Don MacNaughton Coaching

Using your Head the Power of Mental Rehearsal

Using your Head the Power of Mental Rehearsal

 Visualisation, also known as mental rehearsal, is a technique that has been used for many years and to great effect by many top professionals in sport. Listen to how English soccer player Wayne Rooney prepares and visualises the night before a game ” Get Good thoughts,good moments , in my head . Visualise scoring goals “

The Sports Shrink encourages coaches at every level of sport to introduce their athletes to the benefits of learning this skill and to promote the need for time to be devoted to mental skill training as well as physical skill training.

“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision” – Muhammad Ali

“The Sports Shrink s” encourages taking the concept of visualisation beyond simply ‘seeing’ success to actually experiencing it through the use of every sense – sight, smell, sound, touch, and perhaps even taste.

It’s widely accepted that to be most effective, visualisation sessions must focus on positive experiences that can be recounted through the athlete’s minds-eye. This means that being able to re-live a positive performance by being able to re-create the processes that lead to that “winning” moment will be of much greater benefit than trying to visualise a set of circumstances that have yet to be realised.

However, mental skills training can help coaches and athletes develop visualisation skills that allow every positive sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste experienced in training or in competition to be utilised and built into a ‘winning’ experience.

Young athletes or less experienced players may not have an actual winning experience to replay in their minds during a visualisation session so as their coach, it becomes important to encourage these athletes to focus on every positive experience they have. Just because they haven’t scored a Rooney overhead kick wonder goal doesn’t mean they haven’t experienced the feel of a great shot! A visualisation session can focus on any number of small positive moments that can be built into a bigger picture of success.

By gaining an understanding of mental skills techniques, coaches can help athletes build bigger pictures by focusing on every small detail. For example:

  • How did the ball feel on your boot as you shot?
  • Where were you focusing on as you prepared to shoot?
  • What could you hear as the ball left your boot?

It will often take a great number of “shots” to capture enough ‘winning’ moments to form a picture of success but focusing on being able to re-live each and every one of those moments through the use of visualisation can potentially bring even greater rewards than an actual winning experience. Research has shown that an athlete skilled in the use of visualisation techniques can continue to enhance the neural pathways that effectively train their body to perform a precise series of movements, without actually moving.

Mental rehearsal is a learned skill and like all new skills, it takes time to master it. The Sports Shrink equips coaches with the necessary skills to be able to pass on the benefits to their athletes. Don’t just dream of success; see it, hear it, smell, touch, and taste it too!

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