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Visualization: Envisioning Success

By Seth Kaplan

Integrating visualization as part of your pre-performance routine can help you to perform at your very best. Visualization is a mental preparation technique in which you create positive images in your mind before practice and competition. The idea is to simulate the event as clearly and vividly as possible to create a déjà vu experience when you are performing in real time. The result is an increased sport-reaction time because you have programmed the mind and body to perform automatically and without hesitation. Speeding up reaction time, even if it is slight, can be the difference between executing at a high level and coming up just short. But to improve your psychomotor skills you have to consistently practice the visualization technique.

Two all-time sports greats who were pioneers in the use of visualization were Jim Brown, Hall of Fame running back, and Jack Nicklaus, arguably the greatest golfer ever. Brown used to sit by his locker before the game (with his eyes closed) and imagine all of the scenarios that could play out while he is on the field. He would “see in his mind’s eye” hitting the hole with speed and power, catching a pass out of the backfield, and stiff-arming a would-be tackler – breaking free for additional yardage. Nicklaus once said, “I never hit a shot, in practice or competition, until I had a clear, in-focus picture of it in my head.” Tiger Woods has also stated that visualization plays a key role in his golf preparation.

As the field of sport psychology continues to grow, visualization is being used by more and more athletes, coaches, and teams in all sports and at all levels. It’s all about leveraging your mind’s ability to think in pictures to give you the competitive advantage. By routinely visualizing (creating or re-creating successful images) you can do the following:

  1. Improve technical, tactical, and physical skills
  2. Enhance motivation and confidence
  3. Solve problems and effectively deal with adversity
  4. Control your emotions and physiological responses
  5. Cope with pain and injury
  6. Manage errors and mistakes
  7. Improve resiliency and perseverance

You can improve all aspects of your performance by taking time out to visualize. I recommend 15-20 minutes of mental rehearsal per day. Take a few relaxing breaths before you begin to facilitate the start of your imagery exercise. You can visualize with your eyes open or closed depending on individual preference. In time your positive images will become more detailed and vivid with routine practice, and you’ll perform more instinctively and automatically during real-time events.

The road to peak performance starts in your mind so envision successful experiences to take your game to the next level!