Imagining Better Sports Performance

Imagining Better Sports Performance

 — Elena Michaels, PhD, CCH, LMFT


A study was done in which high school basketball players were divided into two groups.  Each week during the study, both groups would spend the same amount of time practicing.  Once group went into the gymnasium and practiced shooting the ball into the basket.  The other group went into the gymnasium but they did something very different. While resting comfortably, they were led in guided imagery in which they “saw” themselves in their mind, shooting the ball right into the hoop. This group did not actually shoot the ball into the hoop…they merely “imagined” it.

At the end of the designated period of time, each group was asked to actually shoot the ball into the hoop.  Guess which group far surpassed the other in the amount of balls that went through the hoop?

Amazingly enough, it was the group who during the study, relaxed and were led in guided imagery rather than actually shooting the hoops!

Your mind doesn’t really know you aren’t doing something, if you see yourself doing it in your mind.  This is why when people dream about running or jumping, the muscles used to run and jump may actually twitch and move while the person is asleep.  Practicing in your mind and seeing yourself succeed (in sports or any area of your life), actually creates pathways in your brain that allow the event to happen just as you “saw” it happen.

This same concept can explain what some people call a “self-fulfilling prophecy”.  If unwanted events are imagined they are more likely to happen, thus creating the situation of the self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you see yourself missing the ball and you spent time “seeing” that in your mind, you will probably miss the ball!  Our minds are very powerful!

Before you play whatever sport is your passion, spend a few minutes quietly sitting with your eyes closed and “see” yourself playing the game the way you want it to be played, with the most positive outcome for you.  Imagine that you are watching a movie of yourself playing well and feeling great about playing well.  Exhale out with your breath, any image that is less than what you want, or any image that pops into your mind where you see yourself not playing well.

Olympic and professional athletes use this technique and actually have an expert guide them in this exercise.  Using this technique can have you “know” you will do well and it also will give you the extra benefit of reducing and releasing any tension, anxiety, or concern that may get in the way of a great sports performance!

Dr. Elena Michaels is a Doctor of Natural Health, holistic psychotherapist, clinical hypnotherapist, and nutritionist who has helped many achieve their goals for more than 3 decades.  She can be reached at 661 250-4395, or at