How Imagery Makes You A More Successful Athlete

Julianne Eppley, one of our Power Source coaches, has received a Masters degree in Sports Psychology. One of the topics Julianne studied that she feels would be beneficial for all athletes is the use of imagery.
The following comes from Coach Julianne.
Michael Phelps, Lindsey Vonn, Larry Bird, Phil Mickelson - what do all of these people have in common?
Aside from being highly successful professional athletes, they all utilize mental skills training, specifically imagery, in their practice.
While physical practice is important, mental preparation is what gives athletes a leg up on their competition.
Imagery is defined by Vealy & Forlenza as, “...using one’s senses to recreate or create an experience in the mind”. Many athletes already do this, but not necessarily in a productive way.
It’s easy to dwell on mistakes or errors that occurred during past performances and play these scenarios over in our minds. Using this time to instead mentally practice skills and develop responses to various challenges is what will help you grow from those mistakes, rather than repeat them.
Research has shown that mentally rehearsing skills in your mind is an excellent addition to physical practice.
Proper, vivid imagery even sends the same signals in your brain that physical practice would! This allows you to refine your skills without having to move through the motions or be in the gym/on the playing field.
Additionally, imagery allows you to plan for various situations and possible challenges. How will you react to a rowdy crowd or bad weather?
Incorporate elements like this into your imagery and develop your response. Then, when it is actually happening, you’ll already be prepared.
Good, quality imagery is both controllable and vivid.
Controllable means you are able to visualize what you intend to, and manipulate the images as you see fit. Vividness is the amount of detail, which can be enhanced by incorporating all five senses into your imagery.
Sight and feeling may seem obvious, but the more comprehensive, the better.
What do you hear when you’re on the court or the field?
What do you smell, or even taste?
Like any skill, imagery takes time and practice.
Focusing on these two aspects, controllability and vividness, will help enhance your imagery skills.
Aside from rehearsing skills outside of physical practice and preparing for game day scenarios, imagery can be used just before competition to bring you to the right energy level.
Some athletes use visualization to ‘psych up’ before competition, others use it to dial in their focus and reduce anxiety.
Larry Bird was one of these athletes who utilized imagery before games:
"People have noticed that during the national anthem at home games I am always looking up to the Boston Garden ceiling. The thing I look at up there are our championship flags. I focus on the three championships my teams have won and I always look at them in order. I start at 1981, move to 1984 and shift over to 1986.
I try to capture how I felt when we won each one and play
the championship through my mind. It doesn’t take very long to zip through that."
Overall, imagery is a great addition to any training program. It builds self confidence, motivation, and focus while reducing anxiety.
It may take some time to become proficient in the vividness and controllability of your imagery, but regular practice will ultimately make you a better athlete!
Start small - next time you practice a skill, take a second and close your eyes afterwards, replaying the movement in your mind.
Over time you will work your way up to more complex images and scenarios - just like the pros!

Build Your Skills One Step At A Time

Request information

Request Information Now!

Personal Training near Leominster

Let us e-mail you this Free Report