February 5, 2009

Coach told to stop hypnotizing team

ST. JOHN, Kan. A high school basketball coach has been told he can't hypnotize his players anymore because it sends the wrong message to other schools and could get the students hooked on hypnosis.

The St. John High School boys team the same team that won state two years ago and finished second last year was just 7-6 through last week when coach Clint Kinnamon decided to bring in a hypnotist.

He chose Carl Feril, a Church of Christ minister who also is a clinical family and marriage therapist.

Letters were sent to parents asking them to sign permission slips for their sons to participate in the hypnosis sessions. One of those parents was school board member Mitch Minnis, who signed the slip.

"My son says, 'Dad, it's pretty cool. It's hypnotism!' We saw it as more of helping the kids with focus and concentration," he said. "Ninety-nine percent of the boys bought into it."

He said he wasn't concerned because the hypnosis wasn't mandatory. Most of the members of the Class 1A team underwent two 45-minute sessions.

"If they were blindfolding kids and making them walk off the south pier of town, I might be concerned," Minnis said. "But I think this is a novel approach and it might even help them do good in school work if they know what buttons to push to concentrate."

But on Monday night, the St. John School Board voted to end the hypnosis sessions.

"It won't be going on any more at school," said superintendent James Kenworthy. "If parents want their child to do that, they can contact the licensed therapist on their own."

Kenworthy said he has requested a transcript of the session, and is concerned that hypnotizing students sends the wrong message.

"At the high school level, it's not appropriate," he said. "We are trying to get kids to understand who they are and what they are. It may give kids a mixed message if you can't do it on your own."

School Board member Merlin Spare, who also coaches cross country and track at nearby Stafford, said he refused to sign the paper for his son, who is on the team.

"I am a coach myself and I try to teach kids to be visionary and believe in what they are doing," Spare said. "I think a person who is solid on their feet doesn't have to do this. I think it is something a person could rely on and become hooked to."

University of Kansas sports psychologist Scott Ward said hypnosis isn't believed to be very effective in sports, and he doesn't encourage anyone to use it.

"When I think of hypnotism I think of someone going into a comedy club and being hypnotized to cluck like a chicken," Ward said. "It's not used in sports with the leading athletes."

The Kansas State High School Activities Association has no rules regarding hypnosis.

The night after the board ordered the hypnosis to stop, St. John beat Western Plains 53-43 in Ransom.

Before the game, Western Plains assistant coach Jerod Horchem said he wasn't concerned that his team's opponents had used hypnotism. He noted that it doesn't matter what motivational method is used if it brings a team together.

"If we did something like that we'd probably hypnotize our guys, they'd fall asleep and never wake up," Horchem said. "But if that would make them shoot better and I could do that in the next 10 minutes, then get me a watch on a string."

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