The purpose of this qualitative study was to discover if the use of mental practice would affect sixth grade students learning of volleyball skills. Research has shown that mental practice can be an effective tool to enhance skill retention among advanced athletes. To be most effective, mental practice should be from an internal perspective and be as vivid as possible. It should also be done as close to the actual event as possible and be kept short in duration, between three and twenty minutes. Research has also shown that mental practice works best with subjects who have a low anxiety level and it can be used to lower a person's perceived stress. This study took place at a suburban elementary school located in the Pacific Northwest. The participants were sixth grade students participating in their regular Physical Education classes. Information was gathered from the students in a variety of methods including pre and post skill tests, journals, surveys, and teacher observations. Students were told how to use mental practice and were encouraged to use it as. often as they could. They were told to keep a log of their mental practice sessions on a provided calendar sheet. Surveys were given at the beginning and end of the volleyball unit to assess the students' perceptions of mental practice. Skill tests were given at the beginning and end of the unit to test for skill improvement. Overall, students who used mental practice improved more than those who did not. Half of the students who participated in the study felt that mental practice helped them. Of the fourteen who participated, six said they would continue to use mental practice for other Physical Education classes. Students who scheduled their mental practice sessions close to or on the day of physical education classes were more likely to say that they felt mental practice helped them. Due to time constraints,many factors could not be eliminated from the skills test that may have affected the outcome. Future recommendations would be to have a consistent toss of the ball for the skills test. More studies need to be done with this age population to see if mental practice is an effective supplement to physical practice.
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