Before they ran onto the field at Stanford last Saturday four UCLA players were hypnotized, with the approval of Coach Tommy Prothro, a longtime advocate of the scientific approach to football. For the previous two days, Halfback Lynn Hinshaw and Tackles Alan Claman, Hal Griffin and Vince Bischof had submitted themselves to psychophysiologicalautogenesis, or, as it is more simply called, alphagenics. The process is a form of self-hypnosis by tape recording. Its purpose is to train the mind to discipline the body in such a way as to avoid pain, relieve tension, gain self-confidence and improve one's self-image.
Each day after football practice, the players reported to a laboratory, where they listened to tape recordings. The first tape set the proper mood for audio reception of a learning process—"One, two, three ...I am at peace...my right arm is warm...my left arm is warm...the back of my neck is warm...my shoulders feel heavy...I feel no more tension.... " The second tape varied according to the athlete's personality, his position and what Prothro wanted him to learn.
"I don't want to single out any one man and divulge what I prescribed for him." said Prothro, "but an individual recording might go like this: 'You relax easily. You know your job. You know your assignments. You know what you want to do. You have the ability. Go out and move quickly, effortlessly, fluidly, sizing up the play as it develops, and explode into action in the execution of my assignment.' "
Clark Cameron, a social psychologist and former Bruin football manager, convinced Prothro that alphagenics might be useful to his players when he demonstrated that with the method he could lower the rate of his heartbeat from 42 to 37 beats per 30 seconds.
Cameron claims that when an athlete fumbles, it is not because of an inability to hold onto the ball, but because he fears—for a split second—that he will drop it.
The mental therapy is expensive—$400 per man—but, if it works, what price beating USC?