The use of hypnosis in top level sports is by no means a new phenomenon. The following is just a small sampling of reported athletes and teams who have used hypnosis, guided imagery or visualization.
As far back as 1956 it has been reported that eleven hypnotherapists accompanied the team to the Melbourne Olympics to instill confidence and the “will to win” in the athletes. In 1968 the Swiss Olympic ski squad used imagery and went on to win 3 medals in 1968 and more in 1972.
In 1959, Ingmar Johannson used hypnosis training to win the heavy weight boxing title from Floyd Patterson.
Boxer Ken Norton used hypnosis training before his famous victory over Mohammed Ali in 1973, where Ken was a 7-1 underdog. Mohammed Ali began using hypnosis shortly after this loss.
In the early 1980s, hypnotist Peter Siegel worked with bodybuilder Lee Haney who went on to win the Mr. Olympia title eight years in a row! In 1985 Peter worked with bodybuilder Mike Christian who went on to conclusively win the Mr. America and Mr. Universe titles. In his book, Pro-Style Bodybuilding, Mr. Universe winner, Tom Platz, says, “Unless my mind triggers the will to improve my physique, it won’t happen. Essentially, the mind is the master potentiator in bodybuilding.” Yes, Tom consulted a hypnotist! Even heavy-weight boxing champion Mike Tyson had a personal hypnotist named John Halpin.
Perhaps one of the most famous examples of hypnotherapy in professional sports is the story of the great baseball player, Rodney Carew. He played from 1967 to 1985. After suffering an injury which had technically healed, he was still experiencing pain symptoms and an elevated sense of self doubt. Carew began to work with a hypnotherapist and he eventually came back to the best season of his entire career, with a batting score of almost .400, and went on to win ‘The most valuable player award’!
The entire 1983 Chicago White Sox baseball team used hypnosis to help win their division and reach the playoffs that year.
Others in baseball include Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Maury Wills, Don Sutton, Mark McGwire who all reported using hypnosis to be able to relax for baseball games.
Time Magazine reported in a cover story on the 1984 Olympics that on the night before the finals in women’s gymnastics, famous athlete, Mary Lou Retton, then age 16, lay in bed at the Olympic Village mentally rehearsing her performance ritual. She had done the same on hundreds of previous nights, visualizing herself performing all her routines perfectly. The result, of course, was a performance of perfection, presented with charm, poise and confidence, culminating in a gold medal.
In 1996, Irish boxer Steve Collins used hypnosis for the Middleweight Boxing Championship of the world against Chris Eubank. The suggestion under hypnosis was to throw two punches for every one of reigning champion Eubank’s. In the bout Steve Collins threw twice as many punches as Eubank approx 600 to 300 and became champion of the world.
A Wall Street Journal article (February 11, 2002) brings recognition to the field of hypnotherapy. Bronze medal Olympic champion Adam Malysz used hypnosis for his ski jump victory: “And before ascending the ramp and lurching down that icy slide in the 90 meter event, he descended an imaginary staircase-20 slow deep steps into a trance.”
Phil Jackson, NBA head coach of the Chicago Bulls, practiced daily self-hypnosis when he coached Michael Jordon and the Bulls to their 6 NBA championships. Later, after coaching the L.A. Lakers to win the Western Conference Finals in 2002, Jackson credited his morning practice of self-hypnosis, meditation and visualization with giving the Lakers the belief they could win.
Jimmy Connors, used hypnosis in winning the U.S. Open Championship.
Tiger Wood’s mental coach, Jay Brunza, hypnotised him to block out distractions and focus on the golf course. When Woods was a teenager, he worked with a hypnotist to help place his mind in the proverbial zone.
Jack Nicklaus claims that his golf success due to practicing concentration and visualization. He estimated that 50% of his game is mental imagery.
Steve Hooker won the 2008 Olympic Gold Medal in pole vaulting after his hypnotist helped him visualize his success.
The Irish Athletes commissioned a hypnosis practitioner to work with team members in preparing for the 2012 Olympic games. Focus for performance under pressure was addressed.
This is just a sampling of a few of the better known athletes utilizing sports hypnosis and visualization. Perhaps you know of others?
Nancy Wheeler also works with Athletes of all ages and levels of experience. Contact me.