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Oklahoma State football: Why OSU hypnotizes its quarterbacks

Hypnotherapist Paige Wacker helped Brandon Weeden, other members of the team, turn positive thinking into positive results on the field.
By Gina Mizell Published: August 22, 2012

STILLWATER — “Breathe in through your nose, and breathe out, ‘Let go.'”

Brandon Weeden sat in an easy chair in a dimly lit room and heard those words nearly every week for two seasons.

He'd be told to visualize his troubles as clouds floating out of a window and positive thoughts coming in as sunlight draping the entire body. He might have become so relaxed that opening his eyes became impossible.

While quarterbacking Oklahoma State football to a 23-3 record, its first Big 12 championship and a BCS bowl win, Weeden was seeing a hypnotherapist.

Weeden believes his frequent visits to Paige Wacker, or HypnoPaige, helped him navigate life as a Big 12 starting quarterback. And many other Oklahoma State athletes and coaches agree, which is why Wacker has become a key figure in several teams' training regimens.

Training of the mind, that is.

“Playing quarterback, in particular, is a lot of pressure, a lot of stress,” Weeden said. “For me, it was more she relaxed me. She got the mental state of my game (right) as far visioning good things happening all the time, taking the bad thoughts out, whether it was throwing an interception or whatever it may be.

“I think it's just taking all the good thoughts and building on those.”

One could look at hypnotherapy as another example of an out-of-the-box tactic in Mike Gundy's program. But it's not an entirely uncommon practice. Tiger Woods' use of hypnosis since childhood has been well-documented. Legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson did not get the name the “Zen Master” purely because it was catchy.

At OSU, the football, women's soccer, baseball and softball teams have turned to Wacker for guidance.

“Visualization is something coaches have used forever,” Wacker said. “I just give them visualization on steroids, because I teach an athlete how to quiet his mind. A quiet mind is a focused mind, and a focused mind is a focused athlete.”

Associate athletic director for speed, strength and conditioning Rob Glass was the first to consider having football players work with HypnoPaige two years ago. Florida used a hypnotherapist with positive results during Glass' time there, and he hoped it would help reinforce the “Believe” theme the program had adopted that season.

Glass especially thought it would help Weeden, who was stepping into the starting quarterback job after Zac Robinson.

“If bad things happen, I need Brandon to carry himself with confidence and be able to let things go,” Glass remembers thinking then. “I just didn't know, because he had never been under center. Nobody knew.”

Weeden admits he was a bit reluctant to try it at first. He had the stereotypes in his head of a swinging pocket watch and being forced to cluck like a chicken.

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