One of the key attributes of any top athlete is the ability to focus and perform at a top level of skill in every situation. Milton Erickson was a pioneer in the use of hypnotherapy methods in sports to improve focus. He worked with a number of top athletes, including the US Olympic Rifle squad and the shot-putter Donald Lawrence. In one story relating to a tournament golfer (Rossi 1988) Erickson was asked to assist in improving the golfer's consistency across all holes throughout a round. The golfer seemed to always play the first hole perfectly, and then deteriorate. The question for Erickson was: If you can play the first hole perfectly, then can you do as well on the next? He put the golfer in a trance and told him "You will play only the first hole, that is all you will remember, and you will be alone on the golf course". The golfer, needless to say, played an excellent round in his next tournament.
By taking the pressure out of the game the golfer, Rossi, was able to perform to the best of his ability throughout the whole tournament.
Similarly, anyone who has watched Jonny Wilkinson prepare for a kick will have noticed that he uses the same visual and physical ritual every time.
“He places the ball carefully, the same way that he has so many times before. Shutting out the cheers and jeers of the crowd, he stands up, and walks just the right amount of paces backwards. Then takes a single sidestep. But he is not yet ready. Standing with his feet a shoulder width apart, he clasps his hands in front of himself, staring at them for what seems like an age. Finally looking towards the posts, tilting slightly upwards, he pulls his head back just a little, as if the target somehow magnifies in his vision. He focuses, and there he sees her, sitting right in the middle, in the crowd, between the posts. Then he feels it; he knows that he is ready. And the rest is history". (Vile and Biggs - in Press)
For Jonny to reach this level of control he has practiced not only the physical preparation but also the mental too. "The key to cognitive motor learning lies in elucidating the way in which learned skills are represented in memory". (Annett 1995)
Often it is the mental processes that makes the difference between two athletes; the ones that let the pressure or their own doubts creep in will struggle to be as successful as the athletes who stay “in the zone” (focused).
Hypnotherapy, CBT & NLP can teach you the techniques to stay focused and to achieve your goals, either within sports or in life, helping you to realize your potential and to focus on where you want to be.