"although successful performance is the greatest influence on confidence, vicarious experience- imagining success or watching someone else achieve success- is also a consistent source of confidence." -Albert Bandura
Here is the link to an interesting article dealing with Visualization and Imagery:
The statistics given in this article show that many elite athletes employ the techniques of visualization and imagery (90%) and frequently (3-5 times per week). Many times the techniques and methods that elite athletes are employing take time to trickle down to the amateur ranks, and I believe that visualization and imagery are going to become more mainstream among all sports participants as time goes on.
The analogy given in the article was excellent to illustrate what visualization and imagery can do for an athlete. The article mentions the brain as a CPU (central processing unit) that sends commands and signals to the hardware (the body) in order to perform physical skills and tasks. Many athletes would agree that this is definitely the case, but where does visualization and imagery fit in is the question many of them are left with.
If an athlete has certain goals in mind that they want to achieve, then why not begin achieving them in their minds before asking their bodies to? When put this way, many of the athletes I partner with agree whole hardheartedly that this would be of immense help. The next logical question then becomes, what does effective visualization and imagery look like?
In order for visualization and imagery to be effective, the athlete has to possess controlability and vividness of the scenario they are wanting to envision. Effective controlability is achieved when the athlete imagines the scenario playing out exactly as they would like it to. This means that the athlete is successful in their performance and achieves their goal. Vividness is achieved when the athlete can envision many different aspects of the scenario, including ,but not exclusively, sights, smells, sounds and emotional/physical sensations that might be experienced.
When visualization and imagery are employed effectively with high levels of controlability and vividness, the athlete's chances of achieving their goal is increased. Many athletes, when asked about a time they were in "the zone" during a great performance cannot remember certain parts of the performance and say they were simply going through the motions. Their explanations many times sound as if they had a "script" prepare during visualization and imagery sessions that was simply being played out during their performance.