Using Imagery to Rehearse Strategies, Game Plans, and Routines

Nicole Westlund, PhD Candidate
Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
Mental Coach, Eclipse Performance

I hope you found my last blog post, Using Imagery to Learn and Practice Sport Skills, very helpful and that you got a chance to try it out on a few of your own sport skills. This post is going to expand on that one, talking about what happens when you combine a number of sport movements together into a routine or your sport requires you to navigate a course or execute a certain play, and how imagery can help.

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In some sports such as gymnastics or cheerleading, your performances consist of a routine: fitting together a number of different skills into a particular order. Try using imagery to help you feel the movements and imagine your body positioning. This can reinforce those sequences in your muscle memory, especially because you can slow down sequences that are more difficult in your mental videotape to make sure you achieve every minute detail of each movement.
Other sports, such as downhill skiing or rowing, require a course to be navigated or a race to be competed in a particular way. Once you have determined your plan for how you want to attack your upcoming race – maybe going hard at the start before settling into a comfortable pace before really picking it up for the last 50m push – imagery helps solidify and prepare your body to do it when the time comes. This preparation can actually help relax you in the moment, because theoretically, you have already completed this exact race many times before; who cares if it was in your head!

Many team sports (football, baseball, soccer, etc.) are executed through a number of plays, or strategies that are reserved for a particular situation. Mentally rehearsing the plays or strategies that you are likely to encounter and have to implement in your next game can help make your response to the accompanying situation that much quicker. This allows you and your team to save those precious seconds you may have otherwise for when it matters the most…

Regardless of your sport, strategy is involved one way or another. Where it does come into play, you can harness the power of imagery to help you prepare for your upcoming performances. You can rehearse your floor routine while riding the bus to the competition venue. You can visualize how you will navigate the slope while you are waiting for your turn to race. You can mentally rehearse the plays your team will employ against your upcoming opponent in the days leading up to your next game. If you do this, you will feel that much more prepared to execute your routines, race plans, or game strategies flawlessly.