Visualization Techniques for Wrestling
Visualization — the process of creating mental images to help increase your performance — is essential to succeeding at the highest levels of competitive wrestling. Visualization is one of the most important mental aspects of the sport, and should be utilized often. This guide will discuss the different forms of visualization techniques you can use, and when and how to use them in order to increase your performance on the mat.
The most underused, though most beneficial, time to utilize visualization is when you train. This is beneficial because it allows you to draw a connection between your mind and your body while you’re performing specific tasks under physical and mental stress. You can use visualization anytime, during any practice, and while performing virtually workout or exercise.
It also helps to utilize visualization during live wrestling because it mirrors the competitive feel of a real match. There are two main ways you can use visualization techniques during live wrestling.
One way is if a coach sets up certain scenarios or situations that will allow you to immerse yourself in the competitive element. For example, before starting a period of live wrestling, your coach may ask you to visualize being down by two points as you’re going into the last minute of the match. Knowing this, you will try to simulate the mental stress you would feel if you were behind in points, while still attempting to score on your opponent. This type of visualization will help you feel more comfortable and confident in similar situations during actual competition.
If a coach does not call for specific visualization scenarios, you can visualize your own. Think of these situations as mental games. Try to immerse yourself in match-like situations that you are uncomfortable in, or need to build confidence in. If you’re caught on your back during live wrestling, for example, try to imagine being on your back in an actual match and needing to get out.
Visualizing while you drill is also essential in building your technical skills, and it can be done for any technique. A takedown, for example, can be visualized before it’s physically performed. Go through the entire process in your mind, from start to finish:
- Imagine how you will set up the takedown.
- Think about how it will feel (physically) to shoot in on your opponent’s legs.
- You can even think about how it will sound when he hits the mat.
The more vivid of a picture you can create in your head before actually performing the takedown, the easier it will be to perform it when you need to in a match.
It’s common for negative thoughts to exist when you’re using visualization techniques. If this happens to you, transform these thoughts into positive reinforcements. Turn words like “can’t” into words like “can” and “will.” It’s important to be aware of negative thoughts and to immediately redirect them into positive thinking.
The hour or so before a match or competition is another critical time where visualization can make a positive impact on your wrestling. Visualize all of the techniques and specific situations you may get into while warming up for the actual match. This will help you perform better.
Another powerful technique, though widely underused, is to imagine the event while actually being in the facility where it will be hosted. Though it is not always possible to access the facility, if you have the chance to do so, do it — it can make all the difference. The most common times you will be allowed into the facility is during weigh-ins, or if you are allowed to practice on the mats prior to the competition.
For example, say you’re wrestling in a state tournament that is being held in an arena that is filled with 16 mats. Instead of waiting to experience the “shell shock” of competing in a large arena that’s packed with fans, take the advantage of checking it out after you weigh in, while it’s still empty. Then do some visualization. Imagine the different sounds you’ll hear, like the fan’s shouting and the referee’s whistles blowing. Go through your matches in your head and imagine yourself standing atop of the podium with a gold medal. Take this invaluable time to imagine anything that will boost your confidence and help you feel more comfortable with the idea of competing.
A specific form of visualization that can be used to build confidence and increase your comfort level is relaxation training. Essentially, this technique is a form of meditation that allows you to relax your body and mind in order to visualize the tasks you want to perform. It also helps to calm pre-competition jitters. This technique is especially useful right before big tournaments.
Start by lying down in a dark, quiet place. You may choose to do this in your bedroom while laying on your bed or the floor, or anywhere else you won’t be interrupted. It’s also best to do this without music. However, if calm, relaxing music helps put you in a good state of mind, then by all means, use it.
Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Walk yourself through every possible match from start to finish, and visualize all of the different scenarios you may find yourself in. Imagine everything from walking out and shaking hands with your opponent, to getting your hand raised in victory.
Hot Tip: Cover It All
The biggest mistake wrestlers make when visualizing is imagining perfect scenarios. Instead of being realistic, they visualize ideal versions of how their matches will play out. You shouldn’t do this. When going through each scenario in your imaginary matches, try to imagine all of the different situations that could arise — the good and the bad. Then, think about what you will need to do in order to turn any not-so-desirable situation into a scoring opportunity that will allow you to emerge victorious.
Make sure you are being realistic when you visualize your matches. Imagine your opponent countering your shots; then visualize how you will counter his counters. Imagine your opponent taking you down; then visualize what you will need to do to escape his control. Visualize all of the possibilities, but accentuate the things you will do that will help you win.
Lastly, it is important to be as detailed as possible when “walking” yourself through each match. Even the smallest details will help you feel like you are actually there, and thinking about them will allow you to be more comfortable when you actually compete. Imagine how your takedowns will feel, the sound of the referee hitting the mat to signal the pin — even the smell of the mat. The more realistic your visualizations are, the more beneficial they will be.
Imagine & Win
If you are serious about being a successful wrestler, you should be implementing the various visualization techniques explained in this guide. But remember, you can’t use a technique once in a while and expect it to have a huge impact on your performance. Visualizations should become a part of your daily routine. The wrestlers who want to win the most are those who think about winning the most! Good luck!