Mental Imagery And Visualization For Gymnasts | Gymnastics GL

 

 

Mental Imagery And Visualization For Gymnasts

 

Mental  blocks and fears happen for many reasons including falls, injury, fatigue, dehydration, poor skill technique, and too much pressure to perform from the coach and/or parent.  Many gymnasts also have the tendency to put a lot of stress on themselves.  Sports psychology is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society. Visual imagery skills are being used to help not only to increase energy and help avoid injury, but  to reduce anxiety, fear, increase confidence, focus, self-composure, and help with recurring past images of terrible performances that they have difficulty forgetting. Many coaches preach the line that it’s 90% mental and 10% physical.  That’s why so many athletes are turning to mental imagery to take their performances one step further.  Having that edge can be decisive in competition.

Mental imagery , visualization, mental rehearsal, whatever one prefers to call it, trains our minds.  The reason mental imagery works is because when one imagines themselves performing to perfection, and doing precisely what they want to accomplish, you create neural patterns, which are similar to small tracks engraved in your brain cells.  For your brain, it is just as if you have physically performed the action.

How To Perform The Visualization Technique

Firstly, you need to try to get your gymnasts to relax and breathe deeply to let the tension go.  Once they feel the stress melting away and have taken several deep breathes, they can move on.  If they are having difficulty with a specific skill, they need to visualize themselves performing that skill repeatedly without any flaws.  Showing videos of other gymnasts performing may also be of some help.  It is important to bear in mind that the videos should be of gymnasts who have an excellent technique.  After watching the video, tell them to close their eyes and replay it in their minds.  Have them do this mental imagery exercise over and over again, until they can clearly picture themselves performing that skill to perfection.  Start this visualization of skills with the more basic ones such as a cartwheel.  Once they have mastered visualizing the easier skills, move on to the more difficult ones, just as they would actually be taught.

       Once they have  accomplished this technique, you can move on to the next step.  While they are waiting to perform their floor routines, have them kneel down, close their eyes, and  perform all of their arm movements while visualizing themselves doing their routine .  This exercise should be practised  every day, for every event (always performing the arm movements).  You will notice that they eventually begin to pay closer attention  to the smaller details: the pointed toes, straight arms and legs…

The idea that practice makes perfect completely goes along with this technique.  By carefully analyzing and studying their mistakes they can focus on visualizing these aspects.  You should notice that by using this method  they are able to achieve greater results much quicker than by simply practicing the same moves repeatedly. The combination of practice and visualization will have your gymnasts sailing through their moves, and mastering new tricks in no time.

Many coaches train their gymnasts to visualize a technique or movement BEFORE they actually physically try it.  Besides the visualization exercises, to reduce fear and improve technique, keep in mind good conditioning, proper nutrition , hydration, and the quality of sleep your gymnast is getting.  One of the most important aspects for a mental training program is a positive gymnastics environment.  People are not able to learn easily if they are constantly stressed out.  Too many coaches opt out for Bela Karolyi’s method of screaming and negative feedback.  So get into the gym  and practice visualization, discuss good food choices, and encourage a healthy lifestyle with your gymnasts.

 

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