Lippincott Uses Psychological Approach To Game

by Thomas Ransom, Media Services Student Intern

Before he steps onto the football field, Luke Lippincott follows a constant ritual that some his teammates might find out of the ordinary.

He watches film from practices and games, closes his eyes and then visualizes the offensive line opening a hole for him to break past the defenders. Seconds later, he finds himself across the goal line after a perfectly executed play.

But he does it again, repetitively. His memory muscles sync with the action so when he’s out on the field, that one second of hesitation is gone. Instead of being stopped in the backfield, he’s dancing his way into the end zone.

Lippincott’s psychological approach to the game has made him a better running back at Nevada. The hypnosis-related activity didn’t begin with football.

“We needed a catcher on our little league team and I was afraid to catch. I didn’t want to catch,” Lippincott said. “The balls were coming at me fast, and my dad (Brian) just sat me down and said I just want you to imagine that you’re behind home plate. You have all your gear on and you’re protected. The ball comes in and you catch it and you’re perfectly fine.’”

Lippincott ranks first in the Western Athletic Conference and 20th in the country in rushing, averaging 115 yards per game. He said the hypnotism isn’t like the stereotype seen on TV.

“It wasn’t like follow the shiny object,’” Lippincott said. “My dad just kind of talked me through it with a calm voice and that’s how he hypnotized me. I used those techniques to calm me down and help me visualize what to do in a game.”

His father used visualization to enhance his son’s sports performance, helping him become a dynamic force on the ground. Lippincott and his two siblings were the “guinea pigs” of their father’s experiment for his doctorate dissertation.

“Of all three of them, he was the most hypnotizable,” said Brian, the director of the psychology department at John F. Kennedy University. “I practiced with my own kids when Luke was 7 or 8. I found out that he really responded.”

Brian said the hypnosis involved his son imagining running the ball correctly and then doing the motions while his body rotates between relaxation and intensity for 10 seconds at a time. The technique, progressive muscle relaxation, is generally used for people with anxiety.

“The key thing in football is to relax at a moderate level,” Brian said. “Sometimes, people get too pumped up. You have to get that happy medium to be aggressive and not make those mistakes.”

With a 6-6 record and a berth to the New Mexico Bowl, the Wolf Pack offense has depended on Lippincott’s running attack coupled with quarterback Colin Kaepernick dicing the opponent’s defense. No matter who Nevada faces, Luke said the visualization process remains the same.

“It’s more of me visualizing myself,” said Luke, a psychology major. “When I watch film and I get tackled, I visualize myself breaking that tackle and making a move on the guy to further the run.”

Although it may be rare in college football, professionals use visualization continuously.


“It’s really stuff like that and just watching professional running backs like Adrian Peterson, for example, and visualizing myself making those moves,” Lippincott said. “It’s very common in professionals and that’s why I like it. I’ve actually been talking to a lot of players.”


Brian said because of the fast action and split-second decision making, it becomes difficult for the brain to act just as fast. Many professional athletes use the same routine to train their memory muscles.

The Palma High (Salinas, Calif.) grad, though, admits he didn’t start adapting this method until he started playing for Nevada. He noticed a difference after his first season and watched film during the time he spent injured on the sidelines.

“I really didn’t watch much film, and my dad helped me with the technique of watching myself do it and then closing my eyes and visualizing me breaking the tackles,” Luke said of his first season. “I injured myself my first year playing here, so I just sat and watched a lot of tape and visualize practice.”

Since then, the rising back has improved immensely and still has one year of eligibility after this season.

Nevada coach Chris Ault said the pistol offense presents a strong, consistent running game, which has helped Luke this year after he switched from safety two years ago.

“He was in the right system,” Ault said when Luke switched to running back. “Our offense has always been an offense that our running backs have had success in. If they run the ball and run hard, they’re going to gain a lot of yardage.”

Luke’s father enjoys his son applying the techniques this year.

“He loves it and he was always happy that I was following in his footsteps by being a psychology major,” Luke said. “He’s definitely proud of me.”

It’s almost like a dream come true for Brian watching his son succeed using his father’s methods.

“It really does make me proud. As a dad, I pinch myself,” Brian said. “To me, he’s still my little boy.”

Several players have been drawn by Luke’s methods. He hopes more of the team will adapt the visualization and hypnotism techniques to become better and more-focused.

“A couple of them ask some questions about it,” he said. “They’re kind of intrigued by it. It’s starting to gain more interest in players and I think next year more people will be doing it.”

With the Pack against the Lobos, Luke will get one more chance to dazzle another defense in front of his most devoted fan, his dad.




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