NLP is useful in sport for:
- optimising practice time,
- getting in, and staying in, ‘the zone’,
- eradicating the yips,
- learning how to silence the little voice in your head or have it help you rather than hinder you,
- recovering immediately from mistakes,
- learning how to block out all distractions, including the score and the opponent.
This is particularly useful in golf and tennis and even has a place in cricket, hockey and football especially if you are a defender, goal keeper, batsman or wicket keeper. It is about allowing the subconscious to take full control in the moments when it needs to. Concentration in sport is not about conscious focus, it is about eradicating the conscious mind and its annoying voice.
Think of two tennis players in a net rally. They naturally enter ‘the zone’. There is no time for the conscious mind or the little voice in the head to be involved. The players have no time to be distracted by their conscious minds – focussing on the score or the opponent, it is simply the subconscious in control and free to do what it does so well when it is left in charge.
In football, a full back may need to use his or her conscious mind to work with the rest of the back four to keep the off-side line tight, but when faced with a tricky dribbling winger running at them, they need to be free of their conscious mind distracting them and let go, and get in the zone, so that the subconscious mind can direct the body and eyes to do their jobs.
There is also the important ability top make mistakes and, after learning what needed to be learned, letting the mistake go and never revisiting it.
Comments from a previous client
When I approached Steve, I was in a state of total desperation. I am 52 years old and have been playing tennis for most of my life. For as long as I can remember I have been totally unable to deal with loss or failure and made John McEnroe look like a choirboy. I think it is only because I am not generally like that off court and because I belong to such a nice, friendly club that I haven’t been kicked out long ago! I read about Steve’s work in ACE Tennis magazine in an article in which he helped someone with severe performance nerves. Although I knew a little bit about NLP, I really didn’t think anyone could help me because I had tried so many self-devised strategies to help myself and nothing had worked. This was something I really wanted and knew I had to do, so I thought I should be able to put it right myself. However, after failing to live up to my own expectations time after time, I thought only a personality transplant could change me. In my first 2-hour appointment with Steve, he said we would basically just be chatting and he would ask me questions about my problem. He also said that at the end I would feel that nothing of any import had taken place and that nothing had happened to change me. This is exactly what took place. It was very pleasant. He has a lovely house in a lovely setting, so I felt very relaxed. He didn’t ask me anything very deep, or about my past or anything like that. Sometimes he would return to a question if I hadn’t given a clear answer. After the session he emailed me some notes that summarized our conversation. In the immediate aftermath of this session, the most striking thing I noticed, apart from the fact that my behaviour on court was overall about 70% better, was that I didn’t feel I was making any conscious effort to be different. It was as though Steve had re-wired my brain in some way. I still felt exactly like me but was behaving effortlessly better! After a while I found that I was slipping back somewhat so we had another session. In this Steve identified the causes of this “relapse” and we worked together to refine my goals. He also said I might have to work harder to achieve these objectives. What I now find is that I now approach each tennis-playing situation aware of what factors are likely to have a negative impact on my behaviour and knowing that Steve has provided me with the tools to deal with these different situations. All it takes is working out what the problems are going to be beforehand and reminding myself of how to deal with them when necessary during the match. If I don’t do these things, the beast reappears! But now, thanks to Steve, I have control over it and I have the choice. I’m not sure if we have achieved a miracle or the impossible, but something very big has happened in a short space of time. I still have a way to go, but I now feel the situation is under my control. Furthermore, if I need help, I know that Steve is there via email or for another conversation. Onwards and upwards! X
Below are some e-mails from X sent after each of her two sessions:
After session 1
Hi Steve, This is strange! Today I had to play my ladies singles semi against my twin sister (the good one). It is a match I have been dreading for literally months, as I knew we would have to play because of the seeding system. She is the opposite to me play-wise, i.e. very steady and safe, never goes for winners, just keeps getting it back. Whereas I like to go for winners. So, all in all, it can be very frustrating playing her and we haven’t played (her choice) since the incident that caused me to contact you in the first place. Anyway, I did beat her. That’s not the point. I decided to play her at her own game (which I thought I never could) and be very conservative and boring and safe. It was by no means easy and I had some desperate moments. What is important is that after it was over, I realized that I hadn’t sworn once. Not even quietly, not to myself, not even in my head. I had about 3 shouty moments and one bit of poor body language. Are you sure you didn’t hypnotize me? Are you sure you aren’t Derren Brown? The final is tomorrow (things got behind because of the weather). That’s not the point either. Will let you know how it goes obviously. But the point is that I AM BEING NICE(R). And I’m not having to try, not even thinking about it. This is strange. Regards, X
Hi Steve, Just to let you know that I won the ladies singles final on Saturday, without any swearing entering my head or passing my lips. However I think I probably would benefit from a second session. Could you outline the sort of thing we would be aiming at? I am still finding, however, that people are still seeing me as they expect to and have had no comments on the “new me”, not that it bothers me as I am doing this for myself. Regards. X
After session 2
Hi Steve, ………. anyway, I saw my sister yesterday evening and outlined what we had done. She was interested in it, not cynical at all, and I said I would like to have a game today to try things out. The interesting thing was that I didn’t feel nervous or excited about it or even that I had to prove myself in some way. I just knew from last time that we had done something together that would be put into practice without my having to make it happen. In the past I have always approached these situations thinking that this would be the time I would change and be “good” and “nice” and then, having failed at some hurdle along the way, go home feeling full of self-hatred and a failure. Can’t remember if it was Newton or Einstein who said that to keep on repeating the same action and expect a different result is a form of insanity. And that is exactly what I have been doing all these years. Anyway, I won 6-1, 6-2 and then we played a third set because the others had finished so quickly and I won that 6-1. This never happens! I sometimes get off to a good start in the first set, then start thinking about what I am doing and we have a really close second set and usually don’t have time for a third. After the second set and at the end she said the predictable thing, namely that she played so badly that she didn’t even challenge me in terms of me getting angry and frustrated as I won so easily. But there was more going on than that. It was something to do with my controlled presence. Yes, she did appear to play very poorly but that has never stopped me from making hard work of things in the past! I managed to say good shot twice and, guess what, right at the end she banged a couple of balls about!!! On the behavioural higher ground, moi?!!! What is going on? The essence of it is that I totally trusted the process and didn’t feel I had to do anything except remember “Focussed, Controlled, Efficient” and to do that breathing exercise. So I also feel that there is loads more I can draw on if the going gets tougher. But basically, it’s only as tough as I make it. Regards, X