When competing, it is possible for an athlete to feel unprepared. Even if a person knows how to execute basic skills, he or she may have difficulties reading situations in competition. If you find yourself in such a situation, you may feel worried or stressed. One of the things you can do to ensure that everything in a competition feels familiar is to visualize. Visualization is a powerful method of preparing for games by imagining how you would like to perform. It is also referred to as mental rehearsal and guided imagery.
You may also imagine yourself in a competitive situation you are afraid of and visualize yourself responding to that situation successfully. Basically, visualization involves imagining all the details of how you would like to perform so that everything will seem familiar when you are competing.
Many successful athletes routinely use visualization in training and competition. Many of them have used visualization techniques to cultivate a competitive edge and to create a heightened sense of well being as well as confidence. These factors all contribute to excellent performance. For example, Jack William Nicklaus, the retired professional golfer who is regarded as the greatest professional golfer of all time, said that he never hit a shot without having a sharp, in focus image of it in his mind.
Nicklaus always visualized where he would have liked the ball to land. He visualized the ball going there, its trajectory, path, shape and its behavior on landing. After that, he visualized making the kind of swing that would turn his previous image into reality. Over a span of 25 years, Nicklaus won a total of eighteen career major championships and produced nineteen second place and nine third place finishes.
Athletes in all kinds of sports can visualize their perfect performances, before the competition to complement their training and practice. Visualization is primarily used as a training tool. It helps improve the quality of athletic movement, increase the power of concentration and reduce the pressures of competition on an athlete. Visual images are very important to athletic training and you can employ them as the sole mental training method. You may also depend on sounds, movements, touch and emotional stimulation as freestanding training aids in order to improve your performance.
A powerful relationship exists between physical and mental performance in sport. This was proven in a study that was carried out at the United States Olympic Training Center. During the study, athletes were hooked up to monitors and asked to visualize themselves competing. After that, they went out and performed the moves they had visualized. From this study, it was concluded that during visualization, the brain directs the target muscles to work in a desired manner. This direction creates a neural pattern in the brain that is identical to the network that the actual physical performances of the movements create.
Even though visualization alone cannot develop the most effective mechanisms in the brain to perform the desired action later, physical training that is combined with visualization creates better recognition of the required nervous system response. During training, you should utilize visualization techniques in a quiet, secluded area in order to eliminate distractions.
You can also use this form of mental training during your off hours, before you sleep, in the course of actual competition and during rehabilitation. It is easy to use visualization in competition if you are playing a sport where there are intervals between event segments. For instance, you can visualize how you will throw a javelin several minutes before you throw it. If you combine visualization with a positive mental outlook, you can reach your ultimate potential.
Methods of Practice
There are two methods of practicing visualization. One of them is internal and the other is external. In internal visualization, you imagine performing the skill by seeing it through your eyes. In external visualization, you see yourself performing the skill from the perspective of a camera filming you. This can help you analyze and correct mistakes. In order to visualize your performance successfully before you engage in competition, you should do the following:
Get your body into a relaxed position(sitting in seiza or anza) in quiet surroundings. You can play soft music if you want.Start focusing on your breathing.Breathe in slowly through your nose and breathe out through your mouth.Breathe in deeply several times to fill up your lungs, and exhale fully.Start visualizing how you would like to perform in a match or game. Visualize your entire training/ tournament experience, from the time you are getting dressed for the competition, to the time you will arrive back home. Utilize all your senses as you visualize your performance. If you visualize with your sense of hearing, smelling, touching and seeing, you will totally immerse yourself into each and every aspect of the performance you want to create. You should also bring up many emotional feelings. Visualize yourself being successful both in training and in competition. Visualize your ideal performance several times a week and on the day of the competition. Perform all the skills you visualize.Visualize a proper response to all the possible consequences you may have to deal with in order to avoid unexpected surprises.
After training or competing, find a quiet place to sit and recall your best performance. In this way, you will be able to recreate your ideal competitive state. If you visualize immediately after competing, the images of any mistakes you made will be clear. However, you should avoid visualizing when you are upset. When visualizing, you can use sports equipment and photos to trigger images. You can also use phrases that will motivate you and enable you to concentrate on activities. You may also view videotapes of successful fighters or other athletes so that you can imagine how you may perform in similar situations.
If you mentally visualize the way you would like to perform, your body will respond in small, unnoticeable ways. The more you visualize, the better you will become at utilizing this technique to ready yourself for competition. If you use visualization in competition, you can perform better, improve confidence, be less anxious or nervous and be able to improve performance even if you are unable to train due to an illness or injury.