What is Sports Imagery?
Sport Imagery is the mental rehearsal or visualization to improve athletic performance. Performing imagery can be done in a variety of ways based on what is most effective for the athlete.
The two most common methods to use imagery are an internal and external perspective. An internal perspective allows the athlete to imagine the situation from their own point of view, first person. An external perspective is from the point of view of a spectator, teammate, or as if you were watching yourself on TV. Both internal and external perspectives are useful and productive forms of imagery. Detail during each of these perspectives is what makes the imagery effective. The athlete must be able to picture every aspect of the scenario that they are creating. This must include sounds, smells, and emotions in addition to the actual movements, body positions and actions. The use of imagery is most effective when it is in high detail, uses all your senses, and has positive focus.
How to practice imagery
When practicing imagery it is important to stay simple at first, then continue to progress in complexity. It will take practice to develop this skill, so begin with small ideas until you can progress to complex scenarios. When beginning, it may be beneficial for the athlete to only practice their imagery in a calm, relaxed, quiet environment. It is important to have control over the events in the image to maintain its positive focus. Once the use of imagery is mastered it is often applied immediately prior to the event that is being pictured. This will allow you to transfer that scenario to a real time performance.
What are the benefits of using sports imagery?
Train Anywhere: Using imagery allows an athlete to train when training isn’t possible. Visualizing the weight they want to lift, the pitch they want to throw, or the putt they want to make.
Motivation: Imagery can also help to maintain motivation. Picturing the high level of performance you want to reach helps to set goals and stay motivated through the difficult physical aspects of achieving them.
Overcome Obstacles: The use of imagery also allows athletes to regulate anxiety and conquer the weaknesses of their game. Visualizing the ability to hit the curveball you’ve struck out on will increase confidence and allow you to maintain the mental toughness to perform.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Making sports imagery effective in your game requires practice to master control over your visualizations, and continuous repetition to make the scenario a reality. Using imagery in your training routine has been shown to increase performance of every athlete, from professionals to weekend warriors.