There are many features that make PETTLEP a fully functional aspect of mental conditioning especially for athletes of sports that require fine motor coordination (aka. gymnastics, diving, high jumpers, pole vaulters etc). However, it should also be known that even endurance athletes can employ methods that reinforce the experience of “going with the flow” in the midst of the grind.
Sports may call for athlete specific applications – and – other sport psychologists are likely to interpret and coach PETTLEP in ways that may showcase certain strengths they have trained to use. For example, an expert in Ericksonian hypnosis might employ a phrase in scripting metaphors that enhance kinesthetic experience that emotionally touches the athlete, thereby delivering a more potent emphasis. Lets consider an example:
Yanda is a high jumper who has fallen into a slump. She had a personal best jump at the end of her sophomore year. She jumped 5’0″ in a great meet under perfect conditions. She duplicated that performance twice in her junior year, but has been unable to improve upon it. Now she is frustrated, unhappy with her performances and hungry for a breakthrough. Her biggest test of the year was the State Meet. We began meeting a few weeks out in preparation for that performance. Up to that time, Yanda had reviewed her techniques with her coach, understood the importance of a pre-jump routine, but was confused about exactly what to do. This had resulted in sporadic attempts at changing up the routine, a lack of consistency and continued frustration in experiencing performances where she felt she left a lot on the table.
It’s also important to note that when we first met to discuss her situation, Yanda was highly stressed. This suggested that she was used to turning successes quickly and her jumping fell out of the norm for her. I encouraged her first to take a broader view of her training…and that we were going to employ a number of skills she would be unfamiliar with, and, that she would need to practice them to develop competence. Among these skills were some stress reduction techniques, breathing exercises and techniques she could employ at school, at home and in situations where she had no expectations at all. I provided an overview of the PETTLEP method and recorded a couple of simple audio files (for an Ipod) she could listen to and review at different times – especially down time.
The key, however, involved developing the game plan with her coach. We got VERY PRECISE with the pre-jump routine using PETTLEP, and we went over it multiple times until she felt both comfortable with the process and could repeat it with precision. By now you probably realize that her coach’s participation was very helpful, and that Yanda was motivated enough to practice at odd times and employ skills she learned to enjoy. A certain synergy was developing for her, and she began to become more engaged, fully involved in the creative process, and finally – she began tuning her focus to the “process goals” in improving individual components to her jumping technique – physical sensations in her experience of focusing on the “process”. She then decided that the methods were worth the experience and that the “outcome goals” would take care of themselves.
This was not a small piece – for she completely embraced her focus in the “NOW” moment. This was critical because it enabled her to focus on aspects of her sport “only she could control.” That alone eliminated many distractions for her (both external and internal) that had held her back, limited her focus, and caused her to be more concerned with her frustrations than the jumping itself.
Physical – Most of Yanda’s PETTLEP practice occurred on the track, in her cleats, outside the jump itself. Even when she was employing techniques in other settings her physical actions included ‘dancing’, springing when she walked, skipping, closing her eyes and jumping to experience the feel of the spring in her legs….anything that reminded her of the feel she wanted to have – “when gathering before the plant” – and – “feeling the spring from her plant to elevating”. These terms were ones she was familiar with and part of her training. By making the “sensations” fun, part of everyday life, and something she could do outside of practice.
Environment – Because of Yanda’s sport, she could incorporate images of her jumping anytime she was outside. She’d feel the wind and measure how she’d adjust to the conditions. She wore her running shoes all the time – and even though they weren’t her cleats – she could “feel” the sensations, spring, and practice her footwork – inside, outside, in the gym, at home….again the precision to the approach shifts with the height of the bar, and the jumper’s adjustments to their approach, steps, gather and plant are adjusted accordingly.
Task – Yanda’s tasks involved breaking down the component parts of her jump, pre-jump routine, and PETTLEP imagery before every jump. Her pre-jump routine became a consistent repeat of each of the following: 1) Find your spot 2) Jump up and down – “feel” the spring 3) See your steps, especially the first one – all the way through to the gather & plant (adjusted for the height of the bar) 4) Feel the run up, feel the steps, feel the gather, the plant, her hips “up” in the leap 5) Focused quickly on her “Resource Spot” (See Brainspotting) 6) Go
Timing – Yanda practiced with a stop watch to make sure she was able to execute her pre-jump routine & PETTLEP jump – in approximately the same amount of time it would take in a real meet. These things were measured and discussed with reasonable detail.
Learning – As Yanda became proficient in the process, she began to notice details about her jump that had previously been unavailable to her (remember distractions). She became more focused on learning from each jump – and in preliminary competitions she made a game of performing efficiently with the fewest number of jumps necessary to win. This enabled her to concentrate on bettering her PR. Also, it should be noted that Yanda did the long jump, triple jump, and ran anchor on the 4X100 relay.
Emotions – Yanda even developed an appreciation for the “sensations” of feeling the finish in the pit – enjoying the flop, the pad, the roll, every detail including the emotional release that came with each successful jump. She began to really appreciate the “JOY” of jumping again. She knew she was doing the right things – she felt it every time she jumped.
Perspective – Yanda did other things to help with the PETTLEP process. She began shooting video of practice sessions so she could look at herself from multiple perspectives. This turned out to be a useful tool in that there were technique flaws she was able to “feel” while she watched….ultimately correcting them. Her pre-jump routine though, employed PETTLEP from her perspective in approaching the jump.
Yanda was able to perform well in her State Meet breaking her own PR twice in the process, setting a new school record, and improving upon her previous best during the season by a full 4″. Ironically, when Yanda stepped up to the bar for her last jump – she realized that the bar was taller than she was (not an image we had planned in her visualization process.) That was the first time she felt a doubt entering her mind during the competition – and one that we will incorporate into her PETTLEP training going forward.