Mental rehearsal (also known as visualisation or imagery) is when the athlete pictures the movement or skill in their mind. Mental rehearsal requires the athlete to take their own perspective/view and imagine completing the skill perfectly, while ensuring they visualise the complete scenario. That is, to visualise the sounds, colours, movements, defender etc that will be present when the actual skill is executed.
Mental rehearsal is often done just before performance as it helps improve concentration. This includes both before the competition begins and during competition just before a particular skill is executed. For example. many basketball players will mentally rehearse their free throw before taking it, and weight lifters visualise a successful lift before their attempt. A football player may also use imagery before the game begins to help them focus and get their body prepared for what is required during the match.
Visualisation is also useful as a form of practice, especially when physical practice is not possible. Often injured, or sick athletes will rehearse their performance using visualisation techniques. Studies have shown that mental rehearsal can help maintain current levels of skill execution, though it will not increase the level.
Mental rehearsal improves performance by: optimising arousal, and improving concentration. However, rehearsal must be realistic, only have successful performances, and be rehearsed from the athlete’ perspective while completing the skill or performance.