Neuro Linguistic Programming: How NLP improves sports performance

Jul 15, 2021 BY Mark Barber

In this article I discuss how NLP improves sports performance. From grassroots level to professional sports, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is used in the pursuit of high performance and gaining the edge over competitors.

motocross - how NLP is used in sports performance - royalty free image from Pixabay

The world of sport has changed dramatically over the last 20 years as science plays an ever-greater role. Sport is now so intense that every part of it is now segmented, analysed, and data mined to gain formulas and tactics for improving the performance of teams, athletes and coaches.

But both traditional and adventure sports athletes are now looking for further gains. They are turning inward to understand the science of the mind to gain greater personal development in their pursuit of perfection.

From football to motocross to snowboarding and everything in-between, Neuro Linguistic Programming is widely used to improve sports performance and coaching. But what actually is NLP?

What is Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)?

Created in the 70’s by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, NLP is the science of modelling excellence and is known as the language of the mind. It started out as a powerful tool for therapists to have greater communication skills to gain better rapport with their clients.

cycling - how NLP is used in sports performance pxhere royalty free image

NLP enables therapists to make swift changes to the client’s subconscious for rapid and long-lasting results. The popularity of NLP grew, and it started to be used for business applications.

The famous Wolf of Wall Street (Jordan Belfort) used NLP techniques to great effect. His stock brokering team used NLP to help persuade potential clients to part with their money. It is also used on team building exercises, to help different departments to understand each other and to improve communication.

NLP is a forever evolving landscape. But with an ideology in the art of excellence, it is the perfect toolset for the modern world of sport.

How NLP Improves Sports Performance

Footballers use NLP techniques to train their mind in preparation for matches and penalties. Snowboarders, surfers, and skateboarders do the same before dropping in or catching that wave. Golfers use NLP to perfect their swing.

For athletes it is about freeing themselves from the limitations that have been holding them back.

How NLP improves sports performance - Golfer - royalty free from PixaBay

NLP Mirroring and Mental Rehearsal techniques

If you think about it, the best way to achieve what the person you most admire and strive to become has achieved is to mirror exactly what they do!

For example, if you wanted to mirror a professional footballer, you need to mirror all that they do. Not just their skills on the football field, but also their sleep patterns, their morning routine, what they eat, their mannerisms and how they talk, etc. It is then about applying this fountain of knowledge to your own life.

If you are a snowboarder dropping in for a big air jump, you play in your mind every bit of the run of how you want it to be. Paying attention to every minute detail in your mind to gain perfection it prepares you for the real thing.

Using Neuro Linguistic Programming for snowboarding royalty free pxfuel royalty free image

When using NLP you visualise what you want to achieve in your mind intensifying all the senses. You make colours more vivid, sounds such as voices are louder, and smells like freshly cut grass more noticeable. In your mind you even imagine touch, such as the feel of the baton in your hands as it is handed over to you in a relay race.

This is called mental rehearsal and if learnt correctly, can be immensely powerful. For example golfers of all levels can fine tune their swing using these NLP techniques.

Don’t believe us? Just watch professional footballers about to take a penalty or free kick. Look carefully and you will notice they are going through their own mind rehearsal before they kick the ball.

How NLP improves sports performance - football penalty - royalty free from PixaBay

NLP Anchoring to Improve Sports Performance

Another powerful NLP technique to improve sports performance is anchoring. This is when a positive emotional state from a past experience is captured, intensified, and then programmed to be triggered at any time when needed.

Anchored states are created and triggered naturally all through our lives. I am sure that you have experienced a smell that has suddenly taken you back to a time in your past with a feeling of nostalgia. This may be memories of your first date, or the smell of oil and timber from your granddad’s shed.

Quite often a nostalgic state is triggered by sound such as a song. Powerful emotions can instantly be stirred up.

skateboarder - skateboarding - skatepark using Neuro Linguistic Programming royalty free pxhere image

Anchoring can be used to elicit any state such as happiness. But to improve sports performance through Neuro Linguistic Programming it would be used for triggering confidence, focus and calmness.

NLP coupled with hypnotherapy is also an effective way for helping with stress and anxiety. Competitive sport is an incredibly stressful environment, especially for youngsters.

If pushed too hard, burn out is inevitable with stress and anxiety easily spiralling out of control often with dire consequences. To be focused on mental health and well-being is just as important as diet, fitness, and training.

How Neuro Linguistic Programming is used for sports performance - athletes - royalty free pic from pixalbay

Have you had any experience with using NLP for sports performance? We would love to know what you think?

For more information on Neuro Linguistic Programming and how NLP improves sports performance, go to


One response to “Neuro Linguistic Programming: How NLP improves sports performance”

  1. I have used NLP technique in Rowing sports, Archery with encouraging results. I am ready for more athletes to train .
    Took 20 minutes to remove ,fears , anxiety etc permanently. Aerobic steps,eye exercises, mental gym & imagery, visualisation meditation to take on hypnotic state to reprogram their brain.
    All the athletes at hypnotic states their Brain waves or neural pathways are entraind applying certain wavelengths frequencies,
    ( following tuning forks physics law).

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