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GUEST EXPERT ARTICLE

See the kick, be the kick!
Moira Stuart
Article posted on 3/16/2007

Visualization is the mental skill that athletes use to see themselves executing the perfect kick, punt or kickoff before it happens. Specifically, the athlete creates the images in his mind of what he wants to happen during a competitive moment and practices those images repeatedly in his mind. The concept of mental training ties to what scientists call muscle memory where the sport specific muscles that are used to execute a skill actually "remember" what to do when the athlete goes to physically perform the skill. The good news is that mental practice doesn't make you tired! Even under immense pressure the athlete who has developed his visualization skills is able to perform without thinking. The one thing that all successful kickers have in common is that they have developed the ability to see themselves be successful in pressure situations and the good news is YOU CAN TOO! If you can see yourself making the clutch extra point, or field goal, or deep kickoff then you are more likely to be able to perform under pressure.

The following information is based on real questions and answers from my work with high school athletes who are interested in getting to the next level with mental training.

Question: When should I use mental imagery?

Answer: While you can actually use imagery anywhere and anytime, I suggest starting by applying imagery to your training in practice. Start by identifying the areas that are going well. In detail, write down what a perfect kick or kickoff looks and feels like to you. In as much detail as possible, write down what your kicks look like, feel like, and sound like. This activity is part of recreating success as a mental image in your mind and gets your body ready to perform.

Recreating images (used to recreate-success in your mind or to correct your skills).

Start by closing your eyes and picturing the perfect kick from beginning to end. Describe in as much detail what a perfect kick or punt looks like and feels like:

__________________________________________________________________________

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Repeat this activity with something you are trying to correct in practice. Go through the corrections that your coach has asked you to work on with clear images in your mind. See yourself executing the correction in your mind before physically attempting the corrected attempt. Take a moment and go through the images of those skills

Were your images clear, detailed, and did you see the skill to completion?

Yes _____ No ______

If no, what part was unclear? ___________________________________________

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Question: Where should I practice my imagery?

Answer: When you are first developing your imagery skills they should be done in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. I usually suggest to athletes that they start by practicing just before bed with some type of relaxing music to be able to see their images clearly and in as much detail as possible.

Question: Can I use imagery to see things that I have not achieved yet?

Answer: You can definitely use imagery to see what you want to achieve. In fact, I highly recommend that on a regular basis you imagine yourself at that next level in a variety of pressure as well as successful situations so you can experience those situations before it happens.

Creating new images (write down two things you have yet to achieve)

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Take a moment and go through the images you want to be able to achieve (for example, a longer field goal, end zone kickoff etc)

Were your images clear, detailed, and did you see the task to completion?

Yes _____ No ______

If no, what part was unclear? ___________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

Questions: How long will it take to learn visualization skills?

Answer: Imagery is just like your physical training, you will get better with practice. At first, if you can't see yourself to completion of the skill (e.g., the ball going through the uprights) keep trying. If you need to, you can first review some of your better kicks on tape and then do the mental imagery after viewing yourself by recreating your perfect form, distance and accuracy


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Kicking.com: See the kick, be the kick! - by Moira Stuart