Does Visualisation Have a Place in (Your) Snowboarding?

by Fraser

Perhaps you’ve heard about how competitive sportsmen and sportswomen use visualisation techniques to improve their performance? Perhaps not? The power of the mind… Positive thinking. And it’s not just sports, it can have a real impact on all areas of life. Yeah, yeah – so what’s that got to do with snowboarding?


What is visualisation?

Visualisation: forming a mental image of something; to imagine.

In the context of improving at something, the theory is that when you visualise doing that thing, you’re actually training your mind to do it. Mental training.

With physical training your brain is controlling your muscles to perform the task. You practice, learn, correct mistakes, repeat, and the whole system gets better.

When you visualise doing that same task your brain is sending the same signals. Therefore, you can improve physical performance with mental training. That’s the theory.

There is technique involved. Some visualisations are more effective than others. For example, visualisations should be big, colourful and contain detail, including sound. There’s a skill involved; you can do it “properly”.


How effective can visualisation be?


So does that actually make a difference?

There’s a pretty interesting study carried out by an Australian psychologist called Alan Richardson. The study involved the effect of visualisation on taking free throws in basketball. You can read about it in more detail here; this is a summary:

  • Random collection of students, they all take 100 free throws and their accuracy is recorded
  • The whole group is randomly split up into three, equal groups
  • Group 1: for the next four weeks, they don’t touch a basketball, they don’t even think about it
  • Group 2: for four weeks, they spend 20 minutes per day practicing free throws in the gym
  • Group 3: for four weeks, they spend 20 minutes per day practicing free throws in their mind – using visualisation only
  • All 3 groups return, after the four weeks, and shoot another 100 free throws…

The results? Group 1 didn’t improve at all. Group 2 improved by 24%. Group 3, who did nothing but visualise, improved by 23%. Dang!

Can that apply to snowboarding?

OK, you do hear things like “it’s 90% mental” and sportsmen/women being described as having “a strong mental game”. So let’s say that you can improve at sports using some kind of visualisation-based training – could that apply to snowboarding?

The theory suggests yes. After all, the techniques involved in snowboarding require coordinated movements in a similar way to shooting a free throw in basketball. What’s more, there’s a definite nerve/bottle/fear aspect to snowboarding. It can be scary learning new tricks or riding more advanced terrain. There’s no doubt that those internal battles are going on inside the head.

So – it’s at least feasible, but perhaps likely, that a snowboarder could benefit from mental training

What does it mean for you?

Perhaps a professional golfer or Premier League football player can help to stay at the top of their game by visualising success, preparing for competition in their head as well as on the practice field – but does that mean that you should start to improve your own visualisation in preparation for a round of golf at the weekend or a game of five-a-side with your friends?

Even if it could help snowboarders to learn new tricks and deal with fear – does that make it relevant to your snowboarding. That will depend on a variety of factors, two important ones being:

  • How badly you want to improve
  • How much faith you place in the idea of mental training


It’s time to have your say. What’s your take on this?

  • Is it a load of codswallop? Get out of town with this shit…
  • Is it possible, but irrelevant to the ‘average’ snowboarder? Maybe something Shaun White is working on…
  • Or is there something in it? Maybe a bit of mental preparation could help you learn that frontside boardslide, or the backflip…

Add your opinion with a comment – and share it to find out what your friends think.

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