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"If you can imagine it you can achieve it. If you can dream it you can become it." —William Arthur Ward.
One of the most powerful tools an athlete can use is imagery. The body cannot distinguish between something that is really happening, and something that they are visualizing. Since the mind leads the body, this is an invaluable tool if it is done correctly and on a consistent basis.
Imagery is a skill, a cognitive process in which you use your mind to create an experience that is not unlike the physical event. The goal is to use your mind to work on all aspects of your performance. For example, recalling your best performance, correcting technical errors and putting yourself in different situations under all sorts of conditions to help take away the element of surprise.
Every person has the ability to visualize success, it's just a matter of doing it. Imagery provides the strength, energy and motivation for upcoming events by recalling, step-by-step, the feelings of success. The purpose of imagery is to achieve in your mind exactly what it is you want your body to do. Here are some key elements to consider when using imagery:
The more you practice executing your skills in your head, the more it becomes a conditioned response, second nature. Which is exactly what you want your skills to be - instinctive. This also increases reaction time because there is no thought process, just action. This will help increase your self-confidence and keep you motivated to reach your goals. Doesn't it seem beneficial, then, to use this skill to help enhance your athletic performance? As an athlete, it would seem that you would want every possible edge you can get!
[Adapted from Winning the Mental Way, by Karlene Sugarman—for more information please contact Karlene at firstname.lastname@example.org].
Karlene is a Mental Training Consultant and works with athletes and teams teaching mental training techniques and team building strategies. She works with athletes in sports such as golf, skating, swimming, tennis, gymnastics, baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball, soccer, and others.
Karlene co-presented at the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) conference in Salt Lake City, UT (2009) and in Honolulu, HI (2011).
Karlene is an Adjunct Professor in the Sport Psychology Program at John F. Kennedy University.
Karlene is the author of the book, Winning the Mental Way: A practical guide to team building and mental training. She is also a member of the Association of Applied Sport Psychology (AASP).
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