Sports Performance; Motivation to Exercise; Adjustment to, and Recovery from Injury; New Sporting Journeys; are all areas where the psychology of sport plays a significant role. From Tiger Woods on the golf course to Bradley Wiggins in the saddle, sports personalities openly endorse and commend the benefits of ‘mindworks’ in the sporting context.
In my work re Sports Performance I use two main strategies. Visualisation and Mind Management. Both are proven as effective and as applicable not only to participants at the highest levels but also to the person who ‘just enjoys a game but wants to get better’.
Many elite athletes routinely use visualization techniques, a common hypnotherapy tool, as part of training and competition. There are many stories of athletes who’ve used these techniques to cultivate not only a competitive edge, but also to create renewed mental awareness, a heightened sense of well-being and confidence. All of these factors have been shown to contribute to an athlete’s sports success. Visualization has also been called guided imagery, mental rehearsal, mediation, and a variety of other things — no matter the term, the basic techniques and concepts are the same. Generally speaking, visualization is the process of creating a mental image or intention of what you want to happen or feel.
An athlete can use this technique to ‘intend’ an outcome of a race or training session, or simply to rest in a relaxed feeling of calm and well-being. By imagining a scene, complete with images of a previous best performance or a future desired outcome, the athlete is instructed to simply ‘step into’ that feeling. While imagining these scenarios, the athlete should try to imagine the detail and the way it feels to perform in the desired way.
These scenarios can include any of the senses. They can be visual (images and pictures), kinaesthetic (how the body feels), or auditory (the roar of the crowd). Using the mind, an athlete can call up these images over and over, enhancing the skill through repetition or rehearsal, similar to physical practice.
With mental rehearsal, minds and bodies become trained to actually perform the skill imagined.
Research is finding that both physical and psychological reactions in certain situations can be improved with visualization. Such repeated imagery can build both experience and confidence in an athlete’s ability to perform certain skills under pressure, or in a variety of possible situations. The most effective visualization techniques result in a very vivid sport experience in which the athlete has complete control over a successful performance and a belief in this new ‘self.’
Guided imagery, visualization, mental rehearsal or other such techniques can maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of your training at whatever level and in whichever sport you are participating in. In a world where sports performance and success is measured in seconds, most athletes will use every possible training technique at hand. Visualization might be one way to gain that very slim margin.
Mind Management involves the application of a model used by Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy, and Ronnie O Sullivan amongst others. By helping you to understand the relationship between the emotional machine you were given at birth and the human intelligent part of you I can help you manage the aspects of your mind that compromise performance, motivation and recovery. You will develop insights into how you are ‘offered’ feelings of anxiety, worry, catastrophe that impact on you, as well as insights into how those euphoric cavalier feelings that occur can equally impact negatively. I will show you how to manage these feelings and the impressions (often of anticipated failure) that they generate.
Managing this emotional machine involves coaching you into a different way of thinking. You will notably change not just in the sporting context but you will also see benefits in your personal and professional life. The strategies applied, when done so alongside visualisation techniques will see your performance improve in your chosen sport and in context of you current circumstance.
As an illustration of the effectiveness of my work you may wish to read this. A story of success from Toby Roberts, a US Golf Scholar who I worked through 2015:
”There have been many different aspects of our sessions that i have found useful both on and off the golf course. I came to you seeking help in creating a more relaxed and confident place for myself in which to play golf in, and with the tools you have given me, believe we have achieved this. Out of all the sessions we have done, the one i found most valuable was the ‘my shield’ drill, creating an imaginary bubble of safety and confidence whereby any negatives from the outside world rebound. I often use this drill when facing a difficult shot on the course, for example a drive with water both sides, obviously its easy to think of the potential dangers, but with my shield around me, these negatives simply bounce off. Of course it cannot stop every negative thought, but it has definitely helped me in situations where the tiniest of margins can make the biggest of differences. In our most recent session we worked on trying to achieve a more aggressive and ‘just do it’ attitude on the course, something i am excited to put into practice.”