Seeing Success

Many athletes use visualization or mental imagery to enhance their performance coaches can also introduce some simple techniques to junior players that may improve their performance.


The simplest way to create a change in ourselves is by repeating an affirmation. An affirmation is simply a positive statement saying something that we want to be the case. Many players will have a negative self-image or lack self-confidence and this can impact upon their performance.

Repeating positive affirmations, both by saying it to themselves and displaying it in various places where they will see it (e.g. on the fridge, the back of their bedroom door, in their school books etc.) can change a person’s self-confidence.

To be effective, affirmations must be:

  • Expressed in positive, not negative, terms;
  • In the present tense;
  • Possible;
  • About the person;
  • Short and simple;
  • Concrete and specific;
  • Fit their goals.

Affirmations like “I am a good teammate”, “I do my role” or “I constantly find ways to contribute to the team”

Visual Imagery

Visualisation is the process of “seeing in your mind” the performance of a particular skill or situation and can be used to improve a player’s execution of that skill or performance in that situation.

The use of visual imagery can result in an improvement in physical performance because the visualization creates neural patterns in the brain similarly to the neural patterns created when physically acting.

Visualisation is a skill that can be developed and that will improve the more that it is done. A coach may initially direct players in using such imagery and then those athletes may do it themselves.

To do a simple visualization with player’s take them through taking a free throw. The players should be relaxed and comfortable.

  1. Ask the players to see the basketball court and describe it to them in as much detail as you can. As they are familiar with it, they should be able to “see” the various things you describe.
  2. Ask them to use as many of their senses as possible:
    1. “hear the squeak of basketball shoes”
    2. “feel the leather of the basketball”
  3. Have the player’s walk to the free throw line. Some players will find it easier to see themselves (as if watching a movie – so they see themselves) whilst others will find it easier to visualize as they would actually see it (and they will not see themselves).
  4. Describe the situation to them. Describe where referees, teammates, opponents etc. are.
  5. Ask them to visualize doing their normal foul shot routine – feeling the ball in their hands, hearing it bounce, feeling sweat on their arms. Again, be as descriptive as you can in asking them to see the situation.
  6. Ask the athlete to feel the various parts of their body as they shoot, their legs, their arms etc. Have them take the shot and finish seeing and hearing the ball “swish” in the basket.

Some players may like to listen to some music to relax before doing a visualization.

The key things in doing a visualization are:

  • Be comfortable and relaxed;
  • Be specific about what is being visualized;
  • Use as many senses as possible to make the visualization “real” (i.e. hearing, feeling, seeing, smelling);
  • Describe in as much detail as possible (e.g. the location of specific team mates, colours, temperature, game situation, location and action by defenders).

With practice, players may be able to use visualization to:

  • Rehearse principles of play (e.g. 2x1, screening action) as well as performing skills;
  • Help relax prior to major games;
  • Get to sleep.