Can visualization improve my performance?

I absolutely believe that visualization will improve performance. In fact, many professional athletes from golfers and bobsleders to basketball players and gymnasts have been known to use visualization. You could visualize the proper mechanics for your sport or visualize the feeling and sensations of winning the big game. Either way, visualizing your self succeeding will build your confidence, which is vital in any sport.

There are numerous studies researching the affects of mental imagery on sports performance. I can remember reading one such study where the objective was to determine whether or not visualization would increase free throw percentage. After attaining a baseline percentage, the participants were split up into three groups. The control group was not allowed to practice free throws in any sense of the word. The visualization group was instructed to practice free throws using mental imagery only. The third group was instructed to physically practice shooting free throws. At the end of the study, all three groups were retested for their free throw percentages. To no surprise, the group that physically practiced shooting free throws showed an improvement while the control group showed no significant changes. The visualization group, who I will remind you only used visualization to 'practice' free throws, improved their free throw percentage to the same degree as the group who physically practiced!

I personally believe that the unconscious mind is unable to distinguish between reality and imagination (so long as the imagination is vivid and detailed). Given this, it makes sense to me that visualizing your self succeeding in a sport would be beneficial. Besides, you can use visualization anytime and anywhere so why not?

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