The Power of Visualization in Sports

Visualization, sometimes called mental rehearsal, is the act of closing your eyes and imagining yourself performing an activity exactly as you want to perform it in real life. Visualization is often used as a mental rehearsal tool for elite athletes before engaging in competition. For example, a basketball player might want to visualize himself scoring a three-pointer in order to increase his chances of scoring three-point shots in a championship game.

Does Visualization Really Improve Results?

In short, yes, it really works. Also called imagery or mental rehearsal, visualization is a proven way for athletes to enhance their performance. According to the Washington Post, many Olympians have regularly used visualization as an addition to their training routine.

Olympians Who Visualize

  • Kayla Harrison – Judo Champion
  • Missy Franklin – Swimming Gold Medalist
  • Troy Dumais – 4 Time Olympiad, Diving

The Science Behind Visualization

Sports psychologist, Richard Suinn pioneered sports visualization with Olympic Athletes in the 1970’s. His studies of downhill skiers revealed that visualization effects the brain much in the way that performing the activity does. When asked to imagine skiing, the athletes’ brains actually behaved as if the athletes were really skiing. Moreover, this act of mental rehearsal by athletes improved performance every time anywhere from 20% to 45%. When you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain, it seems clear that visualization is certainly worth adding to any athlete’s training program.

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