What do legends Arnold Palmer, Dorothy Hamill, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lorena Ochoa, Hank Arron, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Nadia Comaneci, Magic Johnson, Michael Phelps and Chris Evert all have in common? Each one has publicly spoken about maximizing their skills and perfecting their performance through the power of mental training & mental fitness. This unique style of training comes under the heading of "Sports Psychology," and it's amazing.
The fact is, it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you use your mind. Whether your game is golf, baseball, basketball, bowling, running, swimming, football, ice skating, or tennis your mental attitude and mindset play a very important role. Creative visualization, mental simulation and mental rehearsal have become common tools in competitive sports and in the Olympics. Books such as "The Mental Athlete" and "Inner Golf"have been best sellers for years.
Coaches and sports psychologists use visualization techniques to improve performance, to increase team morale and to ease the jitters before a game. Jack Nicholas, Jean-Claude Killy, Carl Lewis, Mary Lou Retton and Greg Louganis have also spoken publicly about dramatic changes in their performance while using visual and imagery techniques. All of these tremendous athletes possess awesome mental skills that placed them at top of their game.
In our Sports Psychology Seminars we teach the athletic participants that successful sports figures share the following five dominant characteristics:
1. They maintain a positive mental attitude, and never view themselves as losers even after losing a competition.
2. They maintain an unshakable belief in themselves and in their abilities.
3. They maintain the ability to enter a "zone of peak concentration" while competing.
4. They maintain the ability to use losses or mistakes as tools to refine their skills.
5. They use their minds to visualize themselves competing flawlessly.
A classic study was done by Australian psychologist Alan Richardson. Dr. Richardson chose three random groups of basketball players with no previous experience of visual or imagery techniques. Each group was instructed to shoot a series of free throws and their scores were recorded. Group #1 was additionally instructed to practice free throwing for the next twenty days. Group #2 was not permitted to touch a basketball for the next twenty days. Finally, Group #3 was instructed to only visualize themselves making accurate free throws for the next twenty days.
For the next several weeks, several minutes each day, Group #3 used all of their inner senses to visualize perfect free throws. In their minds they felt the ball smoothly leave their hands and follow a perfect path into the hoop. As they visualized the ball going directly into the hoop, they felt the excitement of success flow through their bodies. They mentally became excited as they imaged success after success. On the twentieth day all three groups re-gathered to shoot some more free throws and have their scores recorded. Group #1, which actually practiced for twenty days, had improved their score by 24%. Group #2 which did not practice at all, showed no improvement. Group #3, the group that practiced only mentally, showed an improvement of 23%. This is only one percentage point lower than Group #1 who practiced objectively for twenty days. The same results have been duplicated in other sports and competitive activities.
This will verify that there is very little difference between objective practice and mental practice. Since the body cannot tell the difference between a real or a vividly imagined scene or experience, the brain transmits identical signals to the nervous system. As a result, your talents will improve no matter which method you use. However, research has consistently shown that frequent objective practice combined with powerful visualization creates the ideal winning combination.
As long as you have mastered the basic knowledge and fundamentals of your sport, you can use the following four strategies taught in our seminars to enhance your sports performance.
1. With your eyes closed and very relaxed, review some of your greatest performances and vividly relive times when you were in the flow. Mentally remember how you stood, how you breathed, how you walked, how you talked. Recall what you were saying to yourself mentally and totally associate yourself with these scenes as if they were happening all over again. Feel the excitement of your victory. Realize if you did it once you can do it repeatedly. As you relive these scenes, you will experience a point of "peak excitement." This is your signal that you are totally associated with your images. By this time, small but measurable, changes are occurring in your muscles, body, mind and nervous system. These peak images are recreating the same inner success patterns that caused you to succeed brilliantly before. Now you need to "lock them in" so these patterns will be at your disposal anytime, anywhere.
While you are at your peak of excitement, with your eyes closed, rapidly begin to snap the fingers of either hand many times in succession. At the same time mentally repeat this key phrase "I can do it again, I can do it again, I can do it again!" This technique, called Conditioning or Anchoring, will help you recreate those successful feelings on demand. Those success patterns and that special state of mind will help you to be just as successful again and again. Your games and performances will naturally improve.
To trigger that state of mind at a future competition, simply snap your fingers several times and repeat the key phrase before you compete. That action will send a signal to your brain, which will then trigger the identical resources needed to put you back in the flow state. This may be one of the most important techniques you will use to improve your athletic performance.
2. Before a competition, close your eyes and for a few minutes vividly imagine the competition in detail. Imagine yourself playing brilliantly. Visualize yourself in complete control totally focused and concentrated. Hear the crowds cheer your name and feel the rush of excitement and success racing through your body. Vividly imagine every move you will make and visualize yourself victorious. Mentally review any weak spots and picture yourself flawlessly overcoming them.
3. After a competition, mentally review your performance. If you made any errors, imagine yourself making the necessary correction and doing them properly. This action will help you avoid that error in the future. Remember, your mind is a wonderful feedback device; it learns from its mistakes. This mental correction technique will help to speed its learning process. You will soon find yourself avoiding that mistake permanently.
4. Above all, remember sports and competitions are supposed to be fun. They allow us to interact and connect with like-minded people. They allow us to develop our skills and refine them. Competition would not be fun if you win every time since there would be no challenge. That would take the excitement and thrill out of the game. I tell all of the participants in my sports seminars and I tell my children that, "You are never a loser if you compete to better your best." Practice competing against yourself. Instead of focusing on always being a winner, focus on your skills progressively improving. Strive for progress not perfection. If you play every game better than your last, you're a winner every time.
I wish you luck & success!
John Eric Jacobsen was born to teach and destined to be a writer & motivator. In 1985 John founded "Jacobsen Business Programs, Inc." (JacobsenPrograms.com), a corporate seminar company helping people to succeed personally and professionally.
John's experience is what sets him apart. With a diverse background in business, sales, communications, theatrical arts, dance and acting; John has the unique ability to not only be a great teacher, but also an amazing entertainer who can keep your attention. He has trained and worked with over a half a million people and has performed or taught all over America on stage and on TV.
John has also authored the national seller, "Conversations on Customer Service & Sales." This is an amazing work designed to help businesses improve their sales and enhance consumer relations. John is proud to have the great Brian Tracy as a co-author.