Using Imagery for Athletic Success!
Most athletes have heard of the term visualization, but did you know that visualizing success is just one aspect of imagery? While it is important to “see” in your mind your future athletic success, you also have many additional senses you can use to make the imagery experience that much more real, including your sense of touch, smell, sounds, and even body motion (like how it feels to follow through on a swing when you hit a baseball). Imagery is a vital skill when it comes to mental toughness, and sport psychologists regularly encourage athletes to develop imagery skills to help with confidence development (Sport Success 360).
Imagery helps athletes prepare for competition and is actually a very easy tool for you to develop and use. First, there is no wrong way to use imagery – some athletes like to think about their athletic success the night before games, while other athletes prefer spending a few moments thinking about what they need to do that day while dressing in the locker room. The truth is just about any way you can incorporate mental preparation will ultimately help your athletic performance.
The key with imagery is that by repeatedly “seeing” in your mind your future athletic success, you are actually strengthening your neural connections in your brain – leading to better muscle memory. Why is this important you might ask? The simple answer is that when you are competing the best mindset to be in is when your mind and body are in perfect synchrony – where you don’t have to “think” about what to do next, but instead simply react to the situation. Keep in mind in most sports you do not have an unlimited amount of time to think through situations, making muscle memory a very important aspect of athletic success.
Below are some quick tips to help you begin using imagery as part of your pre-game preparation:
- Using imagery regularly will help with muscle memory, which will help you with those important in-game reactions needed for athletic success
- Try to make your imagery as real as possible by using all your senses. For example, while you can “see” the field, can you “feel” the ball in your hands? What about when you run on the field – can you feel the grass beneath your feet? There’s also a type of imagery called kinesthetic imagery – this is when you can feel the movement in your body as you release the ball or follow through on a swing. Some athletes can even “hear” the sounds of their sport, or smell what it like when they compete (like the smell of freshly cut grass).
- Make it real, vivid, and positive. The more real the imagery experience the better, and when you can make it vivid and the outcomes positive that’s the best way to use imagery! Since you control the imagery experience, you never want to see yourself failing or coming up short – instead, always see success!
Check out the growing line of Sport Performance Assessment apps, including the new FOOTBALL app set to be released in September!