How to Improve Success in Sports With Mental Imagery
Is mental imagery a gimmick or a useful mental game skill to improve athletic performance?
In fact, many athletes have found a lot of success using visualization daily in their training regimes.
They mention several benefits that they received through visualization, including:
- More confidence
- Better focus
- Poise under pressure
- Greater consistency
- Improvement in the ability to focus
If so many successful athletes visualize, what exactly is holding you back from adopting this reliable performance enhancement strategy?
Most athletes use mental imagery naturally when they practice and compete. They just don’t call it this…
–Soccer players “see” the entire field in their minds.
–Golfers visualize a putt from behind the ball.
–Tennis players feel a solid serve as they step up to the line.
–Football players see the play in their heads.
Like these other players, you too can benefit from using mental imagery to your advantage. There are several ways to use it.
You can use it prior to practicing any skill. The key is to use a style that is comfortable for you…
I (Dr. Cohn) was working with a PGA Tour Pro at Bay Hill a few years ago and we started talking about routines and visualizing golf shots.
He said: “I can’t really see the shot in my mind, but I’ve heard so many players talking about it including Jack Nicklaus.”
“Why can’t I see a shot in my mind when I try so hard to and everyone else can?”
I said to the golfer, that’s not your preference of learning and performing…
See, not everyone can actually “visualize” their shots or see the path of the ball because some players are more kinesthetic or feel-oriented, which is not a bad thing.
So we started talking about what “images” he could use in his routine to take advantage of mental imagery.
If you’re predominately a “feel” player, you might think about good balance, tempo, or feeling free with your swing.
Try thinking back to a game or performance where you played well. Did you use certain types of images when competing? You can try to replicate the same images today.
But you certainly don’t want to force yourself into a style of imagery that doesn’t suit you.
It doesn’t matter if you are shooting free-throws or kicking field goals, the same concept applies: use the right images for your learning style.
It is good to keep in mind that many athletes are a combination of visual, kinesthetic, auditory, and tactile learning styles. So use the images that work for you!
The images in your mind prime your mind and body for success by imprinting successful outcomes in your mind.
Wizards center Ian Mahinmi puts it this way, “It [positive imaging] is like building muscle memory, but for your brain.” It’s really motor memory, but coaches refer to is as muscle memory.
Mental Imagery and Your Performance
1. Relax and get comfortable. This will help quiet your mind.
2. See and/or feel yourself performing how you want to in competition.
3. Use as many senses as possible to have a more realistic experience.
4. Rehearse only positive outcomes in the beginning.
5. Immerse yourself in the emotions you would experience when performing successfully.
Bonus tip: Make sure you tap into your dominant learning and performing style when using mental rehearsal. Are you primarily a visual learner or a feel-oriented learner?
You can improve the mental skill of visualization with practice. Use your imagination to program yourself for success!
Improve Mental Preparation in Sports!
If you’re an athlete who is frequently tight, tense, anxious, or wants to learn more about how to relax better under pressure, The Relaxed Athlete is for you!
Confidence and the ability to relax under adversity is what championship athletes do best.
It only takes one tense moment for you to lose a critical point, miss a putt, or lose a second off your lap time. You cannot afford to let distractions run wild in your mind and cause you to make errors at critical times in the game!
The Relaxed Athlete is a complete system to teach you how to relax like a champion and harness the power of relaxation every time you step on the playing field, court, track or course in practice and games!
This workbook and CD program consists of 2 audio CDs that include 14 days of focus boosting exercises and a simple to follow workbook that guides you through each of the 14 days, helps you apply strategies, and customizes the exercises to your personal focus challenges.
- How to quickly identify distractions that sabotage your concentration and how to quickly refocus after distractions.
- How to use pre-shot routines before shots or serves to help you be more task-focused instead of worrying about results.
- How to use pregame routines to help you harness the power of zone concentration before competition.
Learn more about one of our most popular CD programs in The Confident Athlete Series…
What are customers saying about our mental game programs?
“As a result of reading and implementing ‘The Confident Athlete Series,’ I am once again enjoying golf and letting bad shots roll off my shoulders and appreciating my good shots without attaching expectations. Thanks Dr. Cohn!”
~Stu Blasius, P.G.A. Golf Professional
“Your response to the throwing problem in front of the coach covers so many situations in life…that is the beauty of playing sports…the life learning experiences. Keep up the good work…you are the best mental coach.”
~Bill Brennan, sports parent