Mental Imagery Techniques For Players Looking to Improve their Mental Game
It's all in your head. Mental imagery in a nut shell. Tired of being told to get your head in the game? It's all about being comfortable about the situation you're in and that's what mental imagery does.
We can all remember those special moments on the pitch and an important part of my development to the professional level was imagining those moments and recreating them in mind every night.
So, the way to truly take full advantage of this tool is to take 15 minutes before bed (that's all it really takes) and picture yourself on the pitch through your own eyes. What's important here is to look at it as if you are in that exact moment again and seeing the game again just as you do when you are playing. Every last detail from the beginning to the end of the match highlighting the positive moments of you on the pitch.
Think and really recreate:
-Every little voice and sound from the actual moment
-Positive movements, passes, shots, dribbles and play, rewind and play them over and over in your mind as if rewinding and playing a section of a movie over and over again.
-How the field and your surroundings smelt (yes i'm serious).
-Think about how you felt before, during and after that brilliant moment.
*** This is important, that same exact feeling of confidence and positive energy you want to replay over and over again to recreate that every time you step foot on a field.
Slightly different from internal (looking at it through your own perspective). External imagery focuses on looking it as a fan does the game or birds eye view if you will. This allows you to step back and see the bigger picture. Allowing you to recreate in your mind from an outsiders view point.
This allows you to recreate with amazing accuracy what not only happened in your direct interaction with the game but also your immediate surroundings. Sometimes stepping back gives you a closer look.
Again remember to pick up on details such as:
-How you felt in that exact moment (hot, cold, tired, fresh, itching for a goal etc)
-What you could literally feel (ball on your foot, opponent, teammate, grass etc)
-What people were saying to you, teammates, opponents and fans.
-Your exact thought process to the best of your recollection. "I'm gonna burn this guy, I'm gonna stick this guy, man I feel good, I'm killing these guys all match long" etc.
The beauty of these two mental imagery tools are they are simple to practice and pay dividends in the demanding mental aspect of any competitive fixture.
I once read a story about an Olympic swimmer who used imagery every single day and imagined herself performing at the Olympics, having the race of her life and ultimately winning gold.
She imagined everything from the preparation of the race to hearing her countries anthem played as she stood on the podium. When asked about it she said that she had felt like she had done it a million times and been there before. But how?
Every single day in the morning and night before bed she imagined the entire process through mental imagery. So by the time she got there she felt like she was just going through the motions she had gone through hundreds of times before that.
She felt comfortable and relaxed and the moment didn’t get to her because of her mental practice over the years and you can do it too! It took me lots of time to really appreciate and understand the effect of what mental imagery can do for your game. It's about staying disciplined and constantly having these moments recreated from every last detail to have another confidence building resource. Even Ronaldinho had confidence issues, it happens to us all.
Slowly add these mental imagery tools to your arsenal and you'll be feeling more confident and get that "wow i've been here before" feeling even in the most stress filled moments. All that's left now is to help you with those boots of yours, really? Anybody who said neon was flattering lied.
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