USING IMAGERY AND COGNITIVE GENERAL STRATEGY TO GAIN THE COMPETITIVE EDGE

Relative to the website: Mental Imagery for Physical People, my athlete base is so extensive relative to age and experience that getting very specific can be rather difficult at times and because of individual personalities and specificities, but I can easily classify three of the imagery techniques that are used every day in my facilities. I can break these imagery techniques into two categories where they are used, the amateur athlete’s training and the professional athlete’s training.

I always say to my athletes, “The difference between a pro athlete and an amateur athlete is the fact that the professional athlete can make a mistake and move on without that mistake effecting play the rest of the day”.

The above statement brings me to my two athlete categories for this discussion.    

I would like to deliver these techniques through using an example of “setting the body” on a starting line and how I would address the same biomechanical problem with two different athletes.

1.    The Amateur Athlete: I would define this athlete as generally the younger athlete with less experience in winning, losing, and competing. I believe the imagery technique most used with these athletes in my facilities would be “cognitive specific”. I tend to have to use a step-by-step approach with these athletes using many examples of certain movements such as video, audio, and my personal demonstration to help them develop specific skills.

An example would be teaching this athlete how to set their body at the starting line in a 100-meter sprint. I would specifically have to show them a video of a past sprinter I have coached or a sprinter who can help them get better through a video. I would then have to go to the track and ask them to recall what they saw such as 1) approaching the line, 2)setting the feet, 3) loading, 4) hip placement, 5) hand placement, 6) head placement, 7) lead step and drive step, and lastly 8) vision. We would have to go over very specifically these skills. We would then master the 8 steps on an individual drill level before we did overall form training.

2.    The Professional Athlete:  I would define this athlete as highly experienced in winning, losing, and competing (hopefully more in winning). I believe that there are two primary imagery techniques that I use in my facilities on a day-to-day basis. The two are “motivational specific” and “motivational general mastery”. The material in “Imagery and Climbers” mentions that motivational specific imagery is usually used with more experienced athletes and that these athletes have a better quality of images. I highly believe this information. Here is the difference that I see and the uniqueness of using these techniques. Say we want to work on phase three (according to my program) of body placement on the start (loading).

I can always use a bit of psychology by saying, “Remember the lack of three on the body and the perfect load that you had which enabled you to win by 6 meters which equaled a big check?” My pro athletes easily relate by recalling victory and even winning money. I believe that this situation would be “motivational specific imagery”. Again, I would have to review an entire skillset for the amateur athlete as opposed to merely using recollection with the professional. I will also use “motivational general mastery” by almost getting mad at my athletes and reminding them of the last time they had a terrible body load on the start and got beaten by 20 meters. They recall and master not making the mistake again and end up with a successful movement. An amateur athlete may keep thinking of the mistake without the maturity to make a quick correction which could then effect his or her progress to achieve “overall” goals.

I used to solely make my living as a professional powerlifter. I have been using imagery since my first competition in second grade. As the literature states, there is a difference in “visualization and imagery”. Imagery takes into account more of the senses and the feelings involved in athletic movements.

I used to be so “motivational specific and used motivational general specific” techniques that I sometimes forgot about overall strategy. On the international level, strategy becomes most important. So, I became very intrigued with using “cognitive general strategy” before many of my  competitions, but I used it in a different way to serve as a weapon against my competitors. In reality, I was using imagery in my own mind of how I would win through my competitors before I even lifted a weight on the platform.

I would plan in my mind three things I was going to do to my competitors. This is just one method of mind boggling my competitors:

1.    Faking an injury a few weeks before the meet so that my competitors would begin to overlook me.

•    At a certain point, like 6 weeks before a comp, I would start to spread propaganda about my fictitious injury or strain…just as I had envisioned.

2.    Arriving at the meet and being a lower seed (because the judges heard I may be hurt) which would falsely take pressure off my competitors.

•    Competitors would be talking from the time I entered the arena that “he is hurt and we don’t have to worry about him being at his best”…just as I had envisioned.

3.    Warming up with more weight than anyone backstage to really start to distract them and distress them a few minutes before the first attempt.

•    My competitors would freak out when I was warming up beginning to realize I was not hurt and they were immediately distracted…just as I had envisioned.

In essence, you might call the three things above, “the element of surprise”. The “surprise” part was enough to throw off my competitors on their first few attempts leaving the door wide open for me and supplied me with even more confidence.

If all this came true, I gained a “huge” advantage the entire day and my outcome was very positive. Money (motivational specific) will make you think a lot more about strategy as someone said before, “All is fair in love and war”. A lot of pro football players and their teams will use this same technique by spreading rumors about a star player getting hurt before a big game and in reality the player is a health as an ox. The element of surprise on gameday can be a factor that may help in winning that day.

Thank you.

Matt Poe