Sports Psychology
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Visualization is a rehearsal tool also known as mental imagery
       Visualization, also known as mental imagery and rehearsal, is a training technique used by sports psychologists. Visualization is used primarily as a training tool to improve the quality of athletic movement, increase the athletes ability to focus their power of concentration, and can help to reduce the pressure on the athlete of preparing to compete while building athletic confidence.

       When athletes are able to create an image or a series of images relevant to their sport, without any external prompts or stimulation, they are able to visualize images that only they are able to mentally generate. Visual images are usually the most important to athletic training and may be employed as the sole mental training method.

       The relationship between mental and physical performance in sports is a powerful tool. An athlete who is able to develop a wide range of mental powers, such as focus and concentration, can radically improve their athletic performance. Over-analyzing or obsessively thinking about a specific issue will have a negative impact of their performance because it detracts from the athlete's ability to react instinctively. Do not confuse impulsive reactions with the positive response which is the goal of visualization.

Repetition creates neural pattern in the brain
       Repeating physical activities develops an automatic neural pattern in the brain that is a road map created by the conscious decisions required to perform the actual physical skills of the movements.  Alexander Bain, (1818–1903) of Great Britain, was the first scientist to develop a theory that the brains neural pattern is the same as diagramming the specific wiring and circuits necessary to transmit an electrical current. It is this process that the brain uses to construct such neural patterns to direct and control repeated physical movement.

       Research has demonstrated that both physical and psychological reactions in certain situations can be improved with visualization. The repetition of positive imagery can build both experience and confidence in an athlete's ability to perform certain skills both under pressure and in anticipation of a variety of possible scenarios. The most effective visualization techniques involve a powerful and high vivid sport experience in which the athlete has complete control over a successful performance and a belief in this new 'self.'

       Guided imagery, visualization, mental rehearsal or similar such techniques are very effective in maximize training efficiency. In a world where sports performance and success is measured in seconds, most athletes will use every possible training technique at hand. Visualization provides a tool to gain even a very slim margin.

Recommended Reading:

Mental Imagery: Does It Really Benefit Athletic Performance Feb. 26, 2008 ... For years now, sports psychologists have been preaching to athletes the benefits that come with the use of such imagery. But, does mental imagery really work.

Imagery in Sports Coaches Normally consider imagery as an activity associated with competition preparation, that is, a performance enhancement function. However, it could be just as and even more effective if used as a feature of skill learning and in the more general domain of behavior modification.

Visualization for Sports Performance - How to Use May 19, 2010 ... Martin, K.A., Hall, C. R. (1995). "Using Mental Imagery to Enhance Intrinsic Motivation." Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology,

References:

Imagery and Simulation: Practicing in Your Mind

Teaching Athletes Visualization and Mental Imagery Skills     by David Yukelson

Drenched: a clear view of Visualization (canoeing and kayaking)

The Essence of Imagery in Tennis     by John F. Murray, Ph.D.

Resources:

The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

  
  
   
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