As a high school football player I felt nervous everyday we had practice. I hated the feeling of making a mistake or letting my teammates down and every play or drill was an opportunity to do just that. I would get inside my head and think about how tired I was going to be or how sore I was from the previous day. This thinking would send me down the rabbit hole of doubt and failure and it would sap my focus and energy throughout the day. Looking back it’s easy to see that my mind was just playing tricks on me. These mind games could have been used to my advantage instead of stressing me out, I could have focused on the positive plays I had accomplished the day before, or reminded myself each mistake is an opportunity to learn and grow.
After watching the I am Athlete podcast today, they talked a lot about the mental side of the game. George Kittle talks about the anxiety he had during his college football days, so much that he would draw a red “reset button'' on the tape wrapped around his arm. This gave him a physical action and visual reminder that the previous play is over and now it’s time for the next one.
Now as one of the top TE in the NFL over the past few years he still hits his reset button on his arms on the good and bad plays. They also got into practicing visualization the night before games, something that has been around for centuries, but has been put in the spotlight more recently. They would go through certain plays and see the defense line up and go through the motions of their responsibility from blocking, running routes, even catching. George even explained rehearsing seemingly impossible tasks like making every man in the defense miss or make insane one handed catches. That way when the game is on the line and the opportunity comes it’s way you’re ready because you’ve already done it in your mind. Research has shown that observing actions will cause your brain to react as if you’re actually performing the action. These mental reps can be very beneficial as a way to get even more reps off the field.
If you're ready to get started with visualization check out this chart below. It's a simple process that will require work but just like all other skills the more you practice the better you will get at it, if done with the intention.
Check out what these scientist are learning about the brain and how visualization can help.