By Dr. Chris Stankovich
Imagery is the creation (or re-creation) of a thought or image in your mind. Many athletes today use imagery before and during competition – and many more athletes are curious about using imagery and want to learn more! Here’s what you need to know.
IMAGERY AND WHAY IT IS IMPORTANT!
Imagery is the creation (or re-creation) of a thought or image in your mind. Many athletes today use imagery before and during competition – and many more athletes are curious about using imagery and want to learn more! Imagery is a great tool for athletes as it can help with improving self-confidence, plotting out a play ahead of time, and can even be a help during injury rehabilitation.
First, there is no “wrong” way to do imagery – the most important thing is that you are being proactive and devoting your thoughts and energy toward parts of the game that are important to your success. You can use imagery anytime, including the night before game, moments before a game during your pre-game routine, and even during the game if you have a few seconds between plays. When using imagery always try to make your images as vivid as possible, always under your control, and always with a positive outcome!
Imagery works best when you believe in it, and when you make the experiences in your mind as real as possible. Try to work on not only seeing yourself playing successfully, but try to include all the other senses, too. For example, if you play football you can see yourself making a great play, as well as hear the sounds of the stadium (auditory), feel the strings on the football (tactile), smell the sweat and grass (olfactory), and if you can imagine the actual physical movement of what it takes to make a great catch you are experiencing kinesthetic imagery. Studies show the more senses you can include the more likely your imagery experience will be a good one!
WHY IMAGERY WORKS
In theory, imagery “works” for several reasons. First, by simply paying attention to what you should be doing and minimizing outside distracters your game will be improved by experiencing higher levels of focus and concentration. Secondly, some research suggests that simply thinking of an experience actually strengthens your brain’s neural connections – making the real experience a lot less nerve-racking since your mind has essentially already been there before. And third, by training your mind through imagery you are actually strengthening your muscle-memory skills – allowing you to more automatically respond to game situations rather than have to pause and think about what to do.
HOW TO USE IMAGERY
• When first using imagery don’t get caught up in thinking you might be doing it wrong – any imagery is better than not doing anything at all and instead leaving yourself open to getting nervous about the upcoming game.
• You can use imagery for only a minute or two and still experience very good results. The time you put into your imagery is not nearly as important as it is how realistic, controllable, and vivid you make the experiences
• Try using imagery at key points – while lying in bed the night before a game, in the locker room or while stretching, and even moments before the first play of the game.
• Use as many senses as you can and try to make the imagery experience as real as possible.
• Make imagery an automatic part of your training routine – just as important as your strength, speed, and agility training.
Dr. Chris Stankovich is a national expert in the field of sport & performance psychology and has assisted thousands of athletes reach their full athletic potential. He is the Founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems, and is known as “The Sports Doc” for his weekly segment on Ohio News Network (ONN).
Please visit www.drstankovich.com for exciting, easy-to-understand Peak Performance videos, audios, assessments, and feature articles!