Visualization (or imagery as it’s often called) is one of the most researched mental skills out there. Since imagery has been found to be one of the best ways to improve confidence, and confidence is the best indicator of future success, imagery is definitely something you want to build into your training.
Your brain doesn’t know the difference between what it sees through your eyes and what it sees in your imagination. So by visualizing ideal swings and ball paths, you not only build confidence, you can actually increase the chances of making those things happen in real life.
Each time you visualize, your brain sends impulses out to all the muscles as if you were actually performing the shot. Repeated visualization strengthens the “neural pathway” so when you go to physically hit the shot, the ideal swing happens.
As a fun exercise, read this first and then close your eyes to do the task:
Imagine you’re in your kitchen and realize you are thirsty. You walk to the refrigerator and see a jar of pickles. You pick up the jar, take off the lid and drink straight from the jar. You’ll know the exercise worked if you started to salivate as if you tasted the vinegar, because our brain doesn’t know the difference. That is the power of visualization.
How to Practice Visualization
There are some complicated methods but we’ll keep things pretty simple. In general, you want to visualize first person, which means your viewpoint is through your own eyes. The alternative is third person, as if you were watching yourself on video. First person also enables you to imagine what the shot feels like, which has been shown to improve the quality and consistency of the shot.
Whether you’re sitting on your couch or practicing on the court, imagine this: You are calm, confident, and in the moment. The air is cool, the sun is warm, and you’ve tuned out all distractions. Light on your feet, you hit a perfect forehand, crosscourt, down the line for a winner and you ready yourself for the next point. The more you “see” yourself playing great in your mind, the sooner it will happen in real life. Good luck in your next match!
–Dr. Bob Neff, Mental Trainer®
Learn to master these skills and more here.
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