Mental Imagery and Its Limitations
Sports coaches, just as the athletes they train are also viewed as performers. While the nature of their performance might differ from those of the athletes, their jobs do require meticulous planning in areas like training, competition as well as the execution of the training procedures. They must be flexible enough to adapt to different situations, as they present themselves, and be good at coping with stress arising from the nature of the competition and media intrusion and also the pressure on them to produce good results (Olosuga, Maynard, Butt & Hays, 2014).
It is apparent therefore that psychological factors have a part to play in getting results. A theoretical framework for athletes to self-regulate their emotional states made suggestions that psychological skills like relaxation, self-talk, imagery and goal setting are needed for the enhancement of psychological abilities like the ability to completely relax (Olosuga et al., 2014).The psychological abilities give performers the ability to reach peak states mentally for those tasks that they are engaged in, and growing evidence shows that systematic MST can improve the ability of an athlete to make use of psychological skills during stressful competitions (Olosuga et al., 2014). MST can positively influence an athlete's performance, knowledge and awareness and the usage of their psychological skills. In fact, several literatures are available on the topics of mental skills and how their use enhances performance of athletes and modifies their perceptions (Olosuga et al., 2014).
Models of Mental Imagery
Research points out the existence of mental imagery utility in the fields of sports, education, business and sports. It has been indicated to improve goal-orientation and also enhances coping and persistence (Burke, Shanahan & Herlambang, 2014). Research indicates that the practice of mental imagery might be effective in encouraging goal setting, enhancing positive effects and supporting college students achieve academic success. Intentional visual imagery is when one produces a perceptual or virtual experience which bears actual resemblance to what is perceived and maybe also have perceptual, motor as well as perceptual representations (Burk et al., 2014).
It is believed that imagery plays a host of roles in several cognitive functions like memory encoding, social interaction, navigation as well as spatial planning (Burk et al., 2014). Several neurocognitive models have been proposed in an attempt to explain these phenomena. Some of the models make the suggestion that visual mental imagery makes use of several of the actual neural processes that are used in visual perception, including temporal and parietal cortical regions. This is referred to as perception imagery equivalence hypothesis (Burk et al., 2014). Some other research findings indicate that visual perception and visual mental imagery may have the same neural substrates but that they make use of distinct neural dynamics (Burk et al., 2014). Proposals have also been put forward that different kinds of mental images make use of unique neural processes but share a number of cognitive and neural elements. For instance, a study discovered that imagery of those events that can be described as emotional had an effect on different brain regions depending on the time the event was experienced - whether in the past or recently.
Applications of Mental Imagery
Imagery has historically been used in both professional and amateur sports. A review of at least two-hundred studies involving athletic imagery discovered that most of the studies indicated presence of benefits (Burk et al., 2014). Indeed, several reviews and studies have shown the value of sport imagery in the management of arousal, improvement of certain skills useful for performance and enhancing self-efficacy, persistence as well as confidence states. Evidence indicating the use of imagery can be found at various education levels (Burk et al., 2014). Reviewing the studies reveals that guided imagery has been used in secondary as well as elementary education (Burk et al., 2014).
Despite consensus lacking on the concerns of neural mechanisms, evidence exists supporting mental imagery's value for well-being and health, goal attainment, acquisition of motor skills, etc. (Burk et al., 2014). It is, for instance, becoming a more important tool in therapy. As a therapy, it is mostly used by patients suffering from cancer and also used in the management...
Findings recently made in neuroimaging reveal that the motor actions imagined recruits brain regions that correspond to the exact areas involved in the actual/real physical movement. Mental imagery has been successfully used in the enhancement of motor skills among stroke patients (Burk et al., 2014).
Positive Contributions of Mental Imagery
Mental imagery has been widely studied in sport psychology as well as the academic disciplines of sport science in various universities (Mousa, Saleh & Abu, 2014). Cognitive research demonstrates that physical practices as well as mental imagery have the same cognitive processes. It has been demonstrated by several researchers that mental imagery and physical practice activate the same cortex regions which also have a role to play in motor imagery (Mousa et al., 2014). In considering the way imagery operates, athletes have made use of a variety of means not only in enhancing physicality but their psychology as well. Mental imagery may be a good complement to physical practice and is much better than carrying out physical practice only. Imagery group has been shown to increase performance in cases where control groups not using physical practice nor imagery were used (Mousa et al., 2014).
Making use of imagery before engaging in a competitive activity enhances performance. There is improved strength and muscular endurance is improved in motor activities (Mousa et al., 2014). It increases self-confidence, attention control and motivation. Skilled athletes have widely used the technique. It has also been used in rehabilitating patients who have neurological pathologies. Several athletes have the feeling that getting a "mental edge" on the competitors they are against will lead to a great advantage in the course of the competition (Mousa et al., 2014). Mental imagery has been shown to enhance motor skills performance. As a component of sport psychology or as a tool for mental training, it has been used to prolong athletes' physical performance, particularly in the course of a competition. Investigations and contrasts have been done with other techniques used in training and mental imagery has been proven as a good tool for the development and the training of motor skills (Mousa et al., 2014).
Mental imagery techniques have been made use of in promoting desired behaviors in various health situations, including relaxation over the course of treatment of cancer, reducing alcoholism and exercising (Loft & Cameron, 2013). The patients are engaged in vivid and perceptual experiences through mental stimulation which may be induced and affect motivation, enhance goal salience and clarify various behavior processes (Loft & Cameron, 2013). The techniques used in reducing arousal are often made use of in various health settings, but empirical evidence of the effectiveness of these methods in the promotion of quality of sleep is not consistent. The interventions for the promotion of the implementation of intentions are however new, but new evidence shows that repeatedly using imagery tasks where someone visualizes the needed behavioral procedures and steps that lead to the ideal desired can improve adherence to the behavior as well as the attainment of the goal (Loft & Cameron, 2013).
Challenges and Limiting Factors of Mental Imagery: Student Athletes
Giving services and support to student-athletes may be made complicated by several barriers that are only applicable to student-athletes (Beauchemin, 2014). They are often elevated to the status of celebrities because of their roles in athletics and so may avoid looking for support from the resources available at the campus as they fear tainting their image. Furthermore, limitations like demands from travel, practice, game preparation and academic schedules can restrict the opportunities that the student-athletes have to seek help (Beauchemin, 2014).
The attitudes linked to seeking support particularly by the student-athletes and the inherent stigma that is attached to counseling may hinder the student-athletes from coming to seek help (Beauchemin, 2014). Some of the student-athletes view seeking help as a weakness which may contradict the attitudes glorified in athletics of self-reliance and strength. Negative perceptions might arise from seeking help. These attitudes and perceptions could be the reason why counseling services in universities are not used adequately (Beauchemin, 2014).
Outreach programs that focus on both mental well-being and performance enhancement can help reduce stigma attached to mental health counseling (Bauchemin, 2014). Since a number of student athletes may be uncomfortable with seeking assistance outside of their athletic departments because of the perception that other counselors might not comprehend the particular concerns they have or the athletic culture, having outreach programs with a focus on emphasizing the connection between mental and physical health may help in the elimination of these barriers (Beauchemin, 2014). Further, making use of terms like "mental toughness techniques" and "performance enhancement" may encourage some of the athletes to be open to mental health services and seek help (Beauchemin, 2014).
Besides the field of athletics,…
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