Sports psychology techniques are important tools in helping athletes achieve peak performance in sport today.
Its importance has also been nominated to youth sports where visualization, routine preparation, and other sports psychology techniques are used to assist young children in their development. In Part 3 of this series, we will examine the use of mental imagery to help young athletes achieve peak performance in sport.
When using sports psychology, one can often be confused with the difference between visualization and mental imagination. What is the difference? How can it be properly understood and applied? In Part 2 of this series of articles on the use of sports psychology to help develop peak performance in sport for young athletes, we define visualization as the preservation of a mental or process, often positive, image in our minds long enough for our subconscious to register. Then use it to generate positive action for peak performance. This form of visualization technique is often applied at the individual level, with the practitioner in question devoting time and energy to meditate, relax, and visualize positive outcomes and processes.
Often mental images deal with a series of events, actions, or processes that lead to the desired outcome. This form of mental image is often applied collectively in team games in order to better understand how the game plan is implemented by players. In this sense, mental images can extend not only to the skill or outcome being exercised and desirable, but also to the desirable techniques and tactics involved in the game.
For example, a good example of visualization is to visualize in mind an ideal baseball field with a pitcher. In his mind, he was imagining himself standing on the hill. Ball in glove and staring fist at home board. Then he slows down in his mind, at the end of the handover, and finishes with the point of release of the ball and the final position of the swing motion. This form of visualization is often performed just before performing the skill, so that a practitioner with practice can mentally visualize his skill within seconds. As for the mental images of the same operator, he can visualize in his mind the sequence of actions that must be performed after activating some actions by other people around him.
After the field, the hitter can swing and contact with the field. The ball is hit towards the first base man. The shooter’s immediate reaction in his mind would be to run to first base to provide coverage at first base. The next thing he’s thinking of is being ready and able to get the first basic pass. These sequences of tactical actions, when visualized in the player’s mind, constitute a mental imagination or mental rehearsal. It relates more to others on the field, and is usually done during pre-match preparation by the players. The coach is usually the facilitator for this type of sports psychology practice, as it is important for his players to practice in their minds the tactical actions they want their players to take under different circumstances. In other words, mental imagery or mental exercises are situational and largely dependent on the actions of people performed during the pre-game. While visualization is practiced individually for a very personal skill, it can be done seconds before the action itself. Visualization, visualization, and mental rehearsals are not to be confused.
After the field, the batter may fluctuate and connect with the field. The ball is hit towards the first main leg. The immediate reaction of the shooter in his mind would be to run towards base 1 to provide cover for the first base man. Next he thinks about being ready and in position to take a pass from the first officer. This tactical sequence of action, when visualized in the player’s mind, constitutes a mental imagination or mental rehearsal. It is more related to other people on the field, and is generally made during pre-match preparation by the players. The coach is usually the facilitator for this type of sports psychology practice, as it is important for his players to practice in their minds the tactical actions that his players want to take in different circumstances. In other words, mental images or mental exercises are situational and depend heavily on people’s actions, which take place during the pre-game. While visualization is practiced individually for a very personal skill, this can be done a few seconds before the procedure itself. One should not be confused by imagination, mental imagination, and mental proofs.
This form of sports psychology is an unfamiliar ground for young athletes. Most of the time, young athletes focus solely on playing the game without realizing that these kinds of mental images and mental training practices can be used to improve their performance in sport. Coaches need to present this type of mental image and mental training practices to their youth so that they can practice this habit and make it a habit in their pursuit of peak performance in the sport. But at first, young athletes may find mental imagery and mental training practices difficult and irrelevant. However, the coach must continue and inculcate this type of sports psychology practice into their program. Over time, mental imagery and mindfulness training practices will become a part of the young athletes’ lives and will carry them on for the rest of their lives. It is recommended that these mental images and mental training practices be included at least once a week in the training program. This way, children will not get sick and feel bored, yet they will have to do something crucial to achieve peak performance in the sport.
Mental imagery, mental rehearsals, visualization, goal setting, and routine preparation are really simple sports psychology techniques that any coach can apply in a training program to achieve peak performance in sports. Without getting into a lot of the scientific and complex details of actual sports psychology theories etc., this type of mental skills training can still be relevant and effective for youth sports.
Jimmy Tong is a 13-year physics teacher in Singapore, holding a degree in Sports Science and Physical Education from Loughborough University, UK. He has extensive coaching experience in soccer, football and rugby teams in Singapore schools and is currently in charge of sports development in Singapore schools as well as an active contributor to sports coaching articles to improve sports performance in athletes. He hopes to empower people to achieve success by inspiring them with inspiring, motivational stories and true sportswear.