The use of NLP in sports preparation

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Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), inspired by Erickson hypnosis, is used routinely in preparation by sportspeople to get results. All of us, whatever our level, can benefit from its techniques.

NLP, which has been very fashionable for some years now, developed out of hypnosis. The exact techniques it uses aim in a sense to “programme” the brain so that it “forgets” the limits it has set for itself over time. These limits are produced automatically by our thought processes, and they often surface as ideas like “I can’t do it, I won’t be able to, it’s not for me”; ideas which stop us advancing in ordinary life, and in the case of sportspeople, stop them progressing – and winning.

The mental game and the management of emotions

Many high-level sportspeople have a “mental coach”. Basically, apart from physical abilities and training, it’s motivation, mental outlook and the management of emotions that make the difference between champions and also-rans. It is often said that success in competition happens in your head, and that repeated setbacks, as sportspeople know very well, have the effect of sapping your confidence. That’s when a therapist specialising in NLP can step in.

Positive visualisation

The way this works is that the sportsperson is asked to identify the things that aren’t working for him, and the reasons why he is not succeeding in some situations, basing himself on the things that he does do perfectly, and on models provided by the champions. The objective is to lead him to change the way he thinks, by using positive visualisation. In a sense, to condition him so that he dumps his negative beliefs and the behaviours that were causing him to fail.

Working with a therapist

Of course, this mental training is not reserved exclusively for sportspeople. Anybody can benefit from it, as soon as he understands that his setbacks, his difficulty in succeeding, or his lack of confidence are more the result of self-imposed mental restrictions then of destiny. Working with a therapist allows you to reflect and to acquire techniques. Thereafter, with practice and through a better understanding of yourself, you can prepare on your own for the challenges to come.


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