The Learning Process
 
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Mental Practicing -
the Acquisition of Sports Skills

Rehearsing Motor Skills
        Mental practicing is defined as the cognitive rehearsal of a motor skill that does not involve physical movement. It is effective both for acquiring skills and preparing to take a test or enter a competition.

        Athletes can practice mentally in two ways. Internal imaging means that the athlete is approximating a real life situation that he or she might expect in competition. External imaging means viewing themselves as the observer, as if watching a movie.

        Thinking about how to perform a skill plus physical performing it works better than just physical execution for learning remembering skills. Mental rehearsing is not intended to replace on-ice practice sessions, rather it should be used to complement a regular on-ice training program.

        Mind preparation strategies are essential for producing maximum or peak performance. Rehearsing competitive situations in anticipation of events is a key strategy for optimizing performance.

Stress Management  Training stress syndrome is one of these problems that could be manifested. The key is whether a person uses an internal or external image.

Mental Practice in Sports   Athletes can practice mentally in two ways. Internal imaging means that the athlete is ... Top of Mental Practice.

Enhancing The Psychological Skills (PST)  PST programs can incorporate a number of different mental skills. The program described here involved five different mental skills: anxiety control, mental imagery, attentional focus and control, self-confidence (also called self-efficacy), and the ability to handle adversity (e.g., poor performances, home sickness, conflicts with coaches, etc.).

Athlete's mental toughness as important as physical strength   Nov. 24, 2008. Along with a high level of internal motivation, top athletes must also be able to consistently execute those behaviors that have been practiced to virtual perfection so many times in training.

Mental Rehearsing
        There are two explanations for why the concept of mental rehearsing is effective when used properly:
  • The neuromuscular explanation is that electromyographic (EMG) activity is produced in the muscles. It provides sensory information that can be used to learn a skill. In schema theory, sensory consequences are critical for strong recall. Rehearsals in the mind can be considered a form of response preparation that aids in the tuning process.
  • The cognitive explanation is that early in learning, athletes are figuring out what to do. Because they are beginning to understand how a skill should be executed, thinking about the skill can be as effective for a novice skater as actually performing the physical skill. Mental rehearsing can assist learners in consolidating strategies as well as correcting errors.
Application of Visualization Techniques
       Facilitate skill acquisition by asking athletes to visualize movements early in the learning process.
  • Encourage athletes to engage in the mental rehearsal strategies and participate in problem solving exercises as part of peaking for tests and competitions.
  • It is very important to stress that mental exercises are of images of the correctly performed body movements.
  • Encourage the skater(s) to visit rinks hosting important contests prior to the actual competition so they can visualize themselves competing.
  • For maximum effectiveness, it is necessary for the skater to achieve a relaxed state when the subconscious mind is more receptive to perform imagery exercises.
Recommended Reading:

Principles of Training Athletes:

Developing Course Materials:

References:

Does Visualization and Mental Rehearsal Improve Sports Performance?  Many elite athletes routinely use visualization techniques to cultivate not only a competitive edge, but also to create renewed mental awareness, a heightened sense of well-being and confidence. All of these factors have been shown to contribute to an athlete's sports success.

Visualization in sports  A training technique that forms a part of the larger science of sports psychology. Visualization is also known as mental imagery and rehearsal. Visualization is used primarily as a training tool, one that improves the quality of athletic movement, increases the power of concentration, and serves to reduce the pressures of competition on the athlete while building athletic confidence.

Imagery Can Involve Negative Visualizations Too   Unfortunately, many of the images popping into our heads do more harm than good. In fact, the most common type of imagery is worry. Because when we worry, what we worry about exists only in our imaginations.

The Technique of Visualization: For Athletes  Generally, visualization does not start to play a significant role in organized sports until the college level. Typical high school sports programs lack the service of a full time sports psychologists, although using the techniques they employ would, no doubt, result in a significant competitive edge. For younger athletes, including those in high school, it is best for an informed coach or parent to guide the actual visualization process for the child until he or she has a firm grasp and understanding of what it is and how it works.

Skill Development Environment:

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:

  
Mental Training:

 
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