sports psychologist & clinical psychology

TUNING IN TO YOUR FAVORITE CHANNELS

Mental Equipment Syndicated Column – Dec 1, 1997 – Dr. John F. Murray – Which channels do you enjoy the most? No, I am not referring to selections on your newly purchased digital satellite system with 32-bit microprocessor. I’m talking about you, a living breathing tennis player with a fully equipped neuroprocessor and 5 different senses!

If you have been tuning in to the Mental Equipment channel, you might have already reaped benefits using the powerful tool of imagery. Recall that imagery is a mental technique that programs the mind to use all senses to recreate an experience (See August 1995 article, “The Essence of Imagery in Tennis”). Whenever you imagine yourself performing an action in the absence of physical practice you are using imagery. Tuning in to your favorite channel on a regular basis makes imagery even more effective.

For example, whereas some players are most skillful at re-creating positive visual images, others more naturally visualize physical sensations or sounds. Although our heads may look similar from the outside (except for those having a bad hair day), neural activity under the skull varies dramatically among individuals. Everyone experiences the world uniquely! Imaging primarily in pictures when your auditory sense is strongest would be like watching television with poor reception and no sound!

To discover your favorite channels, take a few moments to complete the following exercise. Find a comfortable position in a quiet room. Sit or lie down and relax with your eyes closed for a few seconds. Inhale deeply three times and then create the following images in your mind, one at a time:

A beautiful mountain…red clay tennis courts…a tennis ball going up in the air prior to hitting a smash…the sight of your best friend watching you play…the tournament draw sheet before your next round
The sound of clapping from the crowd…the roar of an overhead airplane…the noise the ball makes as it hits your racket…the loud sounds of thunder…the pitch of racket strings being adjusted

The taste of your most recent meal…the sugary taste of chewing gum.. .the taste of Gatorade…the taste of your favorite desert…the taste of bitter candy

The smell of a newly opened can of balls…the scent of cologne…the odor of a lockerroom…the smell of cigar smoke…the smell of freshly mowed grass

The feel of sweat running down your face…the feel of bouncing the ball on your racket…aching muscles after a long match…hot water in the shower…the feel of a perfectly hit serve

When you are finished, reflect for a moment about which senses were easiest to imagine and which appeared most challenging. Your favorite sensory channels greatly influence how you experience reality.

The next time you practice imagery, pay close attention to the rich variety of sensory experiences in your desired channels. You may want to add more detailed and elaborate information within these channels to enhance imagery even more. While playing tennis, make frequent comparisons between your sensory experiences on the court and what you experienced during visualization.

By paying attention to your favorite senses more frequently, you will be using the imagery channels most suited for you as an individual. You will enjoy imagery more, but will find your results on the court even more interesting!

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