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When I’m jumping stairs the only thing I’m thinking about is how to land the trick, I’m thinking about what it’s going to feel like to land the trick, I’m thinking about how it’s going to flip, how I’m going to catch it, I’m only focusing on trying to make the trick happen.

 ­­– Paul Rodriguez

visualisation/mental imagery.

So in this one I’m going to teach you how to learn tricks from your sofa. Not even joking.

This one’s about visualisation or mental imagery, something that sports psychologists say is one of the most important psychological skills you can have, it’s something that almost all the athletes at the top of their game use, and something that people like P-Rod and Marc Johnson have spoken about as something that’s essential to their skating.

what is mental imagery?

Mental imagery is the process of creating an image/simulation in your head of something without actually moving your body. It could be a trick, an image of a place, a performance of a forward roll in a risky situation; literally anything. It’s something you do all day every day whether you want to or not, but if you put a bit of intention into it it can be used to help you learn tricks or get more consistent, to commit to your tricks or figure them out in the moment, to practice a trick you want to go film, improve your confidence and concentration, manage stress and anxiety, hype you up, figure out your errors, to experience/practice skating when you can’t physically do it (maybe because of an injury), and even to recover faster from injuries, pretty much anything and everything, and all of that whilst sitting on your sofa. You're probably thinking "if it can do all that, why has no one told me about it before?, well, Marc Johnson actually dropped this wisdom into the skate world a long time ago…

I have this idea that if you think of something, you can do it. Skateboarding is ideas put into action. I mean every time you do a trick it’s mostly in your head; your body’s just responding to what your head’s telling it to do. You can do any trick you really want to if you put your mind to it, if you try it long enough or if you can think of it, you can pretty much do it on a skateboard.

 ­­– Marc Johnson

There are quite a few different theories that try and explain how mental imagery works. For example, research has shown that the same muscles and parts of the brain activate when you imagine doing something as when you physically do it. This solidifies the pathways in your brain related to that skill in the same way as if you were actually practising it; making it easier to re-enact when it comes to doing it. Other theories say it helps to increase concentration and confidence which translates to improved performance. Whatever the exact mechanisms are, one thing’s for sure, it works.

how to do mental imagery in 5 steps.

So how do you use mental imagery for skateboarding? Well, you can use it when you're not skating to help you work on one of the things I mentioned earlier - commitment, learning a trick, etc. which I'll go over first, or you can use it during your session to help you figure out or commit to a trick, which I'll get to after.

The following are 5 recommendations taken from the imagery masters on how to create the most optimal image possible and increase the chances of the carry over to real life.

1. find a spot.

As imagery is most effective if you are completely focused on the image you want to create, to start your imagery sesh it can help if you’re somewhere with few distractions and you’re in a relaxed, relatively good mood. You can just sit down, close your eyes (or leave them open if you prefer), breathe deep and leave it at that. Another technique you can do to get chillin' is something called progressive relaxation. To do this, lie down, contract the muscles of one body area and then relax them. Move through each area of your body from head to toe.

2. specify what to visualise.

Next up you need to decide specifically what you’re working on: do you want to practice a trick? Do you want to work on being more confident to stick your shit when you’re skating something big in the streets, or staying focused when you’re skating in a competition? Make sure you know exactly what you want to work on, and it’s something you want, don’t visualise spraining your ankle…

3. choose the perspective.

Next you need to choose one of the three perspectives to imagine from: either an internal, first person view, or an external, third person view. Choose whichever works easier for you, which might vary depending on the situation. Most imagery masters say they swap between both internal and external views.