Mental imagery can be defined as visualization or pictures in mind, which occur in the absence of environmental input. Not every person possesses the quality to develop mental images or visualize on will, but everybody has mental imagery during dreams.
Mental imagery is a unique quality, which is making a special place in sports. It is an additional advantage for a sportsman who can create mental imagery. Its roots in sports and Olympics in particular go back until 1960s. The tennis player, Al Oerter, to visualize his shot’s path before even playing the shot, first used this skill. (Clarey)
Many games demand physical as well as strong mental skills to succeed such as tennis, golf and skating and in such games; mental imagery proves an extra edge. Mental imagery helps in increasing confidence and self-motivation of the sportsman making game an overall enjoyment for the player. Seeing the value of this unique skill, many sports counseling centers work to develop mental imagery skills in sportsman along with other sports psychology techniques.
Mental imagery helps the sportsman in improving confidence, practicing performance skills, preparation for performance, evaluating the performance, and to uphold mental freshness during injury.
There is no specific requirement for the implementation of mental imagery. Sportsmen practice it according to their will and demand of the situation. It can be carried for a short time on the field or for a long period outside the field in silence. Take the example of a football game; in which a quarterback can go through the play in his mind before going on the play. Similarly, in a baseball game; pitcher can visualize the speed in which he will throw the ball and strike out a batter. This imagery process helps boost the self-confidence of the player and mentally prepares him for the upcoming action on the field. Mental imagery trains the mind of the player and creates neural pattern in the brain, which guides the muscle the performance they have to carry on the field.
Having an active mental imagery can be helpful for a person in various stages of life and to create one, individual tips have to be followed. Firstly, a person should set a goal and write each step to be followed in order to make it. For example, if you wish to reduce weight; write down the time in which you will be able to reach your goal and the proper routine you need to follow to achieve it. Secondly, focus in your mind about the benefits of achieving your target. In the above example, imagine how you will look after losing weight and the benefits of being smart. Moreover, look for the barriers on the way of your achievement of the goal and try to remove them from way.
Mental imagery is a successful method of motivation and making a person feel more dedicated towards attainment of goals. It can be practiced with the help of a therapist or by personal efforts depending on the choice of the person. Studies proved that mental imagery is a very useful technique for sportsman along with physical exercise and can help them to achieve heights of success. People who love to improve their sport can practice mental imagery and within no time will notice a positive change in their game.
Clarey, Christopher. "Olympians Use Imagery as Mental Training." The New York Times. The New York Times, 22 Feb. 2014. Web. 8 Nov. 2014. .
Cornoldi, Cesare. Stretching the Imagination Representation and Transformation in Mental Imagery. New York: Oxford UP, 1996. Print.
Kosslyn, Stephen Michael, and William L. Thompson. The Case for Mental Imagery. New York: Oxford UP, 2006. Print.