The American Coaching Academy recently sent a message to its coaches about the usefulness of visualization in basketball. As an example, they quoted a 2004 study that found visualizing free throw shooting was nearly as effective as actual practice!
“The (visualization group) improved by 23% WITHOUT TOUCHING A BASKETBALL,” they said, as compared to a 24% improvement for the group who practiced free throws for a month.
So here are a few tips on how to use visualization to help your performance. Other studies also found visualization can help with reducing performance anxiety, even for recreational players. So give it a try, and let us know how it works for you!
“Put simply, visualization is the process of putting an image in your mind,” the American Coaching Academy said.
Here are some tips for anyone wanting to try this technique out, paraphrased from the American Coaching Academy:
- Focus on a difficulty you are having, and then visualize succeeding. This can be a skill, or anxiety, or anything keeping you from your best performance. Then practice! Spend 10 minutes working on visualization exercises at least once per week.
- Make a vivid image, including as many sensory details as possible. That means not just picturing the scenario, but imagining the smell, the feel, sound and feeling of that most challenging moment for you.
- Make the image steady. Your mind will want to change the scenario or get distracted. If you have to, spend less time the first few tries but make the image and the story very consistent and try to stay focused, then lengthen the time.
- Adapt the image as your challenges change. Check in with yourself each week and decide if you still need to work on the same scenario as last week, or if you overcame that challenge and are ready for a new one. Keep your visualization up to date with your needs, that will also keep you from getting bored!