4 Simple Visualization Exercises for Lacrosse Goalies | Lax Goalie Rat

4 Simple Visualization Exercises for Lacrosse Goalies

Lacrosse-Goalie-Visualization

As lacrosse goalies, visualization is a powerful tool that we can use to improve our game and increase our mental toughness.

In fact, as I speak with more and more elite lacrosse goalies for the podcast, one theme that emerges among the best of our sport is how they use visualization exercises to improve their performance and increase their mental toughness.

And it makes sense because studies have shown that mental imagery impacts many cognitive processes in the brain: motor control, attention, perception, planning, and memory. So the brain is getting trained for actual performance during visualization.

Don’t believe me? Check these top athletes outside of the lacrosse world:

Michael Phelps? He visualizes every detail of every race—the start, each stroke, the finish – all before he jumps into the pool.

Jack Nicklaus? Never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in his mind.

Wayne Gretzky? He would visualize himself on the ice to help overcome distractions and focus on his game.

If the best athletes in the world are using visualization to dominate their sport, then why aren’t you?

So hopefully by now, I’ve convinced you of the power of visualization. The next logical question is how exactly do I use visualization? What do I visualize?

This post is for you. It’s 4 simple visualization exercises that you can use to take your game to the next level.

Visualization is a fantastic tool not only because it can be used anywhere, and anytime, but also because it works for goalies regardless of age or skill level.

Deceleration Visualization

The first two can visualization exercises can be used by athletes to achieve a calmer state.

Often times our emotions and our nerves are running on overdrive and that can get the better of us.  So its useful to have visualization exercises to calm a goalie.

Have your goalie relax somewhere quiet. They can lay down or sit up in silence. Tell them to take a deep breath and release. Tell them the following:

  1. Imagine you’re driving a car. The car is going very fast in 5th gear.
  2. Now, slowly imagine downshifting the car to 4th gear. The car begins to slow down at a steady rate.
  3. Now downshift the car to 3rd gear. The car slows down again.
  4. Now, continue to slow down by downshifting the car to 2nd gear… 1st gear….

Let the athletes sit or lay there for a while after the visualization has ended.

Throughout the visualization, remind them to take a deep breath after each step. Take them slowly and systematically from 5th gear to 1st.

If your goalie is a little younger, they may not quite understand the deceleration concepts, but they will be able to understand the second visualization:

Hot Stove Visualization

Same prep as the previous exercise. Have your goalie relax somewhere quiet. They can lay down or sit up in silence. Tell them to take a deep breath and release. Tell them the following:

  1. Imagine you’re boiling a pot of water. Your stove is on high, and the water is bubbling.
  2. Now, turn the knob down from high to medium…
  3. The water stops bubbling and starts to cool down just a bit.
  4. Now, turn the knob down to low… simmer….

Let the athletes sit or lay there for a while after the visualization has ended.

Throughout the visualization, remind them to take a deep breath after each step. Take them slowly and systematically from high to simmer.

The decentralization visualization or the hot stove visualization can help goalies transform strong feelings of anxiety and pressure into a sense of calmness.

lax goalie visualize

Making Saves Visualization

A great visualization exercise will create experiences within your imagination that mimic real experiences.

Many professional athletes say that a visualized rep is almost as good as a real rep in practice.

So as goalies we can go through visualizations of taking shots and making saves.

  1. Relax your body
  2. It’s a beautiful sunny day. Feel the sun on your face.
  3. The grass is perfectly cut on the field. Smell the grass.
  4. A middie with the ball sweeps down the alley
  5. He/She winds up shoot
  6. Picture your self in your perfect lacrosse stance – feeling relaxed but ready to explode to the ball.
  7. You see the ball immediately out of the shooter’s stick
  8. You track it with your eyes all the way into your stick making the perfect save movement
  9. You feel yourself getting more confident, repeat your positive self-talk.
  10. You look up and make a perfect outlet pass to your teammate

Repeat these 10 steps for all different types of shots.

A couple of notes –

For steps 2 and 3, remember visualization doesn’t have to be limited to sight. It can (and should) include other senses like smell, sounds, touch, and kinesthetic sense. With practice, visualization becomes a very realistic simulation within the lacrosse goalie’s mind.  The more realistic the experience becomes, the more effective the imagery will be on the athlete’s performance.

If at any point of the visualization you make a mistake, like an incorrect movement, don’t explode to the ball, don’t see the shot right out of the shooter’s stick, just stop, rewind and start again.

You’re in control of your visualization and there’s no reason for it not to be 100% perfect.

Giving Up A Goal Visualization

How lax goalies react when getting scored on is very important.

As goalies we want that “next shot” mentality. The ability to quickly forget a goal given up is a quality of the elite. However any goalie who has given up a goal on an easy shot can tell you, it’s tough.

We know its going to happen. We know its going to happen lots of times.  So let’s prepare for it.

This visualization exercise will help goalies keep their composure after getting scored on.

Run through the previous visualization but this time, you give up goal.

  • How do you feel?
  • How do you react?
  • How do you respond?

After imaging the mistake you made, quickly replace that image with the way you wish to react.

If you don’t have a post-goal routine, now is a good time to develop one.

I do think it’s more powerful to visualize saves, however we should incorporate a few goals given up into the visualization that when this event happens in a game, we’re prepared to deal with it.

Other Visualization Tips

Now that you’ve got 4 different visualizations you can work into your routine, here’s a few more general tips when it comes to perfecting the art of the visualization.

Just like training to be an elite goalie, it’s all about getting in reps. Visualization sounds simple enough but to do it right is really a skill that must be developed over time.

Start with 5-minute sessions a day and increase the length of sessions as you become better.

The night before a big game or tryout, before you go to sleep, spend 5-10 doing visualization exercises so that you’re ready once you step onto the field.

Before every game, go over all the possible plays that can occur, especially focusing on the plays that you have been working on, and wish to improve.  Briefly imagine mistakes you have recently made, and quickly replace that image with the way you wish to react.

Conclusion

If you’re not using visualization to improve your lacrosse goalie game, you’re missing out on a simple win.

Studies show that athletes and especially goalies who visualization success are more likely to achieve it.

Visualization can be done anytime and anywhere so there’s really no excuse not to work a few visualization exercises into your normal routine. I encourage goalies to make it part of their pregame routine as well.

You can visualize making saves to get in the zone. You can visualize giving up goals so you remain calm and in control.

You use the decelerating visualization or the hot stove visualization to help calm an anxious mind.

Until next time! Coach Damon

Anyone else using visualizations to improve their game? Would love to hear about it in the comments. 

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