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Developing Mental Imagery Training Techniques

  • Mental Imagery covers a number of mental techniques that can assist in developing a range of skills
  • It has been demonstrated that these techniques can work even without complimentary physical skill practice
  • Mental imagery involves the use of imagination in developing skill and controlling behavior
  • These techniques can be practised in situations as diverse as during your physical training to riding on the bus to laying in bed prior to leep.
  • Especially when used in conjunction with cue words, imagery can be a powerful technique during match play.
  • Now you are aware of the mental skills be sure to train using those skills.


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Types of Mental Imagery

Autogenic Relaxation
  • Using the imagination to visualise scenes or scenarios where behavior or feelings are modified according to the aims of the technique, eg anger management, lack of self confidence.
  • Something like a self hypnosis state where neural pathways are altered
. Mental Rehearsal
  • The rehearsal of techniques or situations, using all the senses, where the perfect technique or appropriate response is replayed repeatedly.
  • You must be aware of the perfect technique or appropriate response otherwise you can hard wire in incorrect behavior.
. Internal Imagery
  • Imagining form your own point of view
  • Seeing, feeling, touching, smelling and hearing through your own senses.
  • Usually most useful in developing skills involving perception eg tactics.
. External Imagery
  • Seeing yourself from an outside perspctive or as others would see us.
  • Can be useful when developing swing technique
. Kinesthetic Imagery
  • Imagery which involves not only the visual but imagining the neuromuscular feelings(especially but not exclusively useful for closed skills, eg the Squash serve)

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Purpose of Imagery

Behavioral Change
  • Eradicate undesirable behavior by identifying this behavior and in the circumstances it occurs by imagining the more desirable options.
  • Hard wiring desirable reactions into our behavioral patterns, eg Mental toughness, anger management
  • Experiment with forms of imagery to modulate the level of arousal prior to play to ensure that you perform at your best
Motor Skills
  • Enhance your skills development by imagining your perfect technique
Decision Making
  • Tactical decision making can be improved with mental rehearsal of more appropriate or advanced plays

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Where Imagery Can Be Used

Between Competition
  • Mental imagery, when practised away from the competition or training arena, is most effective in quiet times when alone.
  • Also, once skilled at the practise, could utilise other times such as travelling on a bus or in a car, particularly on the way to a competition/practice venue.
During Training
  • Imagery can be used in conjunction with physical training
  • It is a good time to practice routines or cues when skill training or using imagery to enhance goals when physical training
  • Use imagery to achieve an optimum level of arousal or to confirm match plans
During Match play
  • Serving is a skill which can use imagery to maintain consistency
  • Use cue words throughout a match to help overcome tactical or behavioral inadequacies
Post Match
  • Confirm the positives that come out of a match, replaying good moments.
  • Correct poor decisions made during the match by mentally replaying those moments but with the correct decisions or technique
During Periods of Injury
  • Imagery can be used to maintain motivation, or correct technical or tactical faults in your game or by firmly establishing ultimate goals in your psyche

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Focus Characteristics

Achieving Focus
  • The ultimate goal of all training, especially mental training is to achieve total focus or remain in The Ideal Perfomance State
  • Many would have heard of or experienced times when they were in the zone or in the groove. This is a time when typically the player is:
    • Relaxed
    • Confident
    • Focussed
    • Controlled
  • They usually report that their performance was:
    • Automatic
    • Controlled
    • Effortless
    • Fun
  • The feelings that come out of a performance like this are important to remember so that it can be repeated in the imagination again and again.
  • The automatic nature of a performance like this is probably the most important aspect as it means the subconscious mind was making many of the decisions in the game and subconscious decisions are the quickest.
  • While this may not be achievable each time you play, it should be one goal of your mental training.
  • Meanwhile, we can use the mental techniques to improve each and every performance.

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