I’m linking to a fantastic article from Geoff Miller at The Winning Mind regarding visualization and it’s fantastic capabilities to help baseball athletes prepare.
What is Visualization?
Visualization is the widely used mental technique of “seeing” your performance in your mind.
The technique is generally done by closing your eyes and imagining a play or action. It can also be used as a primary training device to take the place of actual physical activity when a player is unable to practice.
Geoff is an expert in baseball psychology and manages sport programs at Winning Mind. Since 2005, Geoff has provided mental skills coaching services to the Pittsburgh Pirates (2005-2009), Washington Nationals (2010), and Atlanta Braves (2010-2014.)
Why Does Visualization Work?
Per Miller’s article, visualization is effective for two primary reasons:
1. “It strengthens neural pathways, the roads that our brain uses to send out messages to our bodies. A strong neural pathway is like an exact route you know to get from your house to the airport, the mall, etc. The more you picture yourself executing your skills, the stronger your neural pathways become until eventually you feel so comfortable playing your game that the movements feel automatic.”
2. “Our brains see real performance and imagined performance the same. We experience this phenomenon often in our dreams. For example, you might dream that you are falling and wake up bracing yourself or dream that you are in a panic and wake up sweating. When you’re awake you might experience a real feeling if someone describes that light, tingling you get that resonates from the bat all the way down your arms when you connect with the ball on the barrel or the stinging in your hands when you get jammed on a ball.”
How Do You Do It?
Miller continues: “When practicing visualization, you should describe the sounds and feelings that go along with swinging the bat, fielding the ball, and throwing pitches. In comic books, Batman and Superman would beat up the villains by punching them, but to get added effect, the artist would draw in a big POW and BAM. When a bomb went off, you’d read KABOOM! These words strengthen our pictures and make our visualization exercises more effective.
Pitching words: fastball ZIP, curveball DIP, slider WHOOSH, POP into the glove
Hitting words: CRACK, SLAM, WHAM, CONNECT, LIGHTNING, POW
Fielding words: GLIDE, REACH, STRETCH, SCURRY, LEAP”
The biggest issue that many players have with using visualization is not that they can’t imagine the details of their performance, but that they can’t see themselves succeeding.
If this is the case, I’d highly recommend that you read the complete piece here.
The goal we are trying to reach in using the mental game is to know what to do without thinking about it. As Miller says, “using visualization helps us practice our skills so we are more familiar with them and we feel like we’ve already “seen” our performance happen when it does.”