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Receiving Psychological Skills Training In Sport Psychology

By Edited May 24, 2016 0 0

There are five key categories to Psychological Skills Training (PST):
1. Imagery
2. Arousal/Psychic energy regulation
3. Attention/Concentration skills
4.  Goal Setting
5. Stress Management/Self-Confidence

As you will notice, these have more to do with the power of the mind rather than physical capabilities. Psychological Skills Training (PST) is meant to add to the physical work that an athlete puts into their sport every day. The mental and physical balance and regulate each other. Thus, it is important to develop these mental skills as much as physical technique until they each become second nature.

Focusing on Imagery

Among the varying factors of PST, imagery is one of the most beneficial in training. It begins with nothing more than visualizing possibilities and ideas. It might seem like a very simple exercise to do, but when done properly it allows for the other facets of mental training to follow. Goals are best formed, for example, when you can fully imagine how they will play out. Confidence can hold strong if you can imagine your success more strongly than your failure as well. In a sense, imagery is a low risk exercise that can replace half-cocked actions and tests.

It can help with:
- Gaining or exercising complicated motor skills
- Practicing strategies
- Gaining various other psychological abilities

Taking Advantage of Imagery

1.    Sensory Awareness

You simply cannot imagine something in your mind if you cannot remember the vital components collected by the senses. If you can’t recall how something feels, sounds, or smells then the imagery won’t be effective. It’s likely that you won’t be able to imagine anything at all. With a strong awareness of how things felt in the past, you can actually picture possible outcomes in the future, making it easier to work towards that very future.

2.    Vividness

Once you have mastered your senses, you can move on to making them more vivid. The more vivid or sharp the imagery is, the more likely it is that you are going to be able to visualize beyond basic senses like sight, touch, smell, taste and sound. This is where emotions can seep into the imagery.

3.    Controllability

The most important aspect of imagery is making sure that it stays within your control. You control your senses and emotions, so that they don’t control you. Half-heartedly visualizing a future scenario or situation can lead to a wandering image that alters into something taken over by doubt and negative thought.

Put it to Practice

Before using imagery for athletic training, focus on something more mundane or every day. Imagine that you are on a beach, running your hands over the sand and allowing the waves to lap at your feet. How does the sand move along your skin? Is the water cold or warm when it touches your feet? Is there a breeze? How big are the waves? Is this scenery calming, or are you agitated by the beating sun above you? Now work with the image and alter your state of mind, allow yourself to relax into the warming sand and for the sea water to cool your feet.

From here you can work your way towards imagery exercises specific to your sport, such as:

-    Imagining you exercising a particular skill that needs developing. Go through every step, every move that your body needs to make in order to play the action out correctly. To you need to twist your torso, shift your stance or speed your pace? See and feel all of this in your mind down to the smallest detail. Then think of a situation in the past that you could have used this movement to overcome. Imagine yourself calmly executing it successfully and with little effort.

-    Imagine yourself against a seasoned and difficult opponent. In this kind of situation you need to make sure that you are calmly controlling your reactions and movements in the scenario. Consider the strategies you would use in order to succeed against your opponent and play them out in your head. Keep the imagery realistic and consider what you can do that is within your ability or is something you could do if you practice enough. Consider the opponents weaknesses and openings, and exploit them.

Develop emotional control within your imagery exercises so that you can better control your emotions against a real opponent. Imagine a past or fake scenario where you become angry. You have let an opponent past your guard, perhaps, or got blocked. This causes you to tense, and your anxiety increases. At this moment it is best to implement anxiety management skills to work through your emotions and put them to better use in a more positive and productive manner. Instead of dwelling on the mistake, focus on what can be done next. As stated earlier, imagery practice is a great alternative to real-world practice which allows for efficiency and better success once you do put it to the test on the field, court, track, etc. Imagery allows for a safe environment that is under your control, allowing for mistakes and better growth in the end.

Take Note:

Imagery is not a time to fantasize. It might be fun to imagine yourself defeating all of your opponents without breaking a sweat, or scoring hundreds of points on your own but it isn’t realistic. The point of imagery is to visualize possible scenarios so that you can later play them out during a competition successfully. You might not be able to run circles around your opponent like you would want, but you can certainly use the skills you have to gain some advantage over them.

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