H. Scott Greer and Ruth Engs. 1986. Use of progressive relaxation and hypnosis to increase tennis skill learning. Perceptual and Motor Skills 63, 161-162.
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H. Scott Greer and Ruth Engs
Indiana University

Summary - Tennis classes over 1 yr. (N = 90) received mental training (relaxation or hypnosis) and did not perform better than a control group given the usual lecture and demonstration.

Some reports (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) have suggested that performance can be improved through the systematic practice of self-hypnosis or relaxation training combined with visual imagery; however, this phenomenon has not been fully explored. The purpose of the present investigation was to determine the effectiveness of two training programs (progressive relaxation and hypnosis) on the ability of beginning tennis students to learn basic tennis skills.

Over 1 yr. a total of 90 subjects in beginning tennis classes were assigned equally to one of three conditions, progressive relaxation, hypnosis, and a control. All students were initially given a tennis-rally test for 3 min. to obtain a pretest score. At the first class meeting, the relaxation group was taken through a progressive relaxation program, the hypnosis group was instructed in a classic method ("walking down stairs") of hypnotic induction, and the control group was presented a lecture on tennis. After the experimental groups had completed the instruction in relaxation or hypnosis, they were read the same script which asked them to visualize the forehand and backhand drives used in the rally test. The control group had the same material concerning the ground strokes delivered to them as part of their lecture. Each group was then given the opportunity through tennis drills to practice the ground strokes for the remainder of the class period. This procedure was repeated every other class period for 4 wk. Then, the rally test was repeated to obtain a posttest score.

The mean for all groups on the pretest measure was 51.6 (SD = 17.7). The posttest mean for all groups was 60.3 (SD = 19.5). This difference between the pre- and posttest scores for combined groups was significant (F1,86 = 62.98, p < .05). The differences among conditions were also analyzed by analysis of covariance. The group means and standard deviations were: for Relaxation/Pretest 51.1 and 17.2, for Relaxation/Posttest 59.5 and 20.5, for Hypnosis/Pretest 51.6 and 17.9, for Hypnosis/Posttest 62.0 and 19.5, for Control/Pretest 51.6 and 18.6 for Control/Posttest 59.1 and 18.9. The differences among groups were nonsignificant.


It was concluded that progressive relaxation and hypnosis along with instructions for mentally practicing tennis strokes through visualization was no more effective than the traditional instruction through explanation and demonstration. The use of these mental training techniques did not detract from the learning process, however, as scores for all groups improved over 4 wk. The use of mental training techniques in recent years for improving skill performance has become more widespread. Based upon present findings, however, before these techniques are introduced wholesale into athletic or physical education programs, it is recommended that further empirical testing of their effectiveness be done.


1. CRATTY, B. J. (1984) Psychological preparation and athletic excellence. Ithaca, NY: Mouvement.

2. GAURON, E. F. (1984) Mental training for peak performance. Lansing, NY: Sport Science Assoc.

3. HADLEY, J., & STAUDACHER, C. (1985) Hypnosis for change. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

4. LECRON, L. M. (1964) Self-hypnotism. New York: New American Library.

5. NIDEFFER, R. M. (1985) Athletes' guide to mental training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Accepted May 2, 1986.


1Request reprints from D. H. Scott Greer, Dept. of Physical Education, HPER Building, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405.