The Art and Science of Visualization!
Coaches, wouldn't it be nice for your athletes to experience high
competition confidence, consistently great performance, and a
shorter learning curve? Would you enjoy retaining your athletes
because they are having more fun and experiencing greater success?
When athletes have the opportunity to learn the Art and Science of
Visualization, they will be one step closer to realizing their
athletic dreams! Implementing visualization is fun and exciting
because it frequently produces immediate results.
The cornerstones of Mental Training for Sport are Visualization,
Concentration, Rituals, Recovery, Relaxation, and Self-Talk.
Each component is separate and unique and at the same time is an
intricate piece of a tight nit puzzle. Of all the components of
Sport Mental Training, visualization may be the most complex,
yet it is not difficult to learn. A little added dedication will be
needed. Approximately 5-15 minutes per day will be necessary
to master visualization; I assure you though, it will be time
well spent when your performance begins to reflect your new
mental training skill.
One distinct skill that separates humans from other animals is
our ability to develop intentions of images in our minds. When
practiced, visualizing mental images of a desired action can and
will improve consistency and accuracy of a physical action. The
most successful athletes rarely make a move without first accurately
and successfully visualizing the swing, jump, flip or pitch.
Champion athletes know the necessity of excellent visualization for
peak performance and increased mental toughness. Note: research
has also shown that negative visualization will likely impair
Much of visualization is kinesthetic (how something feels).
When a person physically attempts something active, several
areas of the brain are activated. Most of these parts of the brain
are activated in the same way whether the person is actually
performing the skill or simply imagining it. The brain can hardly
tell the difference, this is what makes visualization so powerful.
Skillful and technical learning is taking place when there is a physical
motion as well as during visualization. In fact, in sports such as
gymnastics and figure skating where the skills have many components,
it is nearly impossible to learn effectively or quickly without first having
a mental picture of yourself executing the skill. Here are a fewbenefits
of visualization. A person can visualize of a skill or technique in:
1. Very little time
2. With more consistent accuracy than with physical attempts
(with significantly less errors)
3. With increased repetition in a shorter time period
4. With no risk of injury
Spending time visualizing ingrains correct technique into the
neural pathways of the brain, which is how learning takes place
on or off the practicing field. This is what makes the art of
visualization so effective and efficient!
Example of the visualization / imagination at work: Think of a time
when you were home alone and heard a noise that scared the jeepers
out of you, but turned out to me nothing or perhaps the cat.
You were sure it was the boogieman. Your heart may have been
pounding out of your chest, your palms were sweaty, body shaking,
you may have been numb or felt paralyzed, or perhaps you became totally alert.
All because of a mentally visualized picture! The mind is your strongest and
most powerful "muscle". You heard a noise, imagined something
frightening and your body produced a fear-result. Did your body
know the difference between what was real and what was imagined?
The same is true when visualizing for sport (or for career). Visualization
tricks the mind and body into believing you have just completed 20
perfect golf putts or 15 perfect pitches. The more often you visualize a
desired process with a desired result the more likely and quickly this
result will show up in the physical practice.
Top 4 tips for implementing visualization:
1. When you first begin to use visualization, try to imagine simple
and familiar objects (such as a piece of fruit or your favorite
book), notice as much detail as possible. Next, move on to slightly more
complex objects and so on. Finally, when you feel you are ready, begin
imagining yourself executing movements that you have already mastered.
Then move to more difficult skills, then on to new skills. Keep in mind the
more detail, and the more vivid the colors the better! Note: not everyone can
easily and automatically visualize in color or in great detail or with
accuracy, but stay with it, it is worth it. If you continue to struggle after
2 or 3 weeks, especially if your are making a lot of mistakes during your
visualization, seek out a Mental Toughness Coach, visualization is
not always as easy as it seems.
2. Watching video of yourself and others who you want to emulate
can speed the learning curve of visualization (there are many other
benefits to watching video as well). After watching another athlete
do what you want to do, visualize yourself as this other person. See
and feel in your mind's eye how it is to move just like the person
you want to emulate. A slight variation of this technique is while you
are physically practicing, visualize someone directly in front of you
doing exactly what you want to be doing and mimic his/her behavior.
3. Another tip for creating peak performance and achieving mental
toughness through visualization is spending time each week imagining
the achievement of your weekly, monthly and year end goals.
Imagine how you will feel, how others will feel about you, what you
will be wearing, what you will be saying, where you will be standing
and so forth. Add as much detail as possible. Note: This exercise
should not be done while you are actually practicing or competing.
While this exercise has great benefits, like tricking your brain
into thinking you have achieved this goal time and time again. It is
to keep your mind in the present moment process when you are physically
practicing or in competition.
4. When you are visualizing yourself practice or compete, pay
attention to your natural style. Do you see yourself as if through a video
camera or as if you are right there inside of yourself, do you have birds
eye view or that of a worm? Each individual has a natural style, but I
recommend practicing all the views. Each view will give a different and
There are numerous tips and techniques for learning and implementing
visualization. I have shared only a few! Here are three very
important keys to remember.
Always try to imagine your images in as much detail
as possible, (the more detail the more real the experience is for
the mind and body). Seek the help of a professional mental toughness
coach if you are struggling, making a lot of mental mistakes, or not
seeing the results you had anticipated; (or if you want to learn all of the
mental toughness tools that will raise your level of performance beyond
anything you could imagine!). And finally, if you practice these
visualization techniques 5-7 days per week, you will see a noticeable
difference in practice and performance.
"The man who has no imagination has no wings."
Momentum Performance Development is a personal and professional
coaching company. When you commit to one of our programs,
our team of experts in sport, career, and family performance
development will assist in exponentially changing your life for
the better. This means high performance success for you. We
are committed to your results!
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