• Psychology

Mental Imagery - Sports Psychology

Mental imagery/rehearsal – Its story time

Write a story! Once upon a time I was about to compete in a big competition. Before the event I felt like... just before my race I felt.... During the competition I felt... After the event I felt like...

The whole idea behind this technique is to imagine all the possible scenarios - positive and negative - and all the possible feelings associated with them.

I would suggest that any of the counterproductive feelings of stress and anxiety stem from the ‘great unknown’. If your mind has already experienced the stressful scenario in the comfort of your home, using mental imagery, then it is more likely that you will manage to cope with the scenario when it happens for real.

There is also a psychoneuromuscular reason to imagine doing an action. According to the theory, if one imagines doing a sporting technique, the nervous system and muscles react in a very similar way to when we actually do the action for real. Mental imagery therefore further improves our muscle memory of the action.

As you improve your ability to imagine yourself doing a sporting action, you should begin to imagine that the way you feel and react to a scenario is positive. For example; a statement such as ‘just before a race I can hear my heart pounding and my palms are sweaty, I feel very nervous’ should be changed to ‘just before the race I know I am ready when I hear my heart pounding as it means the oxygen is getting around my body, and having sweaty palms shows I’m keeping cool and ready to compete.’

The mental imagery script can take a number of different forms. You don’t have to write a story - you could just talk through scenarios with your coach or a friend, but remember that you should always consider your feelings associated with each scenario. It should also be used in training, especially when training is mirroring competition.

You may also begin to identify when you need to calm down or become 'psyched up'. This may then be a time to put in place some further psychological tools, of which a few are outlined here.

Learn more / further reading

  1. Analysis
  2. Managing Stress
  3. Goal Setting
  4. Postive Talk
  5. Relaxation















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