How to Bounce Back using Imagery and Visualization | Q&A with Coach Rebecca

Today’s Topic: How to Bounce Back using Imagery and Visualization


About Me

Good evening, everybody.  I’m Rebecca Smith – the founder of Complete Performance Coaching and the Perform Happy Community, and I’m here for our Q&A with Coach Rebecca.  I’m a high-performance coach who specializes in working with athletes age eight to 18, especially in those scary sports like gymnastics, figure skating, diving, but really any sport that involves you getting nervous. That’s my specialty.

I also work with a handful of fabulous coaches who specialize in endurance sports, adult athletes, team sports, etc.  No matter what sport you do, even if you’re a business person, we got you covered.  Each week, I give you tips that maximize performance and enjoyment.  Today’s questions come from a couple of sport parents.  One’s a gymnast and one’s a swimmer.

I’ll start with our gymnast mom.  She says,

Q:  It’s always something.  My daughter was out for a week with a medical issue just when she was having so much progress.

This is a girl who’s working through my Overcoming Fear course and was starting to make some good progress and then she was out for a week.  That always happens.

Then she went back and picked up where she left off, thankfully, but then Saturday she sprained her ankle doing a roundoff on beam.  She just can’t catch a break.  How do I keep her motivated through these setbacks?

Then a swim mom sent me a question last week that’s basically,

Q:  How do I help my son, who’s been backsliding, get back on top?



My answers to these questions are going to be a little bit more general, and it’s about how to get yourself moving, motivated, and how to stay on track when you have experienced a setback.  This setback could be an injury, fear, mental blocks, illness or even family issues that take you out of training.  It could be anything that causes a blow to your confidence, anything that derails your training, your confidence, and gets you feeling like you’re not where you should be.  I hate that “should” word.

When you’re in the hole, motivation’s low, you’re injured, your brain isn’t letting your body do what you want it to do, it can be hard to keep moving.  It can be hard to keep going.  What I’m going to focus on today is one strategy that works amazingly well for getting those passion juices flowing and getting your effort on board and keeping your eyes on the prize, even if you’re meandering off course a little bit.


The Imagery Strategy

How to Bounce Back using Imagery and Visualization

This is one of my favorite techniques that I actually don’t talk about enough on here.  It’s called imagery.  Now, some of you have heard it described as visualization.  The reason we call it imagery in the sports psychology world is because it’s more than just a visual.  It’s not like you’re sitting in a movie theater in your mind and watching a movie screen of you doing something.  That’s actually a way that a lot of people teach it.

If you want to actually rewire your brain for feeling happier, more confident, more successful, for learning skills more quickly, for fixing your technique, you have to incorporate all five senses and emotion.  You want it to feel as realistic as possible and it has to be real-time.

You basically have to trick your brain into going, “Wait.  Did that really happen?  I’m not sure.  I think I did that already,” when you really haven’t done it yet because you’re terrified or because you’re injured.  You get all of your senses on board.

There have been a bunch of studies that show that when you’re doing imagery well and correctly, you have the firing in your brain and in your muscles that would happen if you were really doing this skill.

Imagery speeds up your learning curve and your ability to get back on top.  It speeds up healing.  It’s really phenomenal what you can do by creating an experience in your mind that maybe has happened in the past or maybe has never even happened before.  It makes it more possible as far as your brain is concerned.


Where Do You Want to be in Three Months?

I want to encourage you to use imagery if you’re feeling like you can’t catch a break, and really anybody, even if you’re on a total winning streak right now, can benefit from this too.  Think about where you want to be in three months.  I like three-month goals.  That’s my short-term, long-term goal.  I personally always have a three-month goal.

I’m always aiming for something in that window of time because it allows me to have enough time to put a big, risky, exciting goal out there, and it’s enough time where if I get off course, I can get back on, get some help, and open my mind to new options.

Think to yourself, “Where do I want to be in three months?”  If everything falls into place, if you get back from that sprained ankle and you get right back to work and you keep doing what’s working, where do you want to be in three months?


Write it Down

I don’t mean, “Oh, I don’t know.  I’d like to be … ”  Go big.  Think.  Where do you want to be?  Do you want to be hitting all your skills, ready to compete, competing and winning?  I don’t always love putting winning as a goal, but you want to be performing at your best in three months, put it out there.

Take a second and brainstorm.  Write down, “What do I want?  What do I want in three months? What’s possible?  What could I have?”  Then I want you to actually write down in detail what this scene will be like when you’ve achieved it.

What will you feel like when, at the end of three months, you reach your goal?  Maybe you totally knock it out of the park, like you really nailed this goal.  You create exactly what you want for yourself in three months.  What will it look like or sound like?  Who will be saying things to you?  Will you be receiving a hug or high five?  Will you be having your picture taken?  What will you be wearing?  How will it feel? Will your hair be really tight and pulled back, taste the sweat dripping down your face?  Bring all of your senses into that feeling of accomplishment when you have done what you set out to do.


Imagine it Beforehand

I did this when I was first interviewing for internships with a swim team way back when.  One of my advisors recommended I imagine the way that I wanted that interview to go, so I imagined every single bit of that interview – how it went, how I responded, the questions I was asked, and then the really strong image that I put together for myself was this: shaking the head coach’s hand and saying, “I can’t wait to work with you.”

That literally happened exactly as I had imagined it.  I was confident, I was ready for that handshake, and I was ready to say, “I can’t wait to work with you.”  It was like super mutual.  Now I want you to feel what it will feel like.  I knew I’d be jittery, a little nervous, a little amped up, but when I went to shake his hand, I knew it was a done deal.

That’s what you want to create is that whole image of:  What will you create?  How will it feel, look, smell, taste?  Everything about it.  What is the emotion that you will experience?  For better or for worse, will it be comfortable, will it be uncomfortable?  Whatever.  Then write it out.  Write it out like it’s the most detailed writing assignment you’ve ever been given.  You’re like, “And the blades of grass were green as dew.”  Maybe you guys are not so creative, but that’s okay.  Get the details down on paper so that you have created this entire storybook image of this amazing thing coming true.


Bring Your Story to Life

Then, depending on the type of learner you are, some of us are really visual, some of us are audio, some of us need to kind of feel and do.  Everybody’s a combo, but you might know what will appeal to you more so I’ll give you a couple options of what to do with it next.  Next, you want to take this story of awesomeness and do one of three things or all three if you’re a super high achiever and really want to get yourself motivated and excited and increase your chances of having this be a reality.

  1. One option, you hang up your story or put it somewhere where you’ll see it or make 12 copies of it and put it everywhere and read it twice a day.  You’re reading it, the entire story, and you’re feeling it and you’re sensing it, and you’re making it real twice a day for 30 days.  That’s option number one.
  2. The second option is that you create a vision board.  You do a collage, put words, figure out as many images as you can to make a really visual representation.  Then you can hang it up over your bed or in your locker or somewhere where you’re going to see it at least twice a day for 30 days.
  3. The third option, which is my personal favorite even though I recommend doing all three, but my personal favorite is you open up your voice memo.  If you have an iPhone, there’s a little voice memo app you can use or whatever voice recording situation.  You actually read your story to yourself in your voice recorder and you listen to it every night before you fall asleep.  You read it all in detail.  As you lay there, before bed, you get yourself really relaxed and, as you hear the details going through that script, you see it, you feel it, you taste it every single day.  Of course, I would rather you do this all the way up until day 90 of your 90-day goal.


Use Imagery for Healing

This is something you can recreate any time.  I just gave you guys a crash course in how to do imagery. Another thing that you can use imagery for is healing.  This is something I’m going to teach a live training on for the members of the Perform Happy Community next Wednesday.  Those of you members, make sure to show up.  Even if you’re not injured, it’s going to be all about healing, about how you can imagine your body actually healing.

There have been studies that prove that doing imagery while you’re healing massively improves your ability to heal quickly.  It’s so cool.  I’ve heard stories of people who had cancer who visualized, imagined little Pac-Man eating up their cancer every day.  The person I heard it from was in complete remission like 20 years later.  I’m a big fan of this stuff.  It’s really powerful as far as getting your brain focused in on what you want and what you want to create.


Get Yourself Visualizing

For those of you who are not motivated or feeling bummed out, even if you are totally broken physically or, gosh, mentally, you can visualize.  You can do it while you’re sitting out.  You can go and you can do progressions, but you can think about, “What am I going to have?  What am I going to do?” Go through your skills.

What would you be doing if you weren’t injured?  What would you be doing?  Focus on that and then you’ll have that endgame insight like, “Okay.  I’m injured but I’m back in tomorrow, I’m back in next week.  Boom.  We’re on track.  We’re getting this done.”

All right, everyone.  That’s my tip for this week.  Get yourself visualizing, seeing what you want, and helping your brain get ready for good stuff because that will keep you excited even when you’re in a little bit of a slump.

There’s a free download this week.  It’s a visualization that you can listen to to give you kind of an idea of what visualizing might sound like if you’re doing it to a guided recording.  Of course, it’s better with your own voice though.  You can download this free visualization for confidence at  If you want one-on-one support, me and the other coaches on the Complete Performance Coaching team can be found at  Grab a free session with any of us to check it out and see if it’s a good fit.

I’ll be back next Monday 4:30 Pacific answering your questions.  I’ll see you then.


Is your gymnast struggling with mental blocks or fear?  Check out my FREE resource for parents.