Steven Hooker is an Australian former pole-vaulter and Olympic gold medallist. His personal best, achieved in 2008, was 6.06 m making him the fourth-highest pole-vaulter in history.
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald in 2008 he recalled a time from 2001 to 2003 when he struggled to jump. He said, “I would run through a lot and not take off and it got to the point, by the end of it I thought about giving it in. It was so mentally draining going to training not knowing if I would be able to jump or not. I was throwing poles, cracking tantrums, I was in a miserable bad mood. Your whole life, it really brings it down when it’s really what you want to do and you can’t do it just because it’s not clicking in your brain. A lot of people’s careers end with this sort of thing but I just really worked hard. I tried a million different things to try and get around it.”
One thing that did work for him was hypnotism, as well as some visualisation techniques, conducted by his sports psychologist. He said, “It’s not like she had me walking around like acting like a chicken or anything. It was more getting really relaxed, so your subconscious comes to the forefront, and just having her run through scripts about what things I needed to focus on. I would talk to her at the start of the session and say, ‘I want to talk about lowering the pole vault in my last couple of steps and jumping off the ground.’ I would tell her the cues I wanted to work on, so she’d work it into the things that she was saying while I was under hypnosis. I felt like that kind of stuff was cool. The more you do it the more you realise pole vault is mental. Just having any sort of mental stimulation, where you are thinking deeply about what you’re doing, helps”.
Andre Agassi is an American former world No. 1 tennis player. He was an eight-time major champion and an Olympic gold medallist.
In a 2014 episode of author and investor Tim Ferriss’ podcast, Tony Robbins [Life Coach and Therapist] discusses him helping Andre Agassi with NLP and Hypnosis when in 1993 he fell from the world’s No. 1 spot and then suffered a wrist injury.
He tells Ferriss, “I sit down with him and I said, ‘Andre … think of a time you hit the tennis ball perfectly. I got him in that state … and I said to him, ‘You feel that?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Listen, are you thinking about your wrist?’ And he says, ‘No.’ And I said, ‘How the hell did you think you’d ever get back to that peak form by focusing on your wrist?'”
Ken Norton was an American professional Heavyweight boxer who competed from 1967 to 1981. He is best known for his fights with Muhammad Ali.
Norton first met Dr. Michael Dean, a hypnotherapist in 1970 but confessed, “I wasn’t prepared mentally for improved competition. I was cocky as hell.” However, after a surprise defeat to Jose Luis Garcia, a relative unknown at the time, he started to work with Dean. Dean began teaching him self-hypnosis and working with his trainer, Eddie Futch, to implant good boxing tactics in Norton’s subconscious mind using hypnosis.
For the first match against Ali in March1973, Muhammad Ali entered the ring as a 1–5 favourite versus Norton who was then rated as number 6 in the world. To most people’s amazement Norton won with a 12-round split decision and broke Ali’s jaw.
Stephen Collins is an Irish former professional middleweight boxer who competed from 1986 to 1997. He is the most successful Irish boxer in recent history, having held the middleweight and super-middleweight titles at the same time and never losing a fight as champion.
Speaking with Boxing News in 2017, Collins former sparring partner Glenn Catley said, “If he walked into the gym and said ‘Hi lads, what’s the craic?’ you would then take a deep breath and feel slightly relieved. This meant he hadn’t been doing his hypnotherapy. If, however, he parked up, entered the gym and walked past you without saying a word, it usually meant he had been doing his hypnotherapy. And that was when we all knew we would have to earn our money. On days like that he was quicker, sharper, stronger and almost impenetrable”.
In 1995 he fought Chris Eubank for the WBO world super middleweight title. In the weigh-in Collins mentioned to Eubank that he had been using hypnotherapy in his preparations. So concerned by this, it prompted Eubank to ask promotor Barry Hearn to cancel the bout. Hearn refused. Eubank lost the fight.
Michael Tyson is an American former professional heavyweight boxer who competed from 1985 to 2005. He was nicknamed “Iron Mike” and “Kid Dynamite” in the early part of his career and later on known as “The Baddest Man on the Planet”. He reigned as the undisputed world champion from 1987 to 1990.
In 2020 Tyson revealed that his trainer made him use hypnosis in his early career. His trainer, Cus D’Amato, organised for him to get the help of the late John Halpin (President of the American Hypnosis Society) in order for him to control his mind.
Speaking on Joe Rogan’s podcast, Tyson said: “Cus used to have me professionally hypnotised two or three times a day – before sparring, before training and before fights”. He went on to say about the experience, “You relax. You go in there and totally focus on blackness, nothing. They tell you, ‘You’re going to be a savage, an intelligent animal, you’re working, you’re going to do this, you’re going to be a ferocious animal, you’re going to fight both hands to the body, use your jab in ferocious fashion,’ They sinked all that into me when I was younger.”
Many bodybuilders and other sportsmen used the sports and peak performance coach / hypnotherapist Peter Siegel who died in 2009. In an Iron Man magazine article in 2004 it is said that his bodybuilder clients included Tom Platz, eight-time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney, Mike Christian, Boyer Coe, Andreas Cahling, Ray Mentzer and Dorian Yates.
Speaking in the same article Siegel talked about the use of psychologists and hypnotherapy he said, “Here’s the difference. First of all, psychologists only deal with the conscious mind, which is the state of mind you’re in right now. In that state of mind you have the ability to reason, process information, censor ideas, judge things and make value decisions based on interpretation of information; however, you don’t have that aspect available to you subconsciously. Hypnotherapists deal with the subconscious mind exclusively. Psychologists will try and reason with you, ask how you feel about something and then try to help you understand why a certain situation exists or why you have a problem or why a certain context is so prevalent in your life. And you’ll come to understand it, yet chances are you’ll keep on doing it. For example, how many smokers know how bad smoking is for them? Or how many alcoholics know how bad drinking is for them? Or gamblers? Yet they keep doing those things. How many obese people know how dangerous it is to keep eating high-fat and high-calorie foods, but they keep doing it. Why? Because they’re subconsciously programmed to continue doing those things”.
Felix Baumgartner is an Austrian skydiver, daredevil and Base jumper. He is known for jumping to Earth from a helium balloon in the stratosphere in October 2012. In doing so, he set world records for skydiving an estimated 39 km (24 mile), reaching an estimated top speed of 1,357km/h or 843 mph or 1.25 times the speed of sound and becoming the first person to break the sound barrier without vehicular power on his descent.
Speaking to the BBC in late 2012 he spoke about how much he struggled during his four years of training. “Having this suit on my body and feeling it, and the smell of the rubber, made me anxious,” he said. So much so that he took a year off training, returned to Austria and had hypnotherapy to help him prepare mentally for the challenge.
The Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox are an American professional baseball team based in Chicago. The White Sox compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League Central division.
In an article in the New York Times in 1983 it was reported that the they have hired a hypnotist so that they could raise batting averages enough to win at least five more games. Dr. Harvey Misel of St. Paul, Minnesota was chosen having worked with a number of Major League players. His method was to teach players ”concentration and relaxation for maximum performance and maximum consistency.”
In 1983 and 1984, Misel worked with baseball players Rod Carew and Mike Witt of the Los Angeles Angels, Bill Buckner of the Chicago Cubs and Floyd Bannister, Tom Paciorek and Richard Dotson of the Chicago White Sox. All the players showed improvement after hypnosis. Witt, for example, pitched two complete game victories after meeting with Misel in early 1984. Bannister was 2-9 when he began seeing Misel in midseason of 1983 but was able to take a 16-10 record into the playoffs.
The White Sox were in third place in the American League West at the time and went on to win their division title by 20 games. Sadly, the effects seemingly wore off as they were beaten by the Baltimore Orioles in the American League playoffs.