This is a FACT. Mental Imagery DOES Improve Athletic Performance!

Practice makes perfect. When it comes to sports, practice should encompass more than just honing physical practice skills. Harnessing the power of mental imagery will provide the most impressive results, as well.

Annie Plessinger of the Vanderbilt Psychology Department describes the mental imagery technique called “visualization” and “mental rehearsal” in The Mental Edge, a highly informative report based on the scientific basis.

Simply stated, “Mental imagery involves imagining yourself performing an action exactly as you would like to perform it, while not physically doing so.”

The Landmark Basketball Study

Mental imagery is a powerful tool in all forms of sports, athletics and physical performance. You may have heard of one of the most famous tests of this theory, conducted at the University of Chicago, which proves its effectiveness beyond any shadow of doubt.

Study participants were recruited by researcher Dr. Blaslotto and divided into 3 groups. They were then tested on how many free throws they could make.

After beginning this research and practicing free throws,

  • The first group practiced free throws for an hour each day.
  • The second group visualized themselves making free throws.
  • The third group did nothing.

Dr. Blaslotto tested the participants after 30 days.

  • After 30 hours of physical practice,the first group improved by 24%.
  • The second group. who imagined themselves shooting perfect free throws, showed a nearly identical improvement of 23% —and never touched a basketball.
  • As expected, the third group who did nothing and did not improve.

Since this landmark study, further research demonstrated that the best results can be achieved by combining physical practice with mental imagery.

How Mental Imagery Boosts Performance

By practicing mental imagery or visualization, you can advance your athletic skills in a number of ways, such as:

  • Increasing energy
  • Minimizing risk of injury
  • Enhancing motivation
  • Optimizing enjoyment
  • Boosting focus

Whether your athletic skills are at a professional level, amateur or junior achiever, this technique can be beneficial for improvement. It can help make up for times when physical practice just isn’t possible due to time or health constraints. Or, if you have performance anxiety or trauma from past injuries, this can be especially useful for overcoming negative thought patterns about past mistakes.

How to Practice Mental Imagery

The power in this wonderful practice is that there isn’t one specific way to implement this technique. It all depends on your preferences and circumstances, says Plessinger. Mental imagery can even be done—in an abbreviated fashion—during game play! For best results, experts advise visualizing in your preferred way 2 or 3 times each week.

As you’re establishing your visualization practice, see what works best for you by doing some research and experimenting with options. Just make sure your mental imagery is positive and enjoyable!