The Ultimate Advantage
If you’ve been an athlete for any amount of time, you’ve undoubtedly heard from a coach or trainer that you have to “visualize” good performances before you ever go out there to do it for real, right?
Well, this is great advice except there are very few coaches actually teach their athletes HOW TO DO IT.
Before we go over the specifics, what is visualization exactly?
To put it plainly as possible, it’s taking some time in preparation to the game and seeing yourself yourself playing EXACTLY how you to perform in the game. What if you could play your perfect game. What would that look like? How confident would you be?
“The key to effective visualization is to create the most detailed, clear and vivid a picture to focus on as possible. The more vivid the visualization, the more likely, and quickly, you are to begin attracting the things that help you achieve what you want to get done.” George St-Pierre
There is a plethora of misleading information out there about visualization. The first rule to visualization is you don’t need to be VISUAL in order to effectively complete the activity. This will trip people up, if they try to mentally rehearse, and cant see anything. It creates confusion in those players.
If you are a visual person, then it’s effortless for you see pictures in your mind of what you want to happen during competition.
However, if you realize that you are not visual do not panic! It works just as well if you imagine how well you want to play, and the same circuits will begin to form in your brain. The key is concentrating on how that success would make you feel. What emotions would you experience? How smooth are your movements?
Instead of visualization, let’s call it what it really is: mental practice or practice using your imagination.
Here is the 4-step process to capitalize and squeeze all of the potential out of your visualization practice.
Step 1: Have an idea for something very specific that you want to imagine doing well in your sport. Get very specific! The more specific you are the greater your results will be. Don’t only focus on how many points you want to score, but also focus on how you will feel when you are performing.
visualize your goal:For example, for a golfer, it’s good to imagine putting your ball into the hole every time you step on to the green. But better still, would be for the golfer to focus on keeping the body still while putting, or having the putter travel straight down the target line. Another example: a baseball or softball player can certainly imagine hitting the ball square every time at bat. But, more specifically, if the player really wanted to improve batting average, I would advise mentally practicing stepping into the batter’s box with that total confident feeling and attitude like he/she has done before. Finally, for a basketball player don’t only imagine making the shot… but imagine before every shot you have great balance and watch the ball go right through the net.
Specifics are much more powerful than general visualizations.
Step 2: Get your body comfortable, and close your eyes!
You want to be able to focus on what you’re doing without your body reminding you of it’s problems. The most important thing is that you close your eyes. When you close your eyes, you cut off 80 percent of the STIMULI that you are able to process. As a result, your inner mind begins to paint a picture.
Step 3: Take 1 minute or so to breathe a little bit deeper than you normally do and a little bit slower. Breathe into your belly as this triggers a relaxation response and opens your mind up to this power. It’s optional whether you want to close your eyes or not. By the way, breathing like this for 1 minute any time, with practice, will train your body to relax on command. A useful tool for high pressure situations, right?
Step 4: Direct your thinking and focus to the act of performing your best for what you came up with in Step 1. In other words, what you will be doing is mentally practicing or performing your skills beautifully and effectively and do it over and over and over.
Go as long as you like and can keep your focus on what you’re doing. The longer, the better.
It’s good and useful to imagine yourself winning and coming through in clutch situations but you will gain more by mentally practicing small movements and sound fundamentals. Here’s more very specific ideas for different athletes:
Football quarterback mentally practices his footwork in the pocket for every type of situation.
Tennis player mentally practices throwing the ball up in the air for a serve into the perfect space and height.
A hockey goalie runs through every possibility an approaching shooter can bring and defends with proven fundamentals for each situation.
A gymnast can see or feel herself up in the air on on the parallel bars with her legs in perfect position on a skill.
Are you getting the picture here? (no pun intended). There are hundreds of things each athlete has to do to be successful for every sport. They key to making visualization or mental practice work for you is to pick specific things to work on in your mind and stick with it until it’s automatic.
When you learn a new skill or technique in practice, you should practice it that night, in bed, as you go to sleep and keep mentally practicing in spare thinking moments throughout the day.
This is what separates great athletes from average athletes.
In my mental toughness academy, I have created 8 guided visualizations for you to practice and improve your mental skills with my help. After using these for a while, you will be a pro at mental practice and visualizing for your sport.
Let’s do this,