To give yourself the best opportunity to achieve peak performance (Kicking), it is critical to apply a holistic approach to your development. A balance between the Physical & Psychological components of training, coaching and performance must be your priority. Many players and coaches have fallen into the trap of focusing only on Kicking Technique in practice, when a well rounded training program is the only way to improve a player’s overall performance.
One such subject, and certainly one of my favourites, is the use of Mental Imagery. (Or if you like: Visualisation or Mental Rehearsal).
The use of Mental Imagery has been proven to improve the execution of a variety of skills in Sports. The use of various techniques is a staple inclusion in my coaching of Rugby Kickers. I will state, however, as with anything in a coaches process or program, any success with this begins with Player “Buy-In!” This is not a quick-fix strategy, but rather a tool that will improve and serve you over time. The best rugby kickers never leave home without it!
So What are Mental Imagery Techniques?
Well, firstly, we are NOT talking about daydreaming. And most certainly this is not idle thinking…
Effective use of Mental Imagery is a SKILL, and takes some effort to get good at. With regular application in your training program you will enhance & compliment the Physical work you are doing to improve or refine your skill.
Yes, But What Do I Do?
The use of Visualisation (MI) is the art of being able to create ‘Mini-Movies’ in your mind of the situation that you want to happen. In terms of kicking, you will be picturing yourself kicking in a game situation, paying attention to correct technique and successful execution…..This is a powerful development tool and will greatly assist your skill development…
I have found it easier to trust the system & process, rather than try to understand the science. To know this works and how it is applied should be your initial goal. Many articles have been written if you seek some scientific basis for these methods…
Try These Simple, Practical Tips:
* Me Time - Find yourself a quiet, perhaps dark space to lie or sit comfortably. Ideally you will not want to be distracted for at least 10 minutes…
* State of Mind – Make sure you are relatively relaxed before you start. Being stressed WILL NOT HELP. Maybe you could create a music soundtrack that gets you in a positive emotional state?
3 KEY ELEMENTS OF KICKING VISUALISATION:
Picture yourself in this mini-movie. You must see clearly the kit that you will be wearing. What colour is it? Socks up or down? What sponsors are on it? Notice all the details about yourself on the pitch…
Picture the exact surroundings you will be kicking in. You could picture your home pitch or stadium? Or perhaps you are playing away this week? What does the pitch look like? Grass or Mud? How well are the lines marked? What about the crowd? What does it look like? What does the atmosphere sound like? Aroma of pies and chips? Keep it Real!
The third and final critical inclusion is to picture the skill you will be performing. In this case kicking, and for most specifically Place Kicking. A research study in 1999 concluded that for self paced skills such as kicking, players are better served visualising in the third person. Of course that is the view as if you were looking at yourself with someone else’s eyes, and not through your own. Make sure you rehearse all aspects of your routine, as you intend to perform in real life. You can even do it in slow motion, intensifying the effect. Smooth, Effortless and Successful. See the ball clear the cross bar, watch the two flags go up. Did you hear the whistle? Did you kick the winner? Make sure you handle the pressure and distraction with ease….
Throughout the whole process you need to ‘seed’ the feeling of confidence and excitement. Feel the elation of a successful conversion…This is not silly, it works!
Arnold Schwarzenneger had been famously quoted after his first Mr Universe Contest Victory, that he had already been there in that winning situation many times before.
Imagine like it’s happening right now, then & there!
* Please watch the short video clip below for a visual summary of how to successfully apply these techniques to improve your kicking game…
By Stuart Lierich