The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > Opinion > Sports



What are the "invention notes" that contain the secret to Yuzuru Hanyu's abilities?
—The psychological method of today’s top athletes

Hiroyuki Horino
Professor, Faculty of Sport Sciences, Waseda University

Photo courtesy of Yuzuru Hanyu

Figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu fascinates people around the world. One way he continues to improve himself is by using a “practice logbook” in which he writes down what he calls "invention notes." Nearly every day, Hanyu “scribbles down his thoughts about practice. This includes his thoughts on speed, timing, and feeling. His logbook also includes things he tried and found and good and bad, and his doubts about certain aspects of his performance…” Hanyu does imagery training before going to sleep, and sometimes gets up to write invention notes when inspired. Even when sleepy, he sits at a table and scribbles down notes before crashing" (Goto, 2014).

Psychological effects of "invention notes" and the "practice logbook"

Every day many of the world's top athletes look back on their practice sessions and analyze their performances. After identifying issues, they set new goals for the next training session. Many people probably have a similar routine in the business world as well. The process of reviewing and keeping records daily has the following three effects:

1. Cementing memories in the brain and preventing their loss
Writing down ideas cements important matters in your memory and prevents you from forgetting them as time passes.

2. Analyzing present conditions and resetting goals
This allows you to closely examine what is written down in the notebook, obtain an overview, objectively analyze problematic points and the reasons for success or failure, and set new goals.

3. Freeing yourself from obsessions
Continuously writing down your thoughts frees you from obsessing with concerns and relieves the mind of worries
The practice logbook, or so-called "review notes," encourages one to repeat the PDCA (plan-do-check-act) cycle efficiently on a daily basis and carefully prepare for the next training session or job. It frees individuals from a captive state of mind, promoting mental health.

The practice logbook of top athletes

What do top athletes write in their practice logbook every day? The media has previously revealed the practice logbook kept by gymnast Kohei Uchimura when he was in elementary school. It is apparently complete with analytical charts that describe the skills he wanted to improve (Moriai, 2012).

When athletes reflect on their performance during the day and write them down in their logbook, they use letters and illustrations to describe images evoked in their mind. With this process, they analyze issues they need to address by comparing their current situation with what they would like to accomplish. They then use this comparison to move closer to their goals. Using illustrations that are visually easy to understand helps reinforce their vision. In other words, top athletes use logbooks and diaries to conduct imagery training effectively.

Soccer player Keisuke Honda's "dream notes"

In their graduation essays, top athletes Keisuke Honda and Ichiro Suzuki wrote their future goals down in surprisingly concrete terms. They have accomplished many of them. Honda talks about the importance of his "dream notes" in which he described his aspirations for his life and work. If a practice logbook serves to verify the efforts one makes to achieve daily goals and set new ones, dream notes can be considered as a guide that continues to show the direction one should take to overcome confusions brought upon by daily events.

In setting goals effectively in dream notes, it is important to pay attention to the following five points:

1. Set goals independently (be active rather than passive)

2. Set goals that are difficult but achievable if you try (challenging and achievable)

3. Achieve large goals by taking small steps towards them (gradually and incrementally)

4. Specify goals and deadlines (enable objective evaluations and clarify target dates)

5. Leverage previous successes and failures (review and reset goals)

Writing your own unique notes effectively

How can we write notes that allow us to conduct imagery training effectively like top athletes?

It is important in imagery training to produce clear images freely. It is also known from studies in sports psychology that top athletes can conjure up images of themselves from the inside as well as from the outside. In addition to the movements of their muscles, they can clearly imagine even the delicate sensations perceived by their five senses. Gymnast Uchimura must have finely honed his senses by illustrating his performance in his logbook, imagining and perceiving the sensations in his body.

As described above, in order to produce clear images, it is essential to accumulate knowledge and many experiences about target movements and unaddressed issues, and the details of pending work. .

In order to write effective notes, you need to start by listing daily events and writing them down gradually in detail just like top athletes. It is also good to use not only alphanumeric characters but also illustrations and collages (cutting and pasting photographs and pictures). Illustrations clarify the images of goals, and motivate us greatly. If one continues to imagine their goals, they will clearly produce internal images based on personal experience and knowledge, in addition to external images.

Regarding the soccer notes he continues to write, soccer player Shunsuke Nakamura emphasizes the importance of continuity, saying, "The time I spent looking at my notes in a quiet room may have helped build my character" (Nakamura, 2009). When alone, top athletes see themselves as they are daily and talk to themselves inwardly, allowing them to create unique notes that promote their growth.

To everyone reading - how about writing your own practice notes?

Figure 3: Image of Growth in "Unique Notes"


Goto, Taisuke (2014), Hanyu: Kiniro no Yuki, Shinsai de Oreta Kokoro, Sasaerarete Saiki ("Hanyu: Golden Courage, Enthusiasm Dampened by the Earthquake, and Coming Back Supported by People"), February 16, 2014 morning edition of the Asahi Shimbun (Asahi Shimbun Digital, viewed on December 30, 2015)
Moriai, Masanori (2012), Kyoi no Uchimura ("Amazing Uchimura"), July 27 issue of the Chunichi Sports Shimbun
Honda, Keisuke (online) Yume Noto ("Dream Notes") (viewed on December 30, 2015)
Nakamura, Shunsuke (2009), Yume o Kanaeru Sakka Noto ("Soccer Notes Help Realize My Dreams"), Bungeishunju, Tokyo

Hiroyuki Horino
Professor, Faculty of Sport Sciences, Waseda University

[Brief history]
Special field of study: Coaching psychology and coaching science
Ph.D. (Human Sciences)
Born in Osaka in 1969
Graduated from Osaka Ibaraki Prefectural High School
Graduated from the School of Human Sciences, Waseda University and withdrew from the doctoral course at the Graduate School of Human Sciences
After working as an assistant at the National Defense Academy, Assistant Professor at Waseda University's School of Human Sciences, and Associate Professor at Waseda University's Faculty of Sport Sciences, he became Professor at this Faculty in 2015, his current post.

Top Performance e no Chosen ("Challenges to Reach the Highest Level of Performance") and Sports Seishin Seirigaku ("Psychophysiology of Sports") (both co-authored)

[Sports activities]
Coach for the Japan Women's Universiade National Football Team
Staff member in charge of game analysis for the Nadeshiko Japan of London Olympic Women's Football Team
Mental trainer of Japan Football Association (JFA) Academy and JFA instructor
Asian Football Confederation technical study board member