Everyone knows that the key to improving at anything is practice, practice and more practice. What many do not realize is that this practice can be accomplished, with great success, without moving a muscle. Mental sports training has been around for years and much of it can be traced back to Dr. Maxwell Maltz’s amazing book, Psycho-Cybernetics, on self-image psychology. Taking an example from his book let me demonstrate.
Thirty people were split into three groups and were scored shooting free throw baskets. The first group was then told to practice shooting baskets every day for a month. The second group was told to do, absolutely, nothing and the third group was told to only practice in their heads using their imagination. After a month they were again scored. The first group had improved considerably. The second group that did nothing, showed no improvement at all and the group that practiced only, in their minds improved almost as much as the group that physically practiced.
The best thing about mental practice is that it can be performed 24 hours a day, virtually, anywhere. To be the most effective, a state of physical and mental relaxation is desired. Lie down, relax you muscles, clear your mind and start serving tennis balls, throwing football passes or play golf. Obviously, you want these mental endeavors to be successful and perfect every time.
The mind cannot tell the difference between a real and an imagined experience and you want your practice to be vivid and real. Hear the sounds and smell the smells; feel the movements of your body and be attuned to your thoughts. Follow through, serving an ace against your opponent, completing the pass to your receiver or putting the little white ball into the cup.
Things happen quickly in most sports and conscious thought is very often too slow. With practice, both mentally and physically, you store scenarios and the reactions to deal with them. With mental practice, you can create imaginary scenarios and deal with them with the proper response. The mind will remember these responses and when the time comes, will guide your body to succeed.
Almost everyone has, at one time or another, been successful at doing something. It may have been something as humble as winning the fifty-yard dash in fifth grade, being number one in a spelling bee or being crowned homecoming king or queen. Draw on these accomplishments and remember the feeling of pride and confidence that it gave you; the feeling you had of being the winner. Nothing succeeds like success and you must be able to see and feel the end-result and keep that winning feeling.