Does mental practice by way of motor imagery training work for children and young adults, both in sports and physical education settings? And do we find the same changes on the perceptual-cognitive level as we did find for adults in our previous studies?
We conducted one study with gymnasts, a results of a collaboration with Dr. Bianca Simonsmeier. Young gymnasts profited from motor imagery training, but this depended on their level of expertise, see here.
The 4-week long imagery training had positive effects on performance only for the high-expertise athletes in the imagery-last condition. The results of the Structural Dimensional Analysis of Mental Representation method regarding changes in the mental representations were inconsistent. Thus, imagery training can promote motor learning in young athletes only under some conditions. We discuss possible reasons for the heterogeneous results and ways for improving the strength and reliability of the intervention effects.
More recently, we realized a study in a physical education setting, with imagery tailored to the needs of a physical education class. This very first step helped the students to learn a gymnastic skill by engaging in regular imagery training, while for us there remain challenges that we need to address in future work (publication in press).