“Ninety percent of my game is mental. It’s my concentration that has gotten me this far” Chris Evert (professional tennis player)
The ability to mentally prepare for training sessions, competition or games is an important part of an athlete’s skills set. Along with the physical training involved, mental strength is arguably as important. Many athletes use visualization techniques as part of their sports training. This strategy has been reported to improve sports performance by creating mental awareness, confidence, focus and an overall sense of well-being.
Visualization is also referred to as guided imagery or mental rehearsal. It involves creating a mental image of what you want to happen, how you will achieve this and how you will feel when this happens. When visualizing, the imagined scenario can include one or many of the senses. They can be visual (i.e., images or pictures), kin-aesthetic (i.e., how the body feels), or auditory (i.e., what can be heard). Imagining yourself performing at your best, being alert and focused, imagining using your skills to achieve your goal creates a sense of calmness and allows for mental rehearsal of what is to come. Mental rehearsal of skills allows the mind and body to train to perform the imagined skill. Research studies have found that performance and confidence is enhanced when mental rehearsal is used. The most effective visualization techniques involve imagining a clear, vivid experience, using many of the senses, where the athlete performs at their best, has complete belief and confidence in themselves and results in a successful outcome.
Along with repetition and mental rehearsal of skills, visualization can also be used as a way of preparing for adverse outcomes. Visualizing the various scenarios that may arise, and the practical and emotional outcomes of each of these, can help the athlete prepare for less desirable outcomes and how they may cope with them.