What is imagery?
Sports imagery training can help athletes achieve a desired performance by mentally preparing for it. Visualizing a certain game situation or skill actually activates the same regions of your brain that are used when you physically perform that skill. Practicing sports imagery training helps condition your brain to be successful at game time. And you have probably used imagery before!
When a coach has taught you a new skill, you most likely created a mental image of what the skill should look like when done correctly. Before a game, you may have visualized yourself making a free throw or completing a pass. That’s imagery.
How to use sports imagery
- Engage your senses
For imagery to be effective, you should engage all your senses to make the image come to life in your mind! What do you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell? Create a vivid and detailed image in your mind. Ask yourself what your lane assignment is, what the bat feels like in your hands, the smell of turf, or the sounds from the bleachers. These detailed images will help you feel confident at game-time because you have already been there.
Spend the same amount of time visualizing the scenario as it would take if you were physically doing it. Practicing sports imagery in “real-time” trains your brain to stay engaged and focused on the task for the right amount of time. You don’t want to be fighting your brain to stay engaged when you’re performing!
- Anything can happen
Competition doesn’t always go as planned… but you can prepare for the unexpected by practicing imagery. Be sure you take the time to not only prepare for the really cool moments, like making the penalty kick, but also the tough moments, like losing the lead during a race. What emotions are you feeling and how are you going to respond? Preparing for the tough moments will help you make the best decisions and recover.