Sportsmind Institute Logo

I’ve seen an immediate difference in my performance using the visualisation and reflection tools

Jeffrey’s Sportsmind course has been absolutely wonderful and has turned my mindset around. I always felt like something was missing when it came to my performance, no matter how fit or strong I was. I’ve seen an immediate difference in my performance using the visualisation and reflection tools, and people around me have noticed a difference in my confidence. I cannot thank you enough Jeffrey!

Holly Ferling
Australian Cricketer

Sportsmind Six-Step Sports Visualisation Technique

We’ve developed a simple, yet powerfully effective, six-step visualisation technique for elite athletes:

  1. Relaxation
  2. Count-down
  3. Natural Place Imagery
  4. Positive Shield & Trigger
  5. Sports Practice Imagery
  6. Count-up

This is explained in greater detail below, but first some important information about visualisation practice.

Positive Visualisation

Visualisation……  Mental Rehearsal.……. Imagery …. It goes by many names and none – it’s the secret all Sports Champions know and use.

Visualisation is the foundational and most important mental skill – one which all sportspeople want to master first.

This is because all the other mental skills require competent visualisation techniques ….

  • to achieve goals, you have to see yourself doing so;
  • to improve a technical aspect of your game you have to be able to clearly picture what you need to do;
  • to change a limiting emotional reaction or behaviour, it’s essential that you imagine yourself into the new response;
  • in order to build self confidence, you will want to develop a powerful, positive self image;
  • and so on.

What is Visualisation?

Visualisation is a common skill we all use all the time;  to achieve anything, to do anything, we first ‘see’ ourselves doing it.

So visualisation is not something strange or difficult or esoteric, but something we all constantly use in order to function in the world ….. we all can visualise.   The trouble is, most people use visualisation negatively – they imagine all the bad things that could happen, and then hope they don’t!

The important thing to realise is that we human beings are a lot like guided missiles – we move in the direction of our regular and consistent thoughts and imaginings;  we move toward what we picture in our mind – particularly what we picture with vividness and strong feeling.

Whenever we associate a vivid picture with a strong feeling, it has a magnetic attraction to us – so be careful of what you picture with feeling, because you will be sub-consciously pulled in that direction, whether you like it or not!

So you want to have a positive focus, and you want to instruct your body with clear, vivid images, associated with strong feelings – or what I call FEEL-MAGES.

Why Visualisation Works

There is overwhelming scientific and anecdotal evidence which demonstrates the undeniable fact that visualisation can improve your sports performances – there are hundreds of scientific studies which have shown its effectiveness.

In my own research, the feedback I’ve received from athletes is that they improved their performance from 10% to 50%!  Read more about this here.

Visualisation works because it has a measurable, physiological effect on our body.   When you visualise doing a movement, play, stroke, shot, or performance, there is a measurable response by the specific muscles used in that activity in response to your imagined movements.

In fact, neurologically, your body can’t tell the difference between a ‘real’ experience, and a vividly imagined one.

Because there is this muscular response to visualised activity, it makes it possible to ‘program in’ desired shots, strokes, plays, movements, behaviours, and even emotional responses prior to doing them. In other words you can ‘groove in’ to your body at a cellular level, a ‘muscle memory’ of what you want your body to do.

Further, visualisation allows you to practice your techniques perfectly – without error, and so ‘groove in’ the optimum neural pathway for future successful performance.

The Optimum Mental State for Successful Visualisation

In order to make the visualisation exercises that you do work most effectively, it’s important to first put yourself into an optimum mental state. I call this optimum mental state ‘downtime’, or ‘reverie’, and it occurs naturally in that transition between sleeping and waking.

In the reverie state your limbs become very heavy and relaxed; your emotions are calm; and you experience a dream-like state where you are conscious, yet able to visualise and imagine scenes and events vividly. It could be described as a ‘conscious or controlled dreaming’ state.

Recent scientific research has shown that when athletes are trained to maintain this optimum mental state, they are able to program in desired physical movements, plays, shots, strokes, behaviours and reactions much more quickly, and they achieve a higher standard of physical performance much faster.

The Sportsmind Six-Step Technique – Getting into the Optimum Mental State

So let me explain each of the steps in the Sportsmind technique, and why it works so effectively.

1

Relaxation Phase

This step is used to relax the body, calm the emotions and quieten the mind. Numerous relaxation methods are taught.

2

Countdown 21-1

This step encourages an inward focus of attention, and deepens relaxation.

3

Natural Place & Positive Bubble

This step calms the emotions and ensures the mind is directly positively.

4

Positive Trigger

This step provides a quick and easy-to-use method for managing anxiety and switching on confidence in future sports situations and other real life contexts.

5

Visualisation Phase

This step provides guidance in a specific sports visualisation.

6

Countup 1-21

This step re-orients you to the here and now, bringing you out of the relaxed state – alert, refreshed and present.

Sports Uses for Visualisation

Visualisation techniques have come a long way in recent years, and they can be used in many different ways to enhance your sports performance.  I want to detail some specific uses for visualisation, and explain how you can use them in your sport.

1

For Increasing the Speed of Skill Learning

Mentally rehearsing a new skill or technique of your sport can greatly accelerate its learning. The key to remember when doing such mental rehearsal is to make sure you visualise from an associated, or ‘in body’ perspective: seeing what you would see from inside your body as you do the movement, play the shot, or perform the technique.

As with all visualisation techniques, ensure you include all the sensory components of the experience in your ‘visualisation’: hearing the appropriate sounds and feeling the movement of your body, as well as the visual aspects of the experience.

2

For Achieving Goals

In the Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings book, I explain how to use compelling images on your ‘time-line’ to lock in a goal, and make it more readily achievable.

I lead you through this process on the ‘Compelling Goals’ visualisation available here.

3

For Improving Performance

Visualisation can be used for performance enhancement through a role model visualisation, and peak performance visualisation.

A role model visualisation involves you imagining yourself as someone else – generally a role model for you in your sport: a famous pro; a senior player; a friend who’s skills you’d like to have. The visualisation begins with picturing the other person playing, as if you were watching a movie, and then imagining yourself floating out of your own body and into their body and feeling yourself do what they do; and playing as they play.

A peak performance visualisation is where you recollect a particularly good performance and replay that in your mind. This exercise is particularly useful for regaining confidence after a ‘slump’ in form, as it helps to remind you that you do have the ability to perform well. You can also often identify, when you do this visualisation, where you’re currently going wrong, by comparing how you played then with how you’re playing now.

4

For Building Team Synergy

Visualising a cord linking you to your team mates, and holding this image ‘unconsciously’ while playing can lead to extraordinary intuitions about where a particular person is, what they intend to do, and so on. The idea is that the imaginary cord acts as a connecting link which can facilitate an exchange of thoughts, encouragement, enthusiasm, and so on, which helps to maintain team spirit and cohesion.

As an individual player, you can visualise yourself making a strong link to your equipment …. feeling it become an extension of yourself, and your friend, rather than something separate from you that you have to fight to control.

5

For Overcoming Fear or Awe of an Opponent

Many matches are lost on ‘reputation’ and past performances rather than existing play. The individual or team who has always defeated you at every meeting is at an enormous advantage because the ‘see’ themselves as a winner over you, and even if only unconsciously, you ‘see’ yourself as a loser against them.

Visualisation techniques can be used to overcome this disadvantage in two ways: Firstly, by imagining a series of matches that you win against them, and placing these into position in your past

Secondly, you can visually reduce your opponent in size. This might sound strange, but it works especially well against opponents which are taller and stronger than you. See them as half their normal size, and again imagine winning a couple of matches against them.

6

For When Injured

Finally, you can use visualisation to aid in the healing process, through imagining blood and healing factors flowing to an injury, and healing it more rapidly. Numerous studies have shown that visualisation can speed the healing of the body, and even help in combating serious diseases such as cancer.

Better still, you can practice regular ‘preventative health’ visualisations in which you imagine your body functioning perfectly: all your muscles, joints, bones and ligaments strong; your internal organs working well; your nervous system and sensory reflexes in good order; and so on. This can be done as part of your regular visualisation routine, and also for just a minute or so prior to, and after, training and competitive performances.

This ‘mental’ body warm-up and warm-down acts much like a physical warm-up and warm-down in that it can help reduce the incidence of injuries and accidents in training and competition, and also helps speed muscle recovery after exertion.

In addition, if you do sustain an injury which prevents you from training physically for a period of time, then you can use visualisations practice to maintain your skill levels, and even fitness, over the injury period, and hence not have to train so hard to get back to peak levels of performance after recovery.

How to Get the Most out of Your Visualisation Sessions

To conclude, here are some final tips for getting the best out of your visualisation sessions:

1

Know what you want to do in your visualisation.

Get quality visual information from a training video, or your coach, then set a specific goal for what you’d like to achieve – focus on the positive outcome you want, rather than the problem you want to overcome.

2

Begin your visualisation sessions with a relaxation technique.

This is to get your mind into an optimum state for visualisation, and always ensure you put yourself in a positive mindset before beginning – expect to improve.

Remember, if you’re not confident and in an absolutely positive frame of mind, believing you can achieve what you want to, that self doubt will come through into your visualisation practice.

3

All your senses are required.

Even though it’s called ‘visualisation’, make sure you use all your senses when ‘visualising’, and associate into your body to experience what you would see, hear, and feel as if you were really there.

4

Practice perfectly.

Mentally you can get it right every time, and you want to do this to program in the best neuro-muscular circuit for future success.

I’ll never forget the time I did a visualisation session with a group of sportspeople, and afterwards when I inquired as to how it went, one of the golfers said he “still sliced” in his visualisation! When I asked him why he did that, he said he wanted to make it realistic!

Practice perfectly, because what you perceive as ‘realistic’ for yourself, is usually based on your past – and is far less than your capable of. The past doesn’t equal the future!

5

Regular and consistent practice with visualisation is what makes the difference.

It’s better to spend even just ten minutes every day, than for 30 minutes once every now and then. The best time to practice is first thing in the morning after you wake up, and/or last thing at night before you go to sleep – because at these times your mind is closest to that ‘reverie’ state.
You can find out more about visualisation and the other six mental skills and how to master them in the Sportsmind and Champion Thoughts Champion Feelings books, audios and in the ‘Articles’ tab in the Sportsmind Eyrie on this website.

Visualisation works!