Sam Meredith: Using Mental Rehearsal in Barefooting

Sam Meredith

Being relatively new to the sport of barefoot waterskiing and constantly battling to get time on the water it is easy to get frustrated when I see video’s and pictures of others skiing in near perfect conditions on a daily basis. Now, I have considered blocking these bastards on facebook and during the winter months I’ve even been tempted to set my eyeballs on fire and smash the laptop into tiny little pieces with a baseball bat……however, I have come to realize these are my friends and however frustrating watching them train during the British winter is, I can learn a lot from observing them whilst mentally rehearsing and dry landing my own skills. Watching video’s of others doing a skill or trick correctly has really helped me visualize my own water-ski technique.

I believe the art of mental rehearsal is hugely underestimated and can be a huge benefit during off season, training and competition time. According to sports psychologists, the idea of visualizing and mentally rehearsing is nothing new. Some coaches even go as far as saying that sports are 90% mental and only 10% physical, and it’s no secret that seasoned athletes employ mental techniques. World champion golfer Jack Nicholas quoted “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in focus picture of it in my head”. Mental imagery involves the athlete imagining themselves in an environment performing a specific activity using all of their senses (sight, hearing, touch and smell). The images should have the skier performing successfully and feeling satisfied with their performance.

To write this blog, I have researched ways that mental rehearsal can improve both training and competition. During training, mental rehearsal is a valuable tool in helping you to perfect skills, techniques and tricks. Mental imagery should not focus on the outcome but on the actions to achieve the desired outcome. Mental rehearsal can also help motivate you by recalling images of goals for the session or of success in a past competition.
With regard to competition, mental imagery can be used to familiarise yourself with a new competition site. It may also help you to reduce negative thoughts by focusing on positive outcomes. You can use techniques to refocus yourself when the need arises e.g. if performance on the water feels sluggish imagery of a previous best performance or previous best event focus can help get things back on track. You should try to see success where you see yourself performing skills correctly with the desired outcomes. By dry landing your trick run and mentally rehearsing it prior to competing you can set the stage for performance. A complete mental run through of the key elements can generate the desired pre-competition feelings and focus.
Psychologist Jeff Simons developed a routine that would allow an athlete to achieve an appropriate mental arousal in the last 30 seconds before a competition. The “Quick Set” routine, which involves physical, emotional and focus cues, can also be used as a means of refocusing quickly following a distraction. This could be a valuable tool when you are stood on the doc with some idiot distracting you and breaking your concentration.

An example of this “Quick set” routine for a waterskier could be:

Close your eyes, clear your mind and maintain deep rhythmical breathing, in through your nose and out through your mouth (physical cue)
Imagine a previous trick run, and see yourself performing each trick slowly with perfect technique and recreate those emotional feelings of success (emotional cue)

Return your focus to the start dock, think of your start trick and shout your command for the driver to take off (focus cue).

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