Today I would like to present one of the most useful techniques of mental training in sports – the technique of visualization and imagery. You may not have realized it, but you’ve probably already used imagery in your life especially when you are thinking about a game you’ll have when you remember the great performance you had the day before, or the missed shot you cannot forget about.

In the literature, you will find both terms visualisation and imagery. “Visualization” refers to “picturing or seeing” something in your mind, whereas “Imagery” refers to using many senses – sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste, and movement, as well as thoughts, emotions, and reactions.


“Imagery is a unique and useful technique. It allows you
to be a writer, a producer, a director, and in most cases the lead actor of a play.”


Imagery can be effective as a supplement but not a replacement for real rehearsal and practice, because nothing can replace real on-court experience. But it can serve you well as an additional technique to improve your performance especially when you are not able to practice due to fatigue, injury, or lack of opportunities.



You can use imagery for many different reasons, such as skills development, rehearsal, and mastering; tactical rehearsal, positioning; game management; problem-solving; recovery after injury, and many others. Whether you are a player, referee or coach imagery can help you with your performance.

For example, PLAYERS you can use visualization and imagery to rehearse some new actions coach has added to the team’s tactics. Many players, nowadays, use visualisation to repeat various actions they have for certain offensive strategies or defensive principles. Repeating certain actions in your mind helps you to memorize them but also gives you an opportunity to rehearse them while you are out of the court. Once you’ll be on court, you’ll be able to present it.

REFEREES can use visualisation also to prepare for various situations during the game. For example, referee can rehearse mechanics and position on the court. This can be especially beneficial for the referees who are transferring from 2PO to 3PO. When they start to officiate in 3PO they need to think about additional principles in positions and movements. If they do not have many opportunities to practice this at the court with the colleagues, they can use visualisation as an additional tool to rehearse it and master it. Visualisation can give them a sense of where they need to stand, how they need to move on the court in order to have a better position and view angle for their area of responsibility.

Also, if you are a COACH you can benefit from using visualization. For example, you can visually go through scenarios of the game flow changes and your reactions to them. How are you going to communicate with your players, what will you say, what can you expect if a certain situation occurs and what will be your response.

Using visualisation for some specific situations, such as “problem-solving” and “solution-oriented” actions can help you face them effectively once they happenon the court. Either if it involves communication with someone or just your own response on specific issues (i.e. dealing with the mistake, missed shot, inappropriate reaction) you will have some solutions to deal with them effectively.

Visualisation and Imagery with the positive and solution-mode scenario cannot guarantee a good result but it makes it more likely to happen because once you’ll face the situation, you’ll recognise the solution and apply it.

Images of some situations can be very vivid and clear, evoking many feelings and mood states (i.e. fear, anxiety, happiness, pride, confidence, etc.). The more you can control your visualization and imagery script, the better impact will have on your performance.



When applying visualization and imagery techniques, you can also use additional preparation tools to make it even more effective. An additional mental (visual) stimulus can serve as an extra boost for the exercise:

  • CAMERA – to view a recording of your performance, especially during the exercise. This is always objective and after you see it you can rehearse it in your mind. You can do this in two ways – one if the performance was good (to store it in your memory), the other if the performance was bad (to correct it visually, to rehearse it “as it should be”).
  • TV or VIDEO CLIPS – to watch a recording of your game and some specific situations of your performance during that game. Also, as described above, you could do it in two ways – to selects good situations and to repeat them visually once more (to store it in your memory), and/or situations where you made some mistakes and you were not satisfied with your performance (to correct them visually, to rehearse them “as it should be”).
  • PAPER OR TABLET – drawing of certain movements and actions, for example, a rotation of all three positions (L, C, T) in officiating and their associated AoR, or your team’s playing action in the offence on the last ball possession. Repeat it in your mind as your new visual experience.

Next time we continue with this beneficial technique with some examples of interesting and useful scripts for imagery rehearsal.

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