What is Visualisation?
Visualisation, also known as, imagery or mental rehearsal, is defined as using all your senses to rehearse your sport in your mind. Its main purpose is to aid replication of the competitive environment, whilst in a training scenario.
Benefits of using visualisation techniques:
o Increases confidence as the athlete knows what is required to perform.
o Allows the athlete to develop appropriate cues that form in the ‘muscle memory’.
o Allows the athlete to imagine the opposition tactics and plan methods to overcome
o Through imagining the performance throughout, potential problems can be
identified, and plans put in place before the event.
o Athletes can learn to anticipate emotions and act accordingly.
o Using imagery helps get the most out of training. Athletes can build on their
strengths and help eliminate their weaknesses.
o Imagery helps an athlete stay motivated and focussed on the task in hand.
o Using visualisation techniques help athletes keep in top form when training is not
possible. For example, injuries are inevitable within a sporting career and so when an
athlete is unable to train, they can use imagery to help maintain their abilities during
the rehabilitation process and to help them cope with their injuries.
o Athletes also learn to be more positive – the mental rehearsal is characterised by
positive and successful representations with negative thoughts been eliminated.
o Athletes better understand the importance of goal setting.
o Tension and fear become reduced.
o Thinking becomes more disciplined, organised, and planned, raising awareness of
the performed motor skills.
How to use visualisation techniques effectively in your respective sport?
From previous research, we know that imagery and visualisation techniques are most beneficial when:
o It is vivid and detailed
o Has a positive focus
o Occurs in real time to maximise the transfer to competition
o Uses all the senses – sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound
o The techniques are practiced before they are used
o You begin imagery training; you imagine high quality images for short periods of time
before increasing the time you spend doing it
o Set the scene and make it as realistic as possible by recreating the most important
details of the setting
o Relaxation techniques are used prior to imagining. For example – listen to music,
progressive muscular relaxation, and diaphragmatic breathing
o Mental imagery is done regularly – 3-5 minutes uninterrupted is effect and it should
be incorporated as part of training sessions
o Imagery scripts are used to structure and plan the content and timing of the imagery
o Plan your imagery carefully – maybe using the PETTLEP System below
Internal or External Perspective:
Internal – This is when you can see the surrounding as if you were actually there. Using this
perspective allows a more realistic experience of the actual movement and can be
rehearsed to practice strategies and recognition of cues.
External – This is where you can picture yourself or someone else doing the task. It enables
you to move perspective around to get a greater understanding of technique. It can be used
without executing the task previously and helps when learning a new skill or correcting
It is worth giving both perspectives a try, especially in different situations. See which one is
more effective for you.
P – physical – it should replicate the physical aspect of performance, the physical movements, and the use of relevant equipment.
E – environment – it should create the environment surrounding the action; the sounds, sights and feels.
T – task – it must be relative to the level of the athlete whilst considering the form and strategy of the task.
T – timing – it should be as close to real time as possible.
L – learning – it must accommodate the developing skill of the athlete. You can add increased factors and greater detail as ability increases.
E – emotion – it should mimic competition emotion.
P – perspective – it should cater for the demands of the sport and the preference of the athlete. Use of the internal or external perspective.
Develop your own imagery program. Set goals, create imagery scripts, practice, and use a log to record and measure imagery use and effectiveness.
Useful Video Links:
The Best Way to Visualize – Performance Psychology – Visualization / Imagery –
Predoiu, R., Predoiu, A., Mitrache, G., Firanescu, M., Cosma, G., Dinuta, G., & Bucuroiu, R.
(2020). Visualisation techniques in sport – the mental road map for success. 59. 245-256.