Athletes spend months preparing for the season, yet there are typically only a few moments during competition when they experience complete control. On the field, athletes have little or no influence over the weather, the fans, their opponents' skill level or other factors affecting performance. (See 6 Steps to Reduce Anxiety Through Visualization.)
The trick to becoming familiar and comfortable within uncertain environments is visualization. (Read Sports Psych 101.) When they visualize, athletes are totally in control, and they have a great opportunity to experience success by realizing their mental images. The more an athlete can visualize successful performance, the greater his or her potential to achieve it. The correlation is direct between mentally rehearsing an action or movement—using the senses of sight, sound, touch and even smell—and making it real.
Here are some tips for creating effective mental images:
- Start simply by visualizing a single, static object, for example a basketball
- Aim for clarity; with practice, the vividness and detail of your images should become clearer
- Visualize in the first person by imagining yourself, or in the third person by imagining another person with the object
- View it from a different perspective; if you are imagining a basketball, attempt to mentally bounce it and "feel" the seams of the ball with your fingertips, enhancing the complexity of your visualization by adding another sense
- Practice. Mentally rehearsing successful skill execution, such as dribbling a basketball during imagined competitive conditions, can provide your subconscious mind with positive memories, increase confidence and enhance preparedness