Seeing the Big Picture – Visualization

As athletes are recovering from an injury, visualizing movement (mental imagery) has been shown to be beneficial in maintaining skills, decreasing stress, increasing self confidence, and increasing motivation to train to return to their sport (Research Quarterly for Exercise & Sport, Vol. 78, Sept. 2007, Pg 351-363). There have also been studies that show how visualization improves performance when applied to warm up discussions, pre-game activities, etc. But how do we apply this to our training?

“By installing simple movements and skill early in the season we can develop a comfort with the simplest (and most critical portion) of the task – the movement.”

Athletes learn in many different ways, some need to see the activity performed, while others need to be led through the activity and ‘feel’ the movement before they fully understand it. Others respond favorably to hearing a coach explain the movement. This mix of visual, kinesthetic and auditory stimuli should be worked into the training as often as possible. Simply put, to understand the outcome, the player first must have a clear picture of the process (the Why, the How and the What).

This is where our Functionally Integrated Training is extremely beneficial. By installing simple movements and skill early in the season we can develop a comfort with the simplest (and most critical portion) of the task – the movement. As the season progresses we will be integrating new skills, complex movements and other players (interaction) to create a picture of how these activities are to be linked together and executed. In the later stages of athletic development we will begin integrating these activities into situational games and sport specific drills. This final stage shows the athletes why each step was important, where and when to execute the skill or task to achieve the desired outcome.

If we can first tell the story (the Why, Where and When) as we are installing the simple movements, the player will begin to visualize the outcome and find value in the simple task itself. In a basketball example of a simple jump training tasks, we may talk about how grabbing a rebound and quickly pushing the ball up the court requires an explosive vertical as well as solid landing skills and reactive quickness out of the landing. We need the players to understand that the jump is just the beginning and the outcome is to land, find your outlet and sprint up the floor looking to score. We can’t have the player getting into poor positions in the landing which could slow the next step in the process or even worse result in an injury.

In your training session today, tell the story, demonstrate the outcome and then begin to coach/prepare the movements. You might be surprised how quickly the players form will improve.

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