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It’s All in the Mind: PETTLEP-Based Imagery and Sports Performance

Smith, D., Wright, C., Allsopp, A., & Westhead, H. (2007). It’s All in the Mind: PETTLEP-Based Imagery and Sports Performance. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 19(1), 80-92. doi:10.1080/10413200600944132

by Rachel Webb

The article, It’s All in the Mind: PETTLEP-Based Imagery and Sports Performance, examines two different studies that support the effects of PETTLEP-based imagery over those of more traditional interventions. The PETTLEP acronym relates to the practical components that should be implemented when using imagery with an athlete, namely: physical, environmental, task, timing, learning, emotion, and a perspective component (Smith, Wright. Allsopp, & Westhead, 2007). The majority of research done on imagery is executed while the individual is very relaxed, seated, and going through the imagery in solitude. This research argues that imagery can be more effective when it includes all of the senses, engaging the kinesthetic sensations that are associated with the performance being imagined. To break down the model we look at each component, the first being environment. Environment refers to the physical environment in which the imagery is performed, for example doing imagery on a grass field if you are a soccer player. The task component should be performer specific and as closely related to the physical performance of the task as possible, including the same thoughts, feelings, and actions. Coorelatedwith the task component is the timing, which should be close to the same pace as the performance. The learning component is a more adaptive aspect of imagery over time. As the athlete gets better at a skill they no longer rely heavily on imaging mechanics of the movement, but can focus on the feel of the movement when this skill becomes automatic in practice. One of the greatest links found in this model of imagery that has changed the outcome for sport performance is the emotional component. Imagery aims to achieve optimal functional equivalence and in order to do so they must experience the emotional responses and meaning that he or she attaches to the particular performance during imagery. The final perspective component is a fairly uncontrollable trait that refers to the way the imagine in our minds is viewed, as an internal or external image. We can think of internal as being the one in action in your image or an external view of watching yourself from afar.

As previously mentioned this study looks at the effects of imagery in two studies, each study focusing on different populations, age groups (varsity athletes v. children) and different motor tasks (hockey penalty flicks and gymnastics jumping on a beam). The results of the first study give a clear indication that all forms of imagery were effective in enhancing performance, both traditional and the PETTLEP- based model, but the latter was proven to be the most effective intervention of the two. Interestingly, there was a significant impact on the athletes’ using imagery in the position in which they would perform the task, standing up. Standing versus being seated elicited a different afferent feedback and kinesthetic sensation that achieved a greater functional equivalence to the actual performance they were imagining. In the second study it was further supported that with the diverse tasks and participate populations the PETTLEP model was effective regardless of the age, level of competition, or sporting task involved. In many cases of overtraining or injury that we see today, using this model of imagery can increase the players ability to substitute the physical activity and still progress in their performance abilities ad techniques. This study not only reveals the effectiveness of PETTLEP-based imagery, but supports that the more components used the more impactful this intervention becomes for an athletes performance.

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