Use anchoring for sport

posted in: NLP techniques | 0

Anchoring is a technique for managing state. Whilst arguably we might all want this technique as part of our skill set, sports people need it in order to ensure they can control they performance. Imagine having an attack of nerves just before a big match or being distracted just as you need to make a crucial put. Sportsmen and women need a whole range of states at their disposal over the course of an event or training. Anchoring the way they access these states.

“Sports people can often get themselves into ‘A right state’ before or during a big match or event. It is far more useful to be in ‘THE right state’. Jeremy Lazarus

“This can be done for all players. It can be done for the whole team. Do you think Harry Redknapp miraculously saved Portsmouth from certain relegation in 2004 by telling them about all their bad performances? He did not. He called them “fantastic”, every time he could. He reminded players how good they were.  That is anchoring. That is coaching. And that is motivation.” Ray Power

“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” Muhammad Ali



Here’s how to anchor for sport. Firstly find a quiet place to do this exercise because you need to establish your anchor before you need to use it rather than when you are already feeling anxious or stressed. Decide on what you want your anchor to be. The anchor is the thing that you will think of to remind yourself of the state you want to be in. We set up an association between the anchor and the state so that when you use the anchor you get the state. It can be an image in your head, words you say to yourself, an action such as squeezing your earlobe or a ‘thumbs up’ sign. Once you’ve decided what it will be, do it a few times so it becomes a natural movement. Remember that you’ll need to use your anchor while you’re playing your sport so make sure it will be possible. For example, if you are a right handed tennis player you need to use your left hand for the anchor action.

anchoring in sport

Now think about that great experience, the time you played sensationally well, the time everything came together in your performance. Get into that state by seeing it in your mind and hearing the sounds, seeing what you were seeing then, feeling everything you felt. When you are really in the state, use your anchor. Keep it there whether it’s a picture in your mind, a word you’re saying or an action until the feeling of being in that state subsides. When it does, take away the anchor because you only want the anchor in place as you are in the state so only the strongest positive state is associated with the anchor.

It’s a good idea to break state after doing this. That means you get up, walk around a bit and relax because it can be quite intense when you’re conjuring up the experience and anchoring it when you are first learning to do it. Repeat this a couple of times using other examples and experiences of great shots, great serves, hits, drives or whatever your sport needs, each time using the anchor at the strongest point.

The best way to test that it works is to use it! It could be that you need different states for different aspects of your game or sport so you’ll need to find different anchors for each. After all, the state you want for tackling in rugby is likely to be different than for scoring a conversion or a try and the same would be true for other sports. Notice Johnny Wilkinson for example how he adopts a particular stance before he takes a penalty kick. He knows that when he does this he will get his kicks on target.

In sport you can anchor thoughts in players by reminding them of past experiences, a particular game, save, dribble, training session when they excelled. Sports coaches have the power and influence to create positive anchors but equally they can unwittingly create negative ones just as you can for yourself.

Reminding yourself of missed penalties, poor tackles, misplaced passes can ruin an otherwise successful performance. For example, if you remember that last time you played Team X you missed a crucial goal or you missed a pass, you have anchored the team negatively and will find it hard to overcome this unconscious anchor.

Instead of dwelling on negative performance, use anchoring to turn your performance around. Anchor that great save, that amazing goal, that fabulous pass.

You can build up some great experiences as you play by noticing the good strokes or the good passes and shots, as you do something well, log it for later when you can use it with your anchor. In this way you make your anchor stronger so that when you need to use it you have a huge store of great experiences backing it up.

Some players have ‘lucky’ charms, something special they wear or something they do before they go on court. They may have a lucky mascot in their bag or someone special in the audience who is their ‘lucky’ charm. These are all unconscious anchors. By performing a conscious anchoring process we do away with luck and equip ourselves with something we have access to wherever we are and isn’t dependent on something or someone else.



Anchoring enables us to consciously associate a great resourceful state using an action, image or sound that we can apply whenever we need the state. This can overcome our unconscious negative anchors that get in the way of sports success and affect our state and performance. Mind and body are one. By increasing our awareness of how each affects the other we increase our control and manage our behaviour by giving ourselves choices and flexibility. The person with the most flexibility controls the system.

This is an extract from ‘Secrets of the NLP Masters by Judy Bartkowiak. You can buy your copy on Amazon or a signed copy from the author here

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Do you have a question about anchoring or how to use NLP to help your sports performance?