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How to Use Mental Imagery for Greater Success in Sports by Dr. Patrick Cohn

Article by Dr. Patrick Cohn

www.peaksports.com

Visualization in Sports

Benefits of Visualization in Sports

Is visualization or mental imagery a gimmick or a legitimate mental game tool to improve athletic performance?

The reality is that many athletes do use visualization daily as part of their training regimens–and with great success.

These athletes talk about a number of benefits they have received through visualization including:

  • More confidence
  • Better focus
  • Poise under pressure
  • Greater consistency
  • Improvement in performance

If so many successful athletes visualize, what exactly is holding you back from adopting this reliable performance enhancement strategy?

Wizards Head Coach Scott Brooks is a big believer in the power of visualization.

Brooks was an undersized guard at 5-11, Brooks went undrafted and began his professional season in 1988 with the Albany Patroons of the Continental Basketball Association where he was named to the CBA’s All-Rookie team.

The following year, Brooks was signed by the Philadelphia Sixers and went on to play 10 years in the NBA, and he currently ranks top-100 in career free throw percentage, making 85 percent (564-of-664) in the pros.

Brooks credits one of his high school coaches for his shooting success and, in particular, one drill his coach required him to practice daily…

The drill was to visualize his free-throws!

BROOKS: “Visualizing is so huge. My high school coach taught me that a long time ago. I used to visualize making free throws every night.”

As a young high school player, Brooks had a tough time buying into visualization. So to counter Brooks’ skepticism, his high school coach told him a story that he has relayed to his players.

The tale is of a Vietnam prisoner of war who spent years in solitary confinement…

To pass the time, he visualized playing round after round of golf each and every day even though he never played golf in his lifetime.

After being rescued, the former prisoner decided to make his dream a reality and play his first round of golf.

This newbie golfer performed just like he mentally rehearsed for years and shot 2 over.

When Brooks took over as the head coach for the Washington Wizards, he used visualization within the team’s daily routine just like he used to improve his skills on the court.

Brooks knows how critical mental imagery is to athletic success.

Visualization primes you mind and body for success by imprinting successful outcomes in your mind.

The more you can imagine successful repetitions, both mentally and physically, the greater likelihood you will replicate those performances in games.

Wizards free agent center Ian Mahinmi puts it this way, “It [positive imaging] is like building muscle memory, but for your brain.”

It’s really motor memory. but coaches refer to is as muscle memory.

Imagine how much better you could perform with greater confidence gained through visualization…

Now visualization or mental rehearsal is more entailed than that, but through a series of steps, you can take advantage of the benefits of visualization.

Visualization Tips

1. Relax and get comfortable. This will help quiet your mind.
2. See and feel yourself performing how you want to in competition.
3. Use all your senses in order to have a deeper imaged experience.
4. Rehearse only positive results in the beginning.
5. Immerse yourself in the emotions you would experience when performing successfully.

Bonus tip: Make sure you tap into your dominant learning and performing style when using mental rehearsal. Are you primarily a visual learner or a feel-oriented learned?

You can improve the mental skill of visualization with practice.

So go ahead… Imagine how successful you could be!