Imagery – Psychological Skills Training

This is part of a five part series on Psychological Skills Training, covering the education, acquisition and practice of psychological skills.

Other posts in this series include:

  • Arousal Regulation – Psychological Skills Training
  • Self Confidence – Psychological Skills Training
  • Goal Setting – Psychological Skills Training
  • Concentration – Psychological Skills Training


  1. Imagery is the simulation of events in the mind. Imagery allows you to recreate previous positive experiences or picture new events to prepare yourself mentally for performance.
  2. Although imagery is often perceived as visualization alone, the more senses involved, the better:
    • Kinaesthetic (feeling of movement).
    • Visual.
    • Auditory.
    • Tactile.
    • Olfactory.

  1. How imagery works: Various theories exist, with the key elements being:
    • Neuromuscular patterns are identical when imagining or performing a task.
    • Imagery allows the athlete to become familiar with the requirements of a task.
    • Imagery has been found to improve concentration, reduce anxiety and enhance confidence.
    • Imagery allows the athlete to respond to certain stimuli in their environment.
  2. Uses of imagery:
    • Improve concentration.
    • Build confidence (successful completion of a skill/task).
    • Practicing the control of emotional responses.
    • Acquiring and practicing skills.
    • Acquiring and practicing strategy.
    • Coping with pain and injury.

Acquisition and Practice:

Keys to effective imagery:

  1. Vividness:
    • Detailed imagery is more effective, including all senses, external environment, emotions and internal dialogue.
      • Practical: Imagining a positive performance. Recall as vividly as possible a time when you performed very well.
        1. First, visually recall a movie of what you looked like, your body language.
        2. Second, recall the sounds, both external and internal (inner voice). How do you talk to yourself? What are your emotions?
        3. Third, recreate the kinesthetic sensations when you play well. Are you tight or relaxed? How do different areas of your body feel? Do you feel fast or slow?
  2. Controllability:
    • The ability to manipulate images so they do what you want them to – visualising successes rather than failures or faults.
      • Practical:
        1. Visually recall a skill you’ve struggled with in the past. Picture what you’ve traditionally done wrong. Now make the correction.
        2. Recall a situation in which you’ve experienced a negative emotion, become angry, tensed up, lost concentration, lost confidence. Recreate the emotions, then work through strategies to focus on successful skill completion with correct focus and positive emotions.
  3. The following steps should be taken to develop an imagery training program:
    • Find an effective setting.
    • Relaxed concentration (meditation).
    • Have a realistic understanding that imagery can assist performance.
    • Use vivid and controllable images.
    • Ensure the imagery has a positive focus (successful outcome).
    • Imagine both the execution and the outcome of a skill.
    • Image in real time.
Dan Williams

Dan Williams


Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion and leads a team of Exercise Physiologists, Sports Scientists, Physiotherapists and Coaches. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology.

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