Visualisation, also referred to as imagery, is one of the most popular tools of sport psychology. It consists in creating or recreating an experience mentally. Ideally, athletes create a clear image and are able to control it. All senses could be employed, so it is not just the sounds or sights being elicited, but touch, smell, and taste, can also be used. When we practice visualisation we are reinforcing the memory of the muscular and nervous systems about the movements required for a specific technique.
Doing visualisation exercises is another way to enhance training, and the more we practice the stronger that circuit about that skills it gets between the brain and the relevant parts of the body, and that skill will be perceived as more fluid.
There are two visualisation perspectives that can be taken: either us being the protagonists or seeing ourselves like we were a third person. Some athletes have preference for one perspective over another, or they choose a perspective depending on the skill they are training.
We can use visualisation to train some physical or psychological aspects like the following:
Physical training – to practice:
-A specific skill, like for instance imagining the perfect tennis pass, or to train a game strategy.
-In places where we have never been, to prepare for competitions.
-If we cannot do the exercises physically, if for instance we are injured.
Mental training – to motivate ourselves:
-For a specific result, e.g., completing a marathon.
-About a challenge, for instance imagining that we have self-confidence just before starting a race.
Mental training – to relax:
-After the training, visualisation could be used to relax. The best time to do this type is after exercising, when the muscles are tired.
It is normal to find difficult to do visualisation if we are not used to. It could be hard to create, control an image, or make it vivid. Nevertheless, visualisation is just like any other skill, so to get better at it we need to practice.