The Effects of Mental Imagery on Athletic Performance


Many sports such as golf, tennis and skating, not only require physical skills, but a strong mental game as well. Most coaches preach the line that sports are 90% mental and only 10% physical. Especially in sports where hundredths of a second or tenths of an inch separate the champions from the mediocre athletes, an extra edge can be extremely crucial. Hence, numerous athletes are turning towards mental imagery to take their game to the next level. Different uses of imagery in sport include: mental practice of specific performance skills, improving confidence and positive thinking, problem solving, controlling arousal and anxiety, performance review and analysis, preparation for performance, and maintaining mental freshness during injury.

After reading through numerous studies……

……visual imagery seems somewhat promising and beneficial. Although it is not as beneficial as physical practice, visual imagery fairs better than no practice at all. Hence, a program with physical practice combined with mental training seems to be the best method. Virtually all of the studies show that mental training improves motor skills. More recently a lot of studies go even further and prove that visual imagery can improve various skills related to sports in actual field contexts. Visual imagery seems to be beneficial to anyone who wants to improve at their sport. Whether you are a recreational athlete or a professional does not matter. The benefits of mental imagery have proved successful at any level. So if you are a professional looking to break into the top, or a club player who simply wishes to defeat his/her friend, I recommend incorporated mental imagery along with physical practice. Not only can mental imagery improve specific motor skills but it also seems to enhance motivation, mental toughness and confidence, all which will help elevate your level of play.

The above paragraphs are taken from a research paper by Annie Plessinger.

2 thoughts on “The Effects of Mental Imagery on Athletic Performance

  • August 11, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    My comment is this; I just sarted to read some of this mental imagery, and turned my son on to it,just moments ago. My son is a football player at Kent State University, he is the center, #55, named Chris. We both are a little bit more polished in mental awarness, but both Chris and I have so much to learn on this mental imagery, That him and I are excited to get started, I told him it should totally help in his football. So I guess I can take it next, but really don’t know how to begin, please can you help me? Thanking you in advance.

    • August 13, 2010 at 9:40 am

      Dear Loraine – Thanks so much for the vine. There are so many ways to go with this querie – I think the best thing I can do is send you and Chris to some of the archived content we’ve published that will fill in some of the blanks you might have about imagery and visualization work. Should you want to discuss some of these things further – you can reach me directly by email: Okay, the most important work we’ve done in this area that isn’t related to recovery from injury – is a series of articles put together by a British sport psychologist, David Smith, PhD. It is a must read to start – here is the link: (THIS IS THE FIRST OF A FIVE PART SERIES OF ARTICLES ON A RESEARCHED AND TESTED FORM OF VISUALIZATION THAT FOCUSED ON SKILL IMPROVEMENT, STRENGTH TRAINING AND ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE) Thanks for keeping in contact and for passing “Podium” on to your friends.
      Stephen Walker, PhD


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