sport at any level, compete in marathons or triathlons, or even just want to improve your everyday fitness, a session with us can help.

Contact us today for an obligation-free consultation.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page