The important point is to think about the comments and see if there is any substance in the comments. When there are some valid points, then action has to be taken. In such cases, negative thinking may provide useful leads. When rational thinking has been used to correct negative thinking, rational positive thoughts may also be prepared. Sometimes useful opportunities are provided through the entire process of thinking. (Thought Awareness, Rational Thinking and Positive Thinking)
What are the important thoughts of an athlete before an important race? This answer may provide the answer to the performance of the athlete. It seems that more scientific discoveries about the power of thought are resulting in more knowledge about performances. It is not known that thoughts of an athlete or his talk just before a race can affect his result. These often lead to knowledge about his negative attitudes which may arise from fear, intimidation, lack of self belief, etc. These come as all the results of performances by the individual is recorded in his memory, in the inner recesses of deep memory. This part of memory lies within the subconscious mind and that is our control center for all movement. This means that if an athlete thinks negative thoughts before a race, the athlete is likely to get a negative result. (Mind Training Tips for Swimmers)
On the other hand, if an individual tries to develop positive thoughts, then it is likely that a positive result will come. One of the ways of doing this is to re-focus the mind to something positive and this is done through an affirmation of belief in capabilities. This technique is not new, and the method is just repeating and saying something repeatedly for many times before the race. The way this helps is that it focuses the person's mind into some positive aspects and stops negative aspects from coming in. An example of this could be focusing on 'speed and power' or 'perfect rhythm'. The greatest boxer of yesteryears, Muhammad Ali used to do this with his famous slogan, 'I am the greatest'. (Mind Training Tips for Swimmers)
There is great importance for overcoming of mental blocks if the person is trying at top level of competition for a high level of performance. Mental preparation is one of the most important factors for being ready to perform. There has been a lot of research on the subject and some effective plans developed. One of them is to develop a pre-competition routine and this is to use images of the competition and see oneself perform excellently in the competition. This includes achievement of pre-set goals. The second step in this is to use a plan for the competition itself and visually see oneself achieve the pre-set targets. This image is to be used before the competition actually takes place. The third step is to control distraction and this is achieved by using things like listening to music so that possible diversions by any number of other people or events can be avoided. The final step is the use of feedback or evaluation. This is achieved through seeing of visuals on video or some other medium of past performances and comparing them with the last performance. This will help in preparation for the next performance. (Performing your best... When it counts the most!) There are many methods that can be used and all of them are used by the best athletes of the world. Yet, like all other skills they have to be learned and practiced before being put into action. These are required for the athlete to be able to rely on them. Relaxation, visualization or imagery, self-talk, goal setting, motivation and video review are all techniques that are used by athletes.
Theories of imagery
Mental imagery has to be practiced by individuals in their own way and depends on individual preferences and the circumstances under which it is adopted. The imagery can be practiced either on or off the field. These can be for a short duration, or a long duration; while sitting up or lying down; in complete silence or with a background of music; and with the eyes closed or open. It is the choice of the individual. For games like tennis which go on for some time, this may be done by the player even while the game is on but the ball is not in play. The player can visualize where he or she wanted to hit the ball, or even practice it, without the ball. When a player is in a quiet room before an important game, he should engage himself or herself in an exercise of visualization for the game ahead. To be able to do this, the players should be relaxed and receptive as that will also help the images to penetrate deep inside their minds. It is important that visualization is repeated - about two or three times a week. (The Effects of Mental Imagery on Athletic Performance)
Some sportsmen also practice imagery during other activities like bike rides, lifting weights, rowing, etc. In these cases, physical activity is going on while the mental game is on and it helps more during competition. A study was conducted by Anne Isaac to examine the influence of mental practice on the skills of sportsmen. Earlier studies on this matter had also shown positive effects that were achieved due to mental rehearsal, but those tests had not been carried out on sportsmen who were participating in sports on field, but on others who were learning the skills. When Isaac carried out the experiment, this shortcoming was removed. In her tests there was also the test whether persons with better images and control over images end with better results. The test was carried out on 78 individuals and they were all classified as either novice or experienced trampolines performers.
The group on whom the experiments were performed was further divided into two groups - experimental and control. The individuals within the group were also classified into persons with high or low imagers based on their initial skills in imagery. Then both the groups were put into training for a period of six weeks during which they were to be trained in three skills. So that individuals within the group did not influence the opinion of the experimenter, the members of the group were not known to the person till the experiment was over. The set among the group first practiced the particular skill for 2-1/2 minutes, and then engaged themselves in 5 minutes of mental practice. This was followed by another 2-1/2 minutes of physical practice after the mental exercise. The other group also practiced for 2-1/2 minutes and then had some mental exercises of an abstract nature, without concentrating on imagery. This could be mathematics problems, puzzles, etc. Then they also practiced the skill again for 2-1/2 minutes. At the end of the period, the gain in skills by both sets was compared, and it was seen that there was a sizeable difference in the skills gained by the high imagers when compared to the low imagers. The initial level of skills were similar in both the groups consisting of individuals within the experiment and those as control, but the high imagery group showed better performances in both groups. As may be expected, the group for the experiment had better performances than the control group. The results of this study clearly showed that visual imagery is effective whatever be the initial level of skills of the person to whom it is applied. (The Effects of Mental Imagery on Athletic Performance)
There have been efforts by sport psychologists to understand the reasons behind the exact working of mental imagery. For this numerous theories have been developed, but no single theory is universally accepted. The first of the theories was proposed by Carpenter in 1894 and the theory is called psycho-neuro-muscular theory. This is not only for sport psychology, but for human behavior. According to this, imagery rehearsal practice develops motor patterns in mind which are then duplicated during physical practice. Another important theory is the symbolic learning theory and there are some differences in this theory with the previous theory. This says that the effect of imagery is not due to muscle activation but due to the opportunity to 'practice the symbolic elements of the motor task.' Thus the knowledge gained from imagery is a process of cognitive learning. The third theory is called the arousal/activation theory. According to this, through the practice of imagery, the person concerned will achieve a level of arousal that is the best for performance. The function of 'arousal' is to prime the muscles and that results in a lowering of the sensory threshold of the performer and thus enables a better performance.
There was also a theory by Peter Lang and that is an information-processing model of imagery.…