Anxiety and sports related performance

There is a common theme and belief amongst many athletes that they will leave no stone unturned when it comes to sports-related conditioning, diet and technique. However, most athletes fail or neglect to train the most important part of the body relating to specific sports-related preparation and that’s the brain or the mindset.


So you ask yourself: why is so important for an athlete to train the brain? How will this improve their performance? The answer to this is a remarkable one to answer. The brain, where the mind, is stored is the computer if you like, which operates and directs the physical attributes of the athlete.

Many a time in the sport of boxing, great trainers have referred to boxers as being great ‘Gym Fighters’.  This means that these types of boxers can look like a million dollars within the confines of a boxing gym. However, when the time comes when they have to step through the ropes and perform under the lights and in front of a crowd, something is amiss.

The answer is again remarkably easy. They are unable mentally to do in competition and under pressure what they can do without any pressure and within the confines of a gymnasium ring.

This failure is not a physical one, but a mental block which is likely aggravated by sports-related performance anxiety.

How do athletes create a mental block?

So you may ask yourself, how do athletes create this mental block? The answer is that athletes who fail to train their mind are more susceptible and prone to sports-related anxiety and mental blockage during competition. This is why the very elite athletes in the world now and have done for sometime utilising the services of clinical hypnotherapists.

No matter whether the athlete plays on-field sports, throws darts at a board, kicks a ball into the back of a net or throws trained punches at his opponent. The importance of the athlete being able to clearly visualise his performance, free from the despairs of being anxious will often mean the difference between victory and defeat.

You may think that I am exaggerating when I say this, but I am not.  The example I will give is of two professional cyclists who are racing against each other. In training they are both scoring the same times on speed trials, lifting the same weights in the gym and both have very low body fat scores and take in optimal nutrition.

They are equal in every single way -- apart from the fact that one sees a clinical hypnotherapist once a week as part of his recovery schedule and the other doesn’t.

The cyclist who sees the hypnotherapist has complete belief in his own ability and is very positive and confident about racing. The other cyclist suffers from performance-related anxiety and doesn’t really believe in himself and doesn’t know how to control the fleeting feelings of nervousness and agitation which he suffers from during the build-up and prior to the start of the race.

My question to you is who is likely to win the race? I think it is fair to assume that it will be the athlete who has recovered better and who has a stronger mindset.

Quick fact: A clinical hypnotherapist doesn’t even need to know anything about the sport which the athlete performs to help them achieve their full potential. This is because the Hypnotherapist merely acts as a vehicle which facilitates the athlete to go into trance. It’s actually the athlete or his coach who will dictate through a ‘reframe’ with the athlete whatever situation or technique they wish to improve.

How can hypnotherapy help

Some of the benefits of solution-focused hypnotheraphy in sport are as follows:

  • reduce performance anxiety
  • remove self-made limitations or blockages
  • increase self-belief and confidence
  • learn anger control
  • facilitate better visualization and mental rehearsal
  • positively reframe and release past negative experiences
  • increase motivation
  • remove any negative thoughts before, during and after competition, replace with positive thoughts
  • improve specific skills by practising mental rehearsal techniques
  • improve healthy habits including nutrition, weight control, sleep, substance abuse, self-care/balance, etc.
  • enhance healing from injury and promote return with intact confidence

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Prescot, Merseyside, L34
Written by Chris O'Connor, MNCH (Reg) HPD,DSFH MAfSFH NCH (Reg)
Prescot, Merseyside, L34

I am an experienced Clinical Hypnotherapist who has now helped hundreds of clients in achieving a better quality of life through Hypnotherapy.
I am passionate about helping and supporting people who suffer with mental health related conditions. I have played sport all my life and am lucky enough to world as a Professional Boxing Timekeeper

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