Does Visualization Work In Sports? 4 great Answers

Does visualization work in sports? The answer is “Absolutely”.

Sports visualization can be described as a learning experience, preparation experience, and warm-up experience.

Visualization is an ability that athletes can use very much to their advantage. You can also call visualization guided imagery, mental rehearsal, or mediation.

However, the fundamental techniques and concepts remain the same.

Visualization is, in general terms, the act of creating a mental image of or imagining what you want to happen or feel as if it were happening.

Mental Laws Of Success And Visualization

Ongoing research is discovering that physical and psychological reactions are improved using mental imaging and that continual repetition can build up experience and confidence in an athlete’s ability to perform certain skills in a variety of situations even under pressure.

It’s quite natural to visualize and mentally rehearse during sports whether we are aware of it or not. We all visualize in images, to the detriment of some athletes who visualize negative scenarios like injuries, missed opportunities, or mistakes.

One thing separates top athletes and average athletes: Top athletes use guided imagery. Imagery is a fundamental part of elite sports.

Many Olympic athletes have learned how to use it with the help and guidance of Mental Game Coaches and Sports Psychologists.

Guided visualization, or imagery for athletes, is the act of knowingly controlling images or following an athletic script in our minds. Guided imagery is something you may have used unknowingly when you were learning a new skill when you imagined the outcome of the skill or how it should look.

Guidance visualization, or imagery, is a method of rehearsing in your mind’s eye a skill, routine, or performance to prepare your body for success.

However, sports visualization, or mental imagery, is more than a visual experience. Many athletes enjoy feeling their movements and engaging in kinesthetic past imagery. Many top athletes use visualization techniques in training and competition on a regular basis.

Following, are just a few of the many stories from athletes who have used Visualization Techniques to increase their competitive edge, bring a renewed mental awareness, and a greater sense of well-being and confidence all of which lend themselves to athlete’s success.

does visualization work in sports - Olympic rings

Olympians and Visualization of Sports

Many Olympic athletes are following the blueprints of their 2018 winter Olympic counterparts, who won in Pyeongchang.

Lyndon Rush, a Canadian bobsledder, said that visualization helped him to keep his head in the game throughout his four-year-long training period between 2010 and 2014.


“I have tried to keep the run in mind throughout the year. I will be washing my hair or brushing my teeth. It takes me a while, so I can imagine the whole run or do just the technical parts.

It is important to keep the idea fresh in your mind so that you don’t start from scratch when you get there. It is amazing what you can accomplish with your mind.”

Emily Cook, a veteran American freestyle skier, and three-time Olympian described how her specific visualization scripts and mental rehearsals that involve all her senses, have helped her to keep her longevity in the sport.


“My visualization process has to take in all of my senses. It must be smelled. It must be heard. Furthermore, it must be felt, everything. I would make a recording of my voice saying.

“I am standing at the top of the jump. I feel the wind against my neck. I can hear the crowd.”

I’m using all my senses, and then I mentally rehearse the steps to make the perfect jump.

I turn down the in-run. I stand up. I engage my core. I look up at the top of my jump.

I was planning every step for how that jump would turn out.”

Nicole Detling is a US Olympic Team sports psychologist who explains why it is important to use a multi-sensory approach for visualizing.


“The more accurately an athlete can see the whole process, the better it will be.”

Michael Phelps. Most decorated.

Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian ever, has 28 medals, including 23 golds when he retired in 2012.

Michael said:

“ I used guided imagery to prepare for every game.”

Bob Bowman told Phelps to view a “mental tape” of his races each night before going to bed and again when he woke in the morning. Micheal would imagine every aspect of swimming a winning race, starting with the blocks and ending in celebration after it was won.

Bowman instructed Phelps to “Put on the videotape” during training sessions in order to motivate Phelps, and he believes that mental imagery was a key factor in Phelps’ success.


We decided it was better to focus on the small moments of success and make them mental triggers… It is more like his habits have taken over. The actual race was simply another step in a long-standing pattern that began earlier that day. It was nothing more than victories. “Winning was a natural extension.” What makes visualization and mental imagery so powerful?

Athletes who visualize or envision winning a competition stimulate the same brain areas as those who perform the same action physically.

does visualization work in sports - trophy

Effects Of Visualization On The Brain

By using visualization or mental imagery in sports, your brain can be trained for success. Mentally practicing your performance will make it more habitual in your brain. Visualization in sports can be thought of like a pre-game walk-through.

Many football and basketball teams hold walk-throughs or rehearsals the day before a big match to help them prepare for it and to familiarize themselves with what to expect in-game situations.

Visualization can help athletes overcome competitive anxiety. Visualization allows athletes to not only visualize the action but also feel it happening in their minds’ eye.

Visualization is a tool that great athletes use to succeed and remain on top of their game mentally.

does visualization work in sports - swimmer

How to use sports visualization for optimal success

Visualize the outcome that you desire.

As you mentally practice your performance, ensure you visualize the outcome as you wish it to be. Stop the mental tape if your mental images become negative. Rewind the tape and start again to visualize the performance you want.

All your senses should be used to visualize your sports performance. For example, what would you smell, taste, hear, touch, feel, and see?

As you perform, imagine how your body would react. You might add some movement to the visuals. This way, you will feel the thrill of achieving your performance goals. You can improve your mental rehearsal skills by practicing often.

Visualization and imagery should be practiced daily. Mental imagery is the most productive once it becomes a habit that you repeat not only each day but prior to, during, and after any training session.

Take time throughout every session to mentally practice and focus on correct techniques and skills. Prior to the start of your event during a competition, mentally run through your plan concentrating on important plays, skills, movements, and reactions or any feelings you wish to use throughout your performance.

does visualization work in sports - runner

Does visualization work in sports? You bet it does. Talk to a Mental Game Coach if you are interested in incorporating visualization into your training.