Jimmy Connors used hypnosis-based training and therapy before winning the United States Open. Tennis greats Billie Jean King and Andre Agassi are both on the record as using hypnosis to help their games. Tennis hypnotherapy helps players to manage the multiple challenges they face during a match.
It is sometimes said that returning the hard serve in tennis is one of the most difficult challenges in all of sports. In this pressure-packed act, a player who is returning a serve must be alert, reactive, anticipating, and instinctive. Tennis, probably better than many other activities, epitomizes the cooperation between the conscious mind and what I call the Middle Mind (the subconscious). Hypnotherapy can first help a tennis player to relax. A tense tennis player is probably one who is counting too much on her “thinking” mind to succeed. While thinking about her moves or her structure, her feet become heavy, and the serve whizzes by. All the practice and the preparation are wasted in frozen thought. Hypnotherapy provides the capability to wed the super-focused mind with very relaxed and ultra-responsive agility. And that makes the game fun!
Let’s look at some of the goals that tennis hypnotherapy can help athletes achieve. With any performance activity, the objective of the hypnotherapist is to use sessions to build up the participant’s confidence. One of the amazing side effects of hypnotherapy is the encouragement and positive energy the client receives. Even if clients are seeking help with their tennis games, they will notice the overall positive impact in other areas of life, as well. Confidences is not just an in-game benefit. Confidence pervades the whole tennis regiment, from stretching to practice, to warm-ups to game-set-and-match, to match review and recovery.
In addition to confidence building, a leading benefit of hypnotherapy for the tennis player is the increased ability to focus under the twin burdens of pressure and fatigue. As an individual sport, tennis players are fully exposed. The success is individual, but so is the agony of defeat. The score evaluates the game, but so do the competitors and everyone else who is watching. All those evaluators build pressure. The pressure adds to the fatigue that comes with physical exertion of a most strenuous game. There is also a certain loss in concentration that occurs with fatigue. The ability to have the Middle Mind prepared to take over late in the match when the legs are rubbery and the conscious mind is weary will certainly lead to more winning shots on the court.
Hypnotherapy can also provide the player with new levels of endurance, both in the game and during practice. We all know we have a depth of reserve strength that we cannot seem to fully tap. Just as we will discuss in the section on marathon running, that additional push is available to the hypnotherapy client. Once a player has worked through and tapped into that endurance during game preparation, the strength and the ability to push through carries over into winning games.
Hypnotherapy builds up the bounce-back attitude needed for tennis players to exert the maximum amount of energy for the whole match. Players may make those embarrassing unforced errors and lose points, but a winner cannot dwell on a lost point. That bad shot is followed up with the next serve – right now! A successful player cannot let a lost point cost him the next point, as well. The attitude and ability to immediately reflect upon the cause of the lost point and add that information in a useful way to memory banks for spontaneous recall is entirely the function of the Middle Mind’s super-consciousness. Enhancing this ability is a function of hypnotherapy.
All the components of a successful game coalesce in the Middle Mind. The Middle Mind needs to be programmed with a player’s winning routine that becomes reaction, not thought. Anticipation of an opponent’s actions must be instinctive. Timing and automatic responses and strategies are housed in the Middle Mind, and all these elements are encapsulated in a player who is calm and relaxed.
When the complex demands resting on a tennis player are broken down and reviewed, the advantages that hypnotherapy produces become obvious.