Using Positive Mental Imagery to Prepare
There is an old saying, “Seeing is believing.”
This saying has great implication when applied to sport.
Think of that young ball player who generally likes playing baseball…
He shows up to every practice, works hard and does what the coach asks of him.
He had a good year statistically but he tends to play best under less pressure or when the game is not riding on his shoulders.
But now it’s the last game of the regular season and it’s a must-win game. A victory will move the team into the playoffs.
This young player is dreading the upcoming game. All he sees in his mind are strikeouts, errors, and mishaps. These mental images are so vivid that he believes he will be the reason for his team’s inevitable loss.
He is so nervous before the game that he fumbles around trying to tie his cleats. His anxiety hits such a fever pitch during fielding practice that he trips over his own feet as he takes the field.
He cannot seem to move past those negative images in his head and he never is able to settle down throughout the entire game.
What you see is often what you get…
More specifically, what you see in your mind sets the ball in motion for you to produce in accordance to the images you choose to focus on.
Focusing on negative images is often the reason why many athletes don’t rise to the occasion when games matter most.
If you learn to become the director of your mental images and focus on what you want to happen, you will be mentally prepared to meet competitive challenges.
World Series champions, the Chicago Cubs mentally prepared for the pinnacle challenge of their sport by visually performing optimally on the big stage from the very start of preseason.
Cub All-Star shortstop Addison Russell talked about how mental images helped him get ready to perform optimally in the World Series. Russell stated that from the outset of spring training, his goal was keeping his body and mind in top baseball form.
RUSSELL: “(We’ve) been working all year and just preparing for that big moment, envisioning it in my brain to perform on that stage, the biggest stage.”
Why do intentional mental images work?
Mental images become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
When you see yourself succeeding, it gives you the confidence to perform because it’s like you have done it before.
Having the feeling of ‘being there before” lessens anxiety and opens you up to perform to the level of your capabilities. Seeing helps you believe!
A strategy for getting your mental images to work for you:
First, don’t wait until it’s too late. Start envisioning yourself performing at your peak from the moment you step on the field in preseason training.
Next, create a mental game script. Don’t leave your images up to chance.
Write down how you want to play in critical games.
–What kind of mentality will help you play your best?
–What would a confident player look like?
–How would a confident player act?
–How would a confident player step into the batter’s box?
–What would a confident player think and feel?
Lastly, set aside some time (at least 4 times per week), where you can mentally rehearse these images.
Make sure you visualize in a quiet and comfortable environment. Really immerse yourself in the images and the feelings associated with optimal performance.
And remember that mental practice is just as important as physical practice when it comes to playing your best.
Mental imagery is perfect for the off season and pre-season to keep your head in the game!
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