Every great professional athlete will tell you how much visualization plays in their success in sports. I can honestly tell you with experience how it has profoundly changed my life both inside and outside of the competitive arena.
When one uses visualization you never fail. To get what you desire and want you must first learn how to see it. Once the brain can see it, it will begin to garner the resources to go find it. Not only seeing it but you need to engage all the senses: seeing, touch, hearing, tasting, and smell.
Before I go further in how you practice visualization, I would first like to clear up some misconceptions. Some people will say visualization only includes seeing but not the other senses. Including the other senses is often referred to as mental imagery or guided visualizations. From my research visualization, mental imagery and guided visualization are all the same. This is confirmed by Dr. Jerry Epstein who is a pioneer in using mental imagery for treating physical and emotional problems.
In 2010 I was preparing for my first international competition in Las Vegas. Prior to that I last competed in 2006 in a local tournament where I had lost on a questionable decision. As I began my preparations I researched the top competitors in my division and found some video on the reigning champion. His game was fast, aggressive and strong, often overpowering his opponents to victory.
For months, I imagined what it would be like to compete against him. I hear our names being called to the ring, the smell of the mats, the feel of the uniforms, seeing the crowd cheer. I also imagined what it would feel like to have my hand raised in victory, receiving my gold medal, and coming home seeing my teammates congratulate me. These images gave me confidence, motivated me during my training sessions, fueling my inner drive to succeed. When I got to Las Vegas I walked into the empty arena the night before, sat in the stands, closed my eyes to replay the match and the gold medal ceremony. When the day of the competition arrived sure enough we met in the finals and I ended up tapping him out in under minute and half. All the time I invested in mental training paid off with a gold medal podium.
I’m going to reveal to you today 5 ways myself and so many professional athletes do to prepare their mind for successful competition.
1. Do Your Research
Do an internet search for photos of your opponents, the venue inside and outside, the area and its surroundings. This will allow you to place yourself visually in the game. Watch footage of team if there is some. What are their tendencies who is their star player? How do they act what common plays the run, what are the colors of their uniforms? What kind of feelings will you experience competing in that venue.
2. Make a Training Board
Grab a piece of cardboard and a glue stick. Gather all the photos you have collected in part 1 and stick them on the board in order from start to finish. For example, the first photo can be of you preparing for the competition followed by the food you put in your body, the venue, competitors etc. Place affirmations or positive slogans such as victory, champion, or winner on the board. The training board helps me chain the events together from training all the way to the competition to the podium. It’s like creating a movie or comic book strip for my journey making it easier for me to visualize.
Place the board where you can see it every day. Some people like to place it on the ceiling above their bed so it can be the last thing they see before they fall asleep. Others place it in the bathroom where they can see it in the bathroom.
For me, I like to hang it in my office because that is where I spend the bulk of my day. It is also where I hang my awards as reminder of my success when I begin to doubt myself. Doing this helps me snap out of a negative mindset.
3 time Olympian and 2008 silver medalist Slovenia swimmer Sara Isakovic used this tool effectively by having a friend draw a picture of her with the gold medal around her neck.
3. Repeat Your Affirmations Out Loud to Yourself
Positive self-talk has been proven to help boost confidence. When you consistently repeat a statement it eventually becomes a belief.
Have a visual mental eraser to forget about a bad training session. Some days don’t go as well as you like. Being aware of your feelings allows you to catch times like this when you begin to get down on yourself. After an off day, sit back to reflect. Practice not dwelling on what went bad but what went well. Re-focus on what needs to be done to improve, adjust and get back to it the next day.
4. Be Consistent and Detailed
– Envision what you want
– Learn all the little details on what you are asking for.
– Imagine how it feels to have it.
– Know what it looks like and what it smells like.
– Write down all the steps you need to take to get there
– Take actionable steps to achieve your dream
– Remain focus and committed to your goal
5. Stay Away from Negative People
Successful athletes know how to separate themselves from people who don’t contribute to their well-being. These individuals will suck the energy from you which what you do not need leading up to an event. All energy should be focused on your game and preparation without distractions or having to deal with someone else’s drama.
It is for this reason you see top athletes training with the best in their sport in the off season. It is during this time they are challenged everyday to bring their best. It is also a period to learn from fellow competitors, coaches, and resources.
Think about things that make you happy. Hang with people who bring your joy and most of all remember why you play your sport. That is to have fun and enjoy the experience of daily improvement.
If you have a problem visualizing then I would suggest writing them down on a piece of paper and visualize it.
Remember practice, practice, practice. If you found this article helpful and want more information how to build mental toughness for young athletes, please click this link to receive “5 Ways to Overcome Performance Anxiety for Young Athletes.”