Visualization and Coping with Distractions

February 8, 2010 Post Comment Uncategorised

Recently I read this abstract from the International Journal or Sports Psychology:

Penalty shooting and gaze behavior: Unwanted effects of the wish not to miss – which you can read here:

Interesting study, and rather links to a number of my posts in the Prodigy Coach Coaches Forum. In Hypnosis-Opening the Senses I talk about the RAS (Reticular Activating System) and how it can be programmed in terms of dead aim and hitting targets. However, the IJSP article seems to advocate the downside of this…until you look at it from the NLP perspective and how the penalty takers (already anxious at not missing) are internally processing the target area.
Instead of just seeing the target areas for what they are (just targets), the penalty takers have associated a kinaesthetic representation of anxiety to those targets. They might also have internalised an auditory representation of “the critical voice” telling them not to miss. So – every time they see the target areas they fire these anchors!

There are two ways to avoid this.
One is to set up anchors with the penalty takers in practice, so that when they encounter the circumstances in a match situation then they can fire the anchors to help propel them towards proper execution.
The other is to use visualization – not of the targets but of the process (in this case the approach, strike of the ball and follow through).
If you saw the BBC2 Horizon programme “The England Patient” (2003) you will have seen the work done by David Beckham in this regard.

Essentially, visualization as mental rehearsal of physical processes is of enormous benefit. And by anchoring a particular state to your visualizations as well, you can bring some very powerful resources into play.

Distractions are always with us, and there will be some that are unplanned – viz: Jonny Wilkinson and the quality of the match balls at the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Fortunately, once they knew to “test” the ball before every kick, the distraction was manageable.

Whatever sport you play, mental prep needs to be on many levels to assist you in getting into a position of best performance through best process. Visualization, although it might seem a practice strategy, is actually very vital in performance as well. Especially when all else seems to be failing!