The Impact of Visualization and Concentration on Performance

Visualization is a technique practiced by almost every elite athlete to help improve performance or manage competitive stress.  Recent studies have even shown that visualization (or mental imagery) actually helps the brain build better neural circuitry ... which improves performance.  

Wayne Rooney, the star forward for Manchester United and England, was recently quoted in an ESPN article about his use of imagery:  "Part of my preparation is I go and ask the kit man what color we're wearing -- if it's red top, white shorts, white socks or black socks ... Then I lie in bed the night before the game and visualize myself scoring goals or doing well. You're trying to put yourself in that moment and trying to prepare yourself, to have a 'memory' before the game..."

Experts on visualization and imagery provide (among others) the following instruction:

  1. Start simple ... but use all your senses in the picture ... imagine the sound, smell, sight, and feel of the image.
  2. Be as detailed as possible ... think about the field, the feel of the ball, the specific situation and opponent.
  3. Make it positive!  See yourself executing cleanly ... and managing adversity.  
  4. Visualize in quite places where you can focus without being distracted.

More and more attention is being placed on the cognitive aspects of athletic performance, with some calling it "coaching's final frontier."  The best athletes, next generation's stars, will use it to their advantage ...


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