Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Coaches' Encouragement of Athletes' Imagery Use

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Coaches' Encouragement of Athletes' Imagery Use

Article excerpt

To investigate whether coaches encourage their athletes to use imagery, two studies were undertaken. In the first, 317 athletes completed the Coaches' Encouragement of Athletes' Imagery Use Questionnaire. In the second, 215 coaches completed a slightly modified version of this questionnaire. It was found that coaches and athletes generally agreed on the relative frequency with which coaches encourage athletes to use imagery across the 4 Ws (i.e., where, when, why, and what). Coaches promoted imagery use more in conjunction with competition than training and injury rehabilitation, and higher-level coaches encouraged imagery use far more than their recreational counterparts. In addition, the level of athlete being coached had a major impact on how much or little coaches encouraged their athletes to use imagery. Coaches encouraged higher level athletes (i.e., international, national, varsity) to use imagery more than club and recreational athletes.

Key words: competition, injury rehabilitation, motivational imagery, 4Ws


Athletes use imagery extensively, but they do not always use it as effectively as possible (Hall, 2001; Hall, Rodgers, & Barr, 1990). Therefore, to help them use it more effectively and enhance their performances in training and competition, researchers have investigated variables that determine athletes' imagery use. Some of the variables have included gender, skill level, type of sport, and time of season (cf. Hall, 2001). The present paper focuses on a variable that has not been considered in any depth to date, namely, coaches.

Athletes' Use of Imagery

Munroe, Giacobbi, Hall, and Weinberg (2000) created a conceptual model of imagery use derived from a qualitative examination of imagery use in sport. Their 4Ws study addressed: Where athletes use imagery, When they use imagery, Why they use imagery and What athletes image. The conceptual framework has been beneficial for coaches and sport psychologists as they aim to gain a better understanding of the role imagery plays in athletic performance.

In terms of where athletes use imagery, research has shown they use it in competition and training, although they report using it more often in conjunction with the former than the latter (Hall et al., 1990; Salmon, Hall, & Haslam, 1994). Consequently, athletes use imagery more for performance enhancement and skill execution than skill learning. As for when athletes use imagery, they report extensive use just prior to competing. They use it less frequently during competition and immediately following competition (Munroe et al., 2000). When athletes use imagery in training, they tend to use it most during practice, rather than before or after practice (Salmon et al., 1994). Outside of training and competition, athletes have reported using imagery intermittently throughout the day, but most often they report using it at night just before falling asleep (Hall et al., 1990; Rodgers, Hall, & Buckolz, 1991).

To date, much of the research has focused on why athletes use imagery. Paivio (1985) proposed that imagery serves cognitive and motivational functions that operate at a general or specific level. Various studies have used and validated Paivio's framework (e.g., Hall, Mack, Paivio, & Hausenblas, 1998; Moritz, Hall, Martin, & Vadocz, 1996). Cognitive specific (CS) imagery involves skill rehearsal, while cognitive general (CG) imagery is the rehearsal of play strategies, routines, and game plans. Motivational specific (MS) imagery entails imagining goals and goal-attainment activities. Motivational general (MG) imagery has two components (Hall et al., 1998): motivational general-arousal (MG-A) and motivational general-mastery (MG-M) imagery. MG-A involves the regulation of arousal levels and management of the stress and anxiety experienced when performing. MG-M is used when the athlete needs to remain focused, confident, and mentally tough (Hall et al. …

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