Imagery is an extremely powerful mental tool that can have a major impact on performance, it truly is one of sport psychology’s greatest weapons.
When combined with physical training can make an athlete unstoppable. But there is more to imagery than simply closing your eyes.
Research shows that we can be aware of seeing and feeling movements as an image without actually experiencing the real thing. More to come on this though.
The Professional Proof
Ronaldinho, one of the best footballers of this generation, spoke of his use of imagery and its benefits for him prior to the 2006 World Cup.
“When I construct those plays in my mind, I take into account whether one team-mate likes to receive the ball at his feet, or ahead of him; if he is good with his head, and how he prefers to head the ball, if he is stronger on his right or left foot. That is my job. That is what I do. I imagine the game”
- Imagery is the same as visualization: Visualization is just one form of imagery. Mental imagery involves you imagining yourself in an environment performing a specific activity using all of your senses (sight, hear, feel and smell), as well as proprioception (which is the ‘feel’ for where the body is in space at any given moment).
- Imagery is proven to be so effective it can even replace real training: Imagery should never be considered a substitute for real rehearsal – rather, it should be considered as complementary to actual physical practice. Studies have found that practicing imagery, along with regular training, enhances muscle memory and sports skills faster and further than regular training alone.
- Imagery is only about imagining the perfect race or day: Much of the literature says imagery should have the athlete imagine themselves performing every step successfully and feeling satisfied with their performance. In our view there are also great imagery techniques that have you imagining the worst possible scenarios in competition too, and mentally work through them, resulting in better preparation for a “bad day”.
You don’t need to be a professional athlete to master Imagery, you simply need to include it in your practice. We’ll explore this more with knowledge from our pro’s throughout the month of February.
Dr Rico, Oliver, Honorata and the Sportmi Team
*Credits: Thank you to our contributors.
Oliver Wright – firstname.lastname@example.org, Instagram: @wrightpsych , Twitter: wrightpsych1