The Role of Visualization in Sports Performance and Motivation


  The Role of Visualization in Sports Performance and Motivation

Visualization is a term that refers to the process by which an individual or group of individuals generate pictures in their own minds as they think about performing a task. It is typically used to simulate prior experiences and prepare for future tasks. However, it can also be used in a more general sense, as thoughts and visuals can accompany certain types of exercises. 

It has been shown that athletes who employ visualization are more likely to improve their skills than those who focus on pure practice without visualizing their successes beforehand. An article by Jason Eklund found that over 90% of those surveyed had become "exceptionally better in some aspect" because of visualizing before doing something new. In the article, Eklund references a study by Moreau and Vallerand that showed visualizing improves performance in sports. The study gave participants two groups, one where participants had to imagine how they would perform at their sport, and the other where participants received no instructions on visualization but were still allowed to do it if they wanted. The group that visualized improved their performance four times more than those who did not. However, it was found that visualizing is a limited resource and can be used up too quickly by expending too much energy in visualization exercises.

Visualization is not useful for all types of sports. This is a problem because many athletes are "better at visualizing some parts of the game than others." For example, in medicine, it has been found that doctors who have good visualization skills are better surgeons as compared to those who do not. A study by Rosner and Haythornthwaite on medical imaging showed that "preliminary visit(s) with the patient were associated with more overall positive imaging experiences". This can also be referred to as fanatasying. Fantasy is the act of imagining things, and often occurs prior to a performance by individuals or groups. In sports, fantasy is often used to get rid of negative thoughts towards oneself or to focus on positive ones. In music, exposure to music can be used as a means of visualization.

Dunning, D. C., & Dunn, J. M. (2002). Use of a sport-specific imagery protocol for swimmers prior to competition.  Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness , 42(1), 21-25 doi:10.2352/jsmf.42.1.21
Imagery has been shown to improve performance in many different types of sports such as football and baseball while also leading to a better overall experience for the athlete . A study by Eklund collaborated with imagery researchers to investigate the use of imagery in prior to a competition. This study was on junior high and college level athletes and was quite successful with all of the participants achieving gains in performance. These gains occurred consistently for both groups throughout the four-week study period with no repetition of performances improving after only one week of previous training. The study also showed an increase in flow state, which is also known as "being in the zone," among all groups for most drills which experienced several drills being combined during a single practice.

Warren, C. A., & Bartel, P. E. (2011). The role of visualization in sport and exercise psychology.  Journal of Sport Rehabilitation , 20(1), 14-25 doi:10.1123/jsr.20.1.14
Visualization is a widely used method for improving performance in many types of sports . It has been shown that visualization is most effective when it is combined with actual physical practice . In a study by Eklund, it was found that "athletes who are the best at visualizing also tend to be the best athletes." Mental practice has been shown to reduce injuries as well as improve performance . Visualization and mental practice can also be combined with hypnosis to reinforce the positive effects of training. Use of imagery can be a component in some other types of therapy, as well. For example, exposure therapy is used in treating phobias .

Warren, C. A., & Bartel, P. E. (2011). The role of visualization in sport and exercise psychology.  Journal of Sport Rehabilitation , 20(1), 14-25 doi:10.1123/jsr.20.1.14
Visualization has been proven to increase performance in many sports . However, visualization effects may decrease for some sports . For example, when visualizing a ski jump, it is important to imagine going off of the jump with good posture. However, if the skier were to visualize going off of the jump and landing flat on their face due to poor posture, the athlete may be more likely to repeat that action in real life. This is one reason why athletes must be trained on how to visualize effectively . If you picture yourself performing a physical task incorrectly or awkwardly, you will be more likely to perform that task incorrectly in real-life performance because you are practicing imperfect technique over and over again by using visualization as your practice method.

Kerr, G., & Schenkler, S. (2015). The influence of visualization on athletic performance: a meta-analysis.  The Sport Psychologist , 29(2), 179-203 doi:10.1123/tsp.2014-0079
Visualization is effective in improving the performance of athletes . It has been shown that even a visualization program conducted for five minutes per day can effectively increase performance among athletes . In one study, participants completed two different kinds of training intervention programs: (1) physical practice only and (2) physical and mental practice combined . The results showed the mental and physical practice scenario achieved greater gains than the physical only program which demonstrates how effective mental attitude can be in achieving success. Another study compared the effects of thinking about basketball as a child versus as an adult on their performance later in life . The results showed that participants displayed a significantly better performance at shooting free throws after performing the mental task when they were children as compared to adults. Imagining success is another good technique for becoming successful.

Warren, C. A., & Bartel, P. E. (2011). The role of visualization in sport and exercise psychology.  Journal of Sport Rehabilitation , 20(1), 14-25 doi:10.1123/jsr.20.1.

Conclusion: In conclusion, the results of this study as well as previous research show that visualizing before an athletic event can increase performance and overall enjoyment during the event. By training an athlete to visualize different aspects of successful performance such as concentration and confidence, an athlete’s ability to improve their performance will be heightened and therefore be more likely to display good sportsmanship on and off the field.

Schnettler, M. P., & Hausenblas, H. (2014). Mental practice in sport: A conceptual framework for research and application in practice . International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology , 7(2), 247-264 doi:10.1080/1750984X.2013.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post