Imagery and Visualization in Sports

Imagery involves mentally rehearsing aspects of your performance. It allows you to practice in your mind before you perform, and to see yourself perform at your best. The skilled use of imagery helps you clear your mind of distractions, think positively about what you are going to do, and be fully prepared for your game.

Some elite athletes and sportsmen are able to use imagery without a great deal of effort, while others find that working through certain exercises is helpful in developing their skills.

Here are a few tips to improve imagery skills……

Try a few out – remember, skills develop quicker if you practice for short periods several times a week than a longer period once a week.

1. The time and place

Elite athletes who are good at imagery find it easy to apply these skills at any time and in any place, such as a playing field or noisy dressing room. However, when developing skills in imagery, it helps to start with a quiet place, free of distractions. Pick a time when you can be sure you won’t be interrupted for at least 20 minutes.

2. Get comfortable

When starting out, pick a place that you feel most comfortable. Some elite athletes like to lie on a bed with their eyes closed – others prefer a comfortable chair.

3. Start with simple scenes

When you are skilled at doing imagery, you can use it to re-create a whole range of scenes and events from your game. When starting out, keep it simple. Start with the simple exercise of imagining scenes that you know well, just as the view from your couch, or the dressing room at your home ground. Work on making these familiar scenes seem as vivid as possible. Later, as you become skilled, you can work on imagining more complex events, such as specific moments in your last game.

4. Use all the senses

Many people speak of visualisation, which is the process of “seeing” a scene or event in your mind. This is a part of imagery, but imagery is more effective if you can use all the senses, not just the visual sense. When imagining a familiar scene, imagine the sounds, smells and physical sensations that go along with the scene.

5. Take different perspectives

It is possible to imagine a scene from either an internal or external perspective. An internal perspective is when you imagine a scene as if you were looking through your own eyes: that is, like when you imagine the dressing room from the bench near your locker. An external perspective is taken when you imagine watching yourself in a scene: that is, like watching a video of your game. Both perspectives are good, though some people tend to find one easier than the other. Try imaging scenes from both perspectives and see what works for you.

6. Pay attention to detail

When doing imagery, make sure you pay attention to detail. If you are starting out, work on imagining details in simple scenes: pay attention to colours of objects, specific sounds and smells. As you become skilled, try to focus on details relevant to your game, such as the pattern of the defense, or the distance between players in a backline move.

7. Make it positive

As you become skilled at imagery, you will find that it provides more than just a means of remembering what happened in the past. You will be able to change or manipulate the images, to make the recalled event turn out a different way. For example, if you are a footballer who can vividly imagine missing a tackle in your last game, you will be able to use your imagery to replay the event and imagine yourself completing the tackle perfectly. This provides you with a way of rehearsing the correct execution of the skills of your game, and prepares you for a similar situation in your next game.

The above article comes from ASPN. Here’s the link to the article.

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