Super Bowl Sports Psychology for Everyday Athletes

As a San Francisco Bay Area sports psychologist, I help people across the spectrum: top athletes, coaches, and weekend warriors. Here's what you can do to improve your own fitness. I call it "The Super Bowl Mindset."
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Would you like the edge that Super Bowl athletes have, for more energy in your own life?
How about better focus and confidence?

As a San Francisco Bay Area sports psychologist, I help people across the spectrum: top athletes, coaches, and weekend warriors. Here's what you can do to improve your own fitness. I call it "The Super Bowl Mindset."

Over the years, I've worked with and helped NFL football players and Olympians to perform at their best. Not only does the athlete need physical preparation, he or she needs an effective mental training process. An essential part of the Super Bowl Mindset is the effective use of mental imagery. I'll show you the exact techniques I teach elite athletes and how you can start applying them right away.

How You Can Use Effective Mental Imagery To Perform At Your Best

Imagery is not wishful thinking, or daydreaming about the great athlete you would like to be. It is a learned skill that requires effort, concentration, discipline, and regular practice to gain the maximum benefits. Here are the key principles for doing effective mental imagery for your health, sports, work, and life:

Timing: Imagery can be used most any time -- at home, or before, during, or after training and racing. In the learning phases imagery is easier to do in a quiet, non-distracting environment. Imagery is most effective when the mind is calm and the body is relaxed.

Breathing: Begin with a few minutes of deep abdominal breathing. Put one hand on your stomach about two inches below the belly button, and feel your hand rise and fall with each breath. Imagine that with each inhale you are filling up a balloon inside the stomach. As you exhale, the balloon collapses back down.

Imagining: Create an image in your mind as vividly as possible of what you want to achieve in your fitness, sports, or life. Let distracting thoughts and feelings float away as you refocus on your image.

Sensing: Bring in all five of your senses so you can see, hear, and feel what it's like to have a great workout or competition. Taste and smell are often powerful senses for triggering memories but are often more difficult to incorporate into day-to-day imagery training. Bring the scene into the present tense so you are totally focused on the task at hand.

Developing Positive Images: Don't replay the mistakes. You want to remove the memory of errors. One of my athlete clients related to me: "I'm really good at negative visualization -- I have so many experiences to tap into." If you see yourself doing something incorrectly, edit the film in your mind and replay it exactly as you wish it to happen. Imagine that your performance is equal to or better than your previous best.

Pacing: Mentally rehearse your training at the same rhythm and pace that you want in your performance to establish the appropriate neurological pattern within the brain.

Modeling: Use visual models and guides. Before going to sleep at night try watching a video of a superior performance. For instance get out your recordings from the last Olympics or World Championships. Then visualize yourself moving just as fluidly and powerfully as a top Super Bowl athlete.

Turning Your Images Into Reality

Each time you are energized by an experience, inspired by someone you meet, or motivated by a performance, you have the chance to anchor the memory in your mind and use that vision whenever you need it. When you revisit those positive memories on a regular basis you can bring to mind empowering thoughts and feelings that will inspire your performances and recharge your life.

When you construct clear images of the road you want to travel, and embrace those visions on a daily basis, you can start to fully utilize the power of your mind. Begin by mentally viewing your goals upon waking each morning.

See yourself experiencing those actions in your mind, body, and spirit. Feel yourself doing exactly what you want to do, the way you would like to do it. Then incorporate those images during your actual day-to-day functioning.

Create Positive Images and Memories

In order to properly train the body you must first train the mind. Inspiring images can create powerful emotions and produce superior performances. So it's best to focus on positive images and memories. At first you may not fully believe that you can perform up to the level of your visualizations.

It's OK to act as if it is already happening. With practice your body will come into line with your mental images. If a negative image comes into your mind, just breathe deeply, and let it go with your exhale. Then bring in a positive image with your next breath. As you practice and refine your mental training your images will become clearer and more convincing.

Remember, mental imagery can be effective at any level of training or competition. Mental and physical training can work quite well to complement one another. The more familiar you become with the intricacies of your sport, the more effective your mental practice will become.

Of course mental imagery is not a substitute for physical training. You still have to put in the miles, or time at the gym. But it can make all the difference in the quality and enjoyment of your training and competing. It will move you much closer to realizing your true potential.

You may not feel that you're facing the level of pressure as an athlete in the Super Bowl. However, you do face stress each day. When you use the imagery process of The Super Bowl Mindset, you have more stamina and get better results.

Your "Super Bowl Challenge" is your daily life in sports, business and at home. The better you train, the better you do in life.

Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter, Sports Psychologist, from Stanford University Medical Center, is CEO of Performing Edge Coaching International Association, ( ) a global resource and Certification Training Program for sports psychology coaches. Complimentary Book Chapter and tips at She is founder of the premiere sports psychology resource for athletes, coaches and sports parents. Dr. JoAnn, has 5 Olympic Gold Medalist clients, competing in the last 5 Olympic Games, and is a columnist for the Huffington Post and author of several books including the #1 national bestseller "Sports Psychology Coaching for Your Performing Edge" Dr. JoAnn has appeared on OPRAH and Friends,, and NBC-TV Olympics, ABC Sports, CBS, and Fox News. She's a Stanford Performance Consultant, sports psychologist to OLYMPIC Gold Medalists and CEOs, and professional teams, and Winner of the San Francisco Marathon and 2nd in the World Championship Hawaii Ironman Triathlon. She was ranked #1 Triathlete in the U.S. by Triathlete Magazine.

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