by Rachel Shea
At the end of every practice Richard, the women’s soccer coach here at Vassar, tells us to “visualize, visualize, visualize” in order to mentally prepare ourselves for our upcoming games. Seeing as we have two of our most important games of the season coming up this weekend I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and visualizing, about soccer. Conveniently enough, all this thinking about soccer overlapped with all the thinking that I am currently putting into this blog post.
A few years ago my older cousin who’s a very good baseball player recommended that I read a book called Mind Gym by Gary Mack. The second chapter, entitled “The Head Edge,” addresses the importance of visualizing to an athlete. In this chapter Gary Mack talks about a study done with a group of college basketball players. The players were divided into 3 groups (this would be a nominal scale). The first group spent an hour shooting free throws each day, the second group spent an hour visualizing their free throws each day, and the third group spent half and hour shooting free throws and half an hour visualizing their free throws going in the basket. The third group showed the most improvement in their foul shot percentage. This shows that just like practicing taking free throws, thinking about taking them helps an athlete to improve. In athletics, when you visualize yourself doing something well, it is much more likely that you’ll be able to perform when the time comes. Personally, I think visualizing has a lot to do with a person’s confidence as an athlete. If you continually visualize yourself making a foul shot, you’ll be much more confident when you’re on the foul line in an important game. In high school my dad always told me that if I didn’t think I could do something I would never be able to do it. Of course, I never listened to him when he told me to visualize, but I decided to try it when I read about famous athletes like Pele, Mark MaGuire, and Mia Hamm who spend a lot of time working on the mental aspect of their game. Turns out Richard is right, we really should be visualizing before every game.
Mack, G. (2002) Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence. New York: McGraw Hill