Imagery and Visualization are fantastic tools that all athletes, not just hockey players should include in their arsenal of performance tools. Visualization is one of the easiest mental skills to include in a training program because it requires no equipment and can be incorporated into drills, practices, and skill development activities without adding significant time to training.
The challenge often faced with visualization and imagery skill development, is that it is included into training as an after thought or with inadequate instruction for the athlete and consequently the true benefit is never really reached.
Although often used interchangeably, I like to distinguish between imagery and visualization to help a player understand how to use these skills more effectively. Think of imagery like a picture. Try imagining a hockey puck in your minds eye. It does not move, but you can see the logo, the shape, and the contours of the puck. That’s imagery!
Now think of stickhandling the puck down the ice. See the puck move along the ice, hear the puck touch the stick as you move the puck back and forth. Now you can see the net in front of you just as you are about to shoot the puck . . .
This is visualization, a series of moving images. If you have never done visualization before then, like most athletes, all the details of the puck we imagined previous likely disappeared as you started adding in more details and movement. This is a common problem but one that has to be addressed. Think of imagery and visualization like a flipbook animation. We have a series of pictures that are slightly different and when put together or “flipped” through create a moving image like a cartoon. If one of the images in the flipbook isn’t as detailed as the others, the whole cartoon doesn’t work as well. We have to be very good at imagery before we can be very good at visualization.
The more detail we can include in visualization, the more vivid that visualization and the more likely it is to benefit the player. However, it is important that our mental images are very vivid and clear before we start adding more detail or movement.
Once the athlete see’s a vivid picture, then can start adding in more senses to create a realistic visualization. For example, the player should visualize the sounds they can hear during a game (the crowd, skates on the ice, whistles, etc.), and then they can add in the sense of touch such as the feel of their gloves or the flex of their stick. Even tastes and smells will help add vividness to the visualization and help create a more realistic representation in their mind. Fundamentally, this is the most important thing to do in visualization—make it realistic.
The C4Success visualization exercises will help players develop more vivid visualization skills while also providing the ability for the player to improve their skills both on and off the ice. If you have any more questions about visualization and imagery or other mental skills, contact us at [email protected]
By Nic Allen