Mental Practice in Sports
for Skill Development and Competition
Mental practice is the cognitive (thinking) rehearsal of a physical skill without movement. It is effective both for skill learning and preparing for competition.
Athletes can practice mentally in two ways. Internal imaging means that the athlete is approximating a real-life situation that he or she might expect in competition. External imaging means viewing themselves as the observer, as if watching a movie.
Thinking about how to perform a skill plus physical performing it works better than just physical execution for learning remembering skills. Rehearsing in the mind only is better than not rehearsing at all.
Mind preparation strategies are essential for producing maximum or peak performance. Rehearsing competitive situations in anticipation of events is a key strategy for optimizing performance.
How to Apply Visualization Techniques
1. Ask athletes to visualize movements early in learning to facilitate skill acquisition.
2. Encourage athletes to engage in rehearsal strategies and problem solving activities prior to competition.
3. Between trials, include techniques where the athlete imagines how correct movements should be performed.
4. Allow opportunities for athletes to visit sites of competitions prior to important contests, and encourage them to visualize themselves in peak performance in competition.
5. Perform imagery exercises in a relaxed state when the subconscious mind is more active.
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