In earlier days sports psychology was mostly concerned with developing assessment methods that would identify those people with the potential to become serious superior athletes. Today the focus is on psychological training, exercises that strengthen the mental skills that will help athletic performances on the path to excellence. These skills include mental imagery and focus training. If an athlete is serious about becoming the best he or she can possibly be, the most essential ingredient is commitment to practice the right things. It takes incredible commitment to reach the top: a commitment to rest and train the body so it can perform under the most demanding conditions and a commitment to train the mind to focus totally on executing your best performance skills under the most stressful circumstances. (Tutko,T 1976 pg.5) To excel in a sport is a contest with yourself, to call upon the natural abilities within you own mind and body. Each person begins at a different location mentally, physically and with respect to the support we are given. An athlete quest for personal excellence requires the most of what you have- whatever that may be.
"Your images lead your reality"
One of the best practice fields for peak performance is the mind. Many athletes use mental imagery for quick rehearsal before an event: A diver, for instance, might perform a double somersault with a half twist one final time in his mind as he readies himself on the board. Mental imagery can also help people prepare for possible hazards. A squash player might run through a difficult back court return in his or her mind to rehearse the various options that might be necessary in case of a delayed reaction. Psychologists suggest that people develop an image bank of various scenario's they can call on to help relax, to get motivated, or to revisit a finest hour to help build confidence. Visualization is a common term used to describe guided imagery or the process of forming images in our mind like pictures or moves, images recreating our best performances, and the way it feels to perform just the way we want it to. These images can be visual, kinesthetic- how our body feels, tactile-how it feels to the touch, auditory-how it sounds, even olfactory-what we smell. Using mind power we can call upon these images over and over, enhancing skill through repetition rehearsal. The mind and body can become more prepared to actually perform the skill, and can improve both physical and mental reactions in certain situations. The developing athletes, who make the fastest progress and who ultimately become their best, make extensive use of mental imagery. They use it daily, as a means of directing what will happen in training, and as a way of pre-experiencing their best competition performances. Mental imagery often starts out simply, as you think though your goals, your moves, and your desired competitive performances.
Kelly Kryczka, former world...