By Cat Lutz
Coach Lutz introduces a powerful tool to help you get mentally stronger...
When someone wants to learn something, a skill, task, objective, etc. they usually physically practice it:
A basketball player shoots thousands of shots a week, a soccer player works on footwork drills, a tennis player repeatedly works on their serve, a student reads notes, a business person recites a presentation... you get the idea!
The practice of these skills and tasks helps us to feel more confident in our ability to complete them successfully and we start to create different forms of muscle memory that we use to recall these learned skills and tasks when they are needed.
Now, this type of physical practice will undoubtedly lead to you becoming more successful, but what differentiates those who practice and complete their skill successfully when it is important and those who practice and are unable to complete their skill successfully when it is important?
Often, we find that those who have utilized the skill of visualization somewhere along the line (more importantly often and correctly), tend to be more successful come crunch time. Think of some of the big time Olympians who have utilized visualization throughout their career: Andy Murray, Kerri Walsh, Misty May-Treanor, and Lindsey Vonn to name a few. Their use of visualization has helped them gain those extra needed bits to complete their game.
Visualization comes back to that old adage by Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right”.
Those who see themselves failing, often fail.
It’s no surprise then that those who see themselves succeeding, often succeed.
Now, don’t mistake visualization as this magical, one time, miracle producing technique. Visualization is a complementing tool that is used in conjunction with the physical work you are putting in. It also needs to be practiced in order to be used correctly. With hard work both physically and mentally, you begin to connect the body and mind into a well-oiled machine bound for success.
Sports psychologists utilize the tool of visualization a lot with their athletes. Why? Because it works... when done correctly!
So how do you use visualization correctly?
First, you start by deciding what it is you would like to visualize. Whatever it is, whether it’s completing a skill, winning a game, getting an award, make sure that it is of you doing something successful!
Remember Ford’s quote. If you see yourself failing, guess what? You are going to fail! So, always keep it positive, attainable**, and always successful (I snuck attainable in there because it is no good if you try to use visualization for something physically impossible. I would love to be able to dunk from the foul line…but that isn’t going to happen).
After settling on a positive aspect of your game or life that you want to work on, they next part is to try and use all of your senses to create an in-depth and realistic visualization experience. Vision, Hearing, Taste, Smell, and Touch are important. So is adding an emotional aspect. Did you just visualize yourself winning a championship? How does it feel emotionally? Are you excited? Is your heart fluttering? The more details the better!
Now it all comes down to practice. Can you stay positive while adding more and more detail to your visualization? Don’t become discouraged if you find yourself having a wandering mind at first. Nor should you become discouraged if you don’t see results immediately. Remember, this is a tool that is the proverbial cherry on the top (your physical practice is the sundae). It will take time to see results, but when you do, it will be noticeable.
Don’t think it’s worth your time? It’s all psychological “mumbo jumbo” you say? Ok, but what if I told you there is actual scientific support for visualization? What you imagine (visualize) starts to actually create new neuropathways in your brain! The same as when you are actually completing a skill or task.
Visualization can build upon your muscle memory, because as you visualize yourself doing something, your neuropathways are firing and becoming stronger and quicker! Not so much “mumbo jumbo” now is it? Keep in mind that it is not just for learning a skill, visualization can help calm anxiety, build confidence, and mentally focus you, just to name a few more benefits of this mental tool.
I know you’ve heard about visualization before. It’s nothing new. Now it is up to you to utilize it to your benefit. So, do you have what it takes to work on your personal visualization habits and make gains in whichever area of your sport or life you want to improve?
Here is your challenge: can you take just 5 minutes of your day, for the next week, to practice visualization?
Coaches... would you like your team to be mentally tougher and better team-mates? Get in touch with the team at ONE2ONE Basketball today to arrange a "Culture Camp" where our coaches will put your team through their paces on the court and in the classroom, as we work through visualization and other lessons to help your team to thrive!