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Developing Imagery skills

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The aim of this page is to help you develop your imagery (visualisation) skills.
We will look at the elements of imagery development and the creation of
scripts to help in developing your imagery skills.

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The five main categories of imagery have been identified as follows:

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1. Motivational-specific (MS) - This involves seeing yourself winning an

event, receiving a trophy or medal and being congratulated by other
athletes. MS imagery may boost motivation and effort during training
and facilitate goal-setting, but is unlikely on its own to lead directly to
improved performance
2. Motivational general-mastery (MG-M) - This is based on seeing yourself
coping in difficult circumstances and mastering challenging situations. It
might include maintaining a positive focus while behind, and then
coming back to win. MG-M imagery appears to be important in
developing expectations of success and self-confidence
3. Motivational general-arousal (MG-A) - This is imagery that reflects
feelings of relaxation, stress, anxiety or arousal in relation to sports
competitions. There is good evidence to suggest that MG-A imagery can
influence heart rate - one index of arousal - and can be employed as a
'psych-up' strategy
4. Cognitive specific (CS) - This involves seeing yourself perform specific
skills, such as a tennis serve, golf putt or triple-toe-loop in figure
skating. If learning and performance are the desired outcomes, evidence
suggests that CS imagery will be the most effective choice
5. Cognitive general (CG) - This involves images of strategy and game
plans related to a competitive event. Examples could include employing
a serve-and-volley strategy in tennis or a quick-break play in basketball

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To be effective, like any skill, imagery needs to be developed and practiced

regularly. There are four elements to mental imagery - Relaxation, Realism,
Regularity and Reinforcement (The 4Rs) (Hale 1998) .

A relaxed mind and body is essential to help you feel the movement patterns
and experience any emotions generated. It will help to use a relaxation
technique prior to imagery training.

Create imagery so realistic you believe you are actually executing the skill. In
order to obtain the most realistic imagery possible, you must incorporate
definition, action, emotion, detail, and a positive result into your imagery:

Definition - Make the images as vivid as possible, include colour

Action - Break down the image into small components and visualise
those components. (Sprinting - consider the action of the arms, legs,
trunk, head, feet, hands, breathing etc.)
Emotion - Try to include emotional feelings in your images. Refresh
your memory constantly by emphasising specific sensory awareness
(e.g. smells, the wind) during training
Detail - Incorporate as many of your senses as possible into your
imagery so the scene is as clear and realistic as real life itself
Positiveresult - This is essential, "you only achieve what you believe"
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Spending between 3 and 5 minutes on imagery seems to be most effective. It
should be included in training and time outside of training should be spent on
imagery. (10-15 minutes a day)

The writing of imagery scripts will help you plan the content and timing of
your imagery training.

Document the basic content of the skill to be imagined. Describe how the skill
is performed and include all components of the skill to be imagined or
behaviours to be emphasised e.g. elbows are driven back with hands relaxed.

Add the detailed movement patterns and kinesthetic feelings - e.g. the toe is
dorsi flexed and a tightness felt in the muscles at the front of the shin

Read it to yourself and try to imagine executing the skill. Do you feel as if you
are actually executing the skill correctly? If not, re-examine the text to see if
they accurately reflect the sensations and movement patterns associated with
the skill.

When you have a suitable script then record it and use it as an aid for your
imagery training.

Basic Story - Components: Body position, ball toss, impact, ball flight, and
landing in back corner
Adding detail - Seeing the racket in the hand, the black ball in the other
hand, seeing the position of the opponent, looking at the point on the face
wall where you will direct the serve.
feeling the relaxed shoulders and hands
feeling the racket grip in the hand

seeing the back ball nestled on the fingers in the hand

feeling the smooth release of the ball
feeling the body weight shift, the knees bend
feeling the power in the body
feeling the racket head accelerate
feeling the wrist snap and the sound of the racket making contact with
the ball
watching the ball bounce off the face wall and land in the back corner of
the opponents side of the court making it impossible for opponent to
feeling the exhilaration and pleasure
Refine the script - Rewrite the script until when you read it, you feel as if
you are executing the serve.

In designing your imagery program, apply the FITT principals, as we do with
physical training
F is for Frequency - Aim to incorporate imagery into every day of your
training schedule. For busy people, just before you sleep could be a
good time, and it helps if you are in a relaxed and tranquil state
I is for Intensity - Try to create an all-sensory experience that is as
vivid and clear as possible. Initially, practising in a quiet environment
can help to minimise distractions and facilitate clear images
T is for Time - Imagery should make big demands on your attention, so
short (5-10 minutes) frequent quality sessions are preferable to long
T is for Type - Remember to decide on your desired outcome and select
the type of imagery to match it.

1. HALE, B. (1998)






The following references provide additional information on this topic:
MURPHY, S. M. (1990) Models of imagery in sport psychology: A
review. Journal of Mental Imagery
MURPHY, S. M. (1994) Imagery interventions in sport. Medicine &
Science in Sports & Exercise
HALL, C et al. (1985) The measurement of imagery ability. Human
Movement Science, 4 (2), p. 107-118

If you quote information from this page in your work then the reference for
this page is:
MACKENZIE, B. (1997) Developing Imagery skills [WWW] Available
from: [Accessed 28/10/2016]

The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic:
Articles on Sports Psychology

Books on Psychology
Competitive Anxiety
Mental Imagery
Performance Profiling
Relaxation Techniques
Sport Competition Anxiety Test (SCAT)
Stress Management
TEOSQ - Task and Ego Orientation in Sport Questionnaire

For further information on this topic see the following:
BEASHEL, P. and TAYLOR, J. (1996) Advanced Studies in Physical
Education and Sport. UK: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd.
BEASHEL, P. and TAYLOR, J. (1997) The World of Sport Examined. UK:
Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd.
BIZLEY, K. (1994) Examining Physical Education. Oxford; Heinemann
Educational Publishers
DAVIS, B. et al. (2000) Physical Education and the Study of Sport. UK:
Harcourt Publishers Ltd.
GALLIGAN, F. et al. (2000) Advanced PE for Edexcel. Oxford;
Heinemann Educational Publishers
McARDLE, W. et al. (2000) Essentials of Exercise Physiology. 2nd ed.
Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins
VILE, A. and BIGGS, J. (2004) Grace Under Pressure. UK; Lulu Press
ORLICK, T. (1986) Psyching for Sport. USA; Human Kinetics Publishers,
HALE, B. (1998) Imagery Training. UK; The National Coach Foundation

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