The Learning Process
hosted by
San Diego Figure Skating Communications
a non-profit educational organization

Mental Rehearsing
plays a role in sports training

What is mental rehearsal or mental rehearsing?
         It is the ability to visualize a task that is to be performed before you actually attempt it. This is completely different from the concept of "Role Reversal" or playing the part of the antagonist in a mini scene in a reality play.

Mental Rehearsing

        While the term "Mental Rehearsing" is often deemed to be synonymous with visualization, this is an incorrect impression. “Visualizing" is observing yourself in specific situation as being seen through the eyes of another person. Mental rehearsing differs from what is described as positive thinking as it really is not possible to apply the concept of "happy thoughts" to a competitive situation.

        Mental rehearsal is a way to simulate a desired performance in the support of providing a positive environment for skill development to occur.  Mental rehearsal is also widely used to prepare for job interviews, presentations, cheer leading performances, athletic performances, sales calls, debating, teaching, and managerial of behaviors. This allows of the individual to assume different scenarios in which they can practice planning and delivering the most appropriate response.

        Research has found that the combination of "imaginary practices" with actual practices frequently results in a better performance than those that are only using preparations that rely only on an actual physical practice with other individuals filling in the other roles in sort of a dress rehearsal. The problem is if this is conducted as in a stage play, the dialog is read from a script. It is much more realistic if the dialog is improvised or extemporaneously performed.

Compartmentalizing the Performance
        Most situations can be approached as a stage play with multiple acts that are performed in succession from the beginning to the end. Successful actors and athletes are able to break down their performance into tiny component parts. This allows them to work on individually improving specific aspects of the total work.

        There is little to be gained in the process of learning the lines if each time a mistake is made, the process is restarted at the beginning. The work in progress has many different acts or scenes that can be individually perfected by concentrating on their most difficult parts.

        The run through of the entire series of acts is the test of how well the entire performance is evaluated by the audience. Ideally the actors or athletes can be taught how to develop coping strategies for staying in control in the face of unexpected events, such as a pulled muscle or missed line in a scene.

        It is possible to use this process in just about any situation from coping with an upsetting person, public speaking, creating better relationships, and competitive sports,

How does this style of mental rehearsal work?
First and foremost, you have multiple times to run through the possible scenarios that might occur which you anticipate might occur and your most effective response. The positive outcome may include:

  • It turns a challenging situation into an opportunity for high quality performance.
  • It anticipates and defeats the typical anxiety and submission instincts that interfere with your performance.
  • It builds your focus, confidence, and creativity.
  • It perfects your skills with a “no-risk” practice session.
        There are some key points you might wish to ponder on for any given situation:
  • What is the best result  I want?
  • What kind of performance equals excellence?
  • What might be the best you could possibly feel in this situation?"
  • Have I ever felt anything like that?"
  • What words or phrases express the ways I want to feel?
  • Imagine the perfect outcome.
  • Is my desired outcome built on unrealistic expectations?
Don't just try it once and determine it will not work for you., Keep at it for a
month and see you how you feel after giving it a fair chance to work for you!

Keep refining your idea of excellent performance, and keep expanding your
sense of your possible responses for these situations. You may be surprised at
how much you can learn about what these two things really mean.

Visualizing Supportive Communication in any Dialog with others
        Getting into an argument is always counterproductive because it causes negative feelings and results in an atmosphere of lingering conflict.  Listening effectively requires specific skills.  Researchers have found that by listening effectively, you can gain information from the people you can use to your advantage. You project the impression that you care and this increases others to trust you,

        Modern coaches of competitive sports routinely involve their athletes in the use of mental rehearsing. Unfortunately many young athletes lake the maturity to understand its value as they are much more interested in participating in actual physical practices than participating in "mumbo jumbo" of mental rehearsing. Most athletes at a national level have the maturity to see the benefits and virtually all elite Olympic athletes use mental imagery as part of their training program.

Effective Listening
        Effective listening is a process of "real time" absorption of information a speaker provides. Your body and facial expressions convey that you are listening and interested, plus it provides positive feedback that the message was received.  Verbal and written communications involves choosing the right words. The nonverbal cues are important in face to face communication. We form impressions from visual cues that sometimes conflict with the actual words of the speaker.

        By reducing
conflict, it is possible to gain an insight in how to move others to your point of view. As people begin to respect you, they will be inspired a higher level of commitment to support your endeavors. Mental rehearsal before meetings in which potential conflicts can occur helps you to prepare and develop responses that can help achieve your objectives.

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:

The Learning Environment:

Tools for Living - Mental Rehearsing   Mental Rehearsing is practicing in your mind ahead of time, being in a challenging situation. Our minds and bodies are one system, so your mind can help you develop the best possible response.

Mental Rehearsals for Life-threatening Situations - Training for law officers Sept. 1, 2010 ... Mental rehearsals have been widely used for generations to provide individuals with a mental and physical challenging situation in preparation for a life threatening encounters.


Mental Rehearsal & Psychology Aspects of Basketball Visualization is an often taught mental rehearsal technique in sports. It is an extremely powerful tool and numerous studies have been done to test this.

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.


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:

Sports Seminars
On-Line Seminars
Seminar Ideas
Off-Ice Seminars
Enhancing Endurance Training
Enhancing Coordination
Basic Skating Skills Courses
Video Clips of Basic Skating Skills
PDF  Weekly Off-Ice Workouts

All materials are copy protected. 
The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.

Athlete Concerns     Collection of Related Ideas    Skating Articles    Related Topics

Ice Skating Rink Index    Topic Index    Site Index   Home Page