You (or your athletes) probably use mental rehearsal everyday to help you perform or learn new skills, whether you are aware of it or not.
Mental game coaches simply structure mental rehearsal for athletes to help athletes get the most out of it.
I feel that many mental game experts over emphasis the use of mental rehearsal as the Holy Grail in performance enhancement.
For example, many years ago a mental coach named Chuck Hogan based his entire program on using mental imagery.
I believe you or your athletes can benefit from visualization and rehearsal, but it’s a small part of my mental training programs with athletes.
Mental rehearsal, also referred to as imagery, guided imagery, mental practice, or visualization, is the covert rehearsal of a task with no physical movement.
If you see, feel or imagine a shot, pass, pitch, or routine before you perform the physical movement, you are using mental rehearsal or visualization.
You probably imagine or rehearse your performance instinctively without even thinking about it…
When I was an athlete in high school and in college, I would naturally “rehearse,” or see the play in my mind before execution. My coach did not tell me I should do this or how to do it.
Understand that sports psychologists today teach athletes many mental skills beyond visualization and goal setting. However, I find it does apply in certain circumstances…
How can you use mental imagery to help you perform?
There are three main uses of this skill when I work with athletes:
1. Mental preparation for a self-paced task. The most common use is for athletes who perform stop-and-go sports, such as golfers, tennis players, and baseball players. For example, a pitcher should have a clear mental image of the pitch he or she wants to throw prior to execution.
2. Mental imagery for strategy rehearsal or race plan. Another important use is to review a game plan or strategy prior to competition. For example, I ask my motocross racers to do their “mental laps” prior to the start of the race. I also ask my gymnasts or skaters to mentally review their routines prior to competition.
3. Guided mental imagery programs. Another use of mental rehearsal is when developing custom imagery programs for my athletes. Here, you would develop a script that would help you learn or ingrain a mental skill, such as how to refocus when distraction or how to let go of mistakes. The script would be recorded for you and thus becomes a type of guided imagery.
Keep in mind that every athlete is different in how you use and experience mental imagery.
You’ll want to use your dominant learning style when you use imagery, such as visual or feeling-oriented images.
You’ll want to rehearse your skills in real time and make it first person, just like you are actually performing.
And of course, you want to control the mental movies in your head–you don’t want to see a bad result in your mind before you execute a pitch, shot, or routine.
Mental imagery is important to your overall mental training plan, but should be a small part of the total package.
Your Mental Coach,
Dr. Patrick Cohn
p.s. If you’ve mastered imagery and want to move forward with your mental training, check out The Confidence Athlete CD programs:
p.p.s. If you’re a coach, and want to start a mental training program with your athletes, check out my latest and greatest program, Athlete’s Mental Edge workbook system:
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~Julia Dreyer, National Champion Equestrian
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“I appreciate the advice to parents as to how to help your child become more mentally resilient to bullying in sports. The specific advice and scenarios are extremely helpful for any child on a team and very helpful in guiding parents, coaches and administrators in how to deal with bullying in sports. I cannot thank you enough for your input, and I am so reassured to know that there are people like you who are writing articles and doing interviews on such timely and important matters.”
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~Marc D. Anderson, LCSW, MGCP, Mental Game Coach
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~Tony Melito, MGCP