How To Overcome The Yips

If you feel defeated when it comes to your throwing or pitching in games and have thought about giving up the game, read this blog on how to overcome your throwing issues (aka the yips)!

What Are The Yips?

Before I get into how to overcome the yips, let’s talk about what the yips are.

“The Yips” is an unexpected lack of ability to throw the ball perfectly. Most believe that the cause of the yips is incomprehensible. Despite numerous other players being inflicted in the past 20 years, little or nothing has been done to fix the yips in baseball. There still is no known successful treatment and an insufficient amount is understood of how they come about. Frequently a player inflicted will be branded as mentally weak, shunned by teammates who do not wish to “become infected with” the yips, and most likely cut from the roster.

A lot of the research done with Yips has been in individual sports such as golf, tennis, archery, and surprisingly dart-throwing. What has been exhibited in research with yips-affected athletes is that there are clear neurological and physiological contrasts between an athlete with the yips and those who do not. Nearly all players are left at the mercy of their coach to deal with the problem. Some can shut out what they went through, almost as if it never happened, yet a lot of them are still never able to get the past failures out of their head. 

There is no agreement on the academic meaning of the disorder. The yips were initially described as an occupational cramp that affected professional golfers. Golf teachers defined the yips as a failsafe shutdown that emerged after a decrease in confidence that came from questionable stroke golf mechanics. In the sport of golf, the yips were described as being a psycho-neuromuscular hindrance impacting the execution of the putting stroke. Also, the yips can be defined as an involuntary muscle contraction that shows itself in various ways across sports. From golfers to darts throwers, the yips normally include interruptions of the executions of movements (jerk, tremor, freezing) of the sport-specific limb(s). As might be expected, this goes hand in hand with anxiety. So without a doubt, there are psychological, neurological, and physiological elements related to the yips. 

How Do You Know If You Have The Yips

If you are not sure whether or not you have the yips here are some of the things ballplayers with the yips put up with…

  • Incapability to throw or pitch easily (despite the fact they can in practice)
  • Anxiety, tension, and overcontrol of their action
  • Extremely low confidence with the yips-infected mechanics
  • Performance anxiety about what others will think
  • Feeling as if an alien has taken over their body and they have zero control

If you can throw well when by yourself but can not take it to games, this is a mental game problem and not a physical challenge. At the moment, the yips may feel like it is physical when you freeze, flinch, or control your release way too much. Although you can throw freely in practice, but tense up during game circumstances, it is mental, not physical!

Also, it is crucial to know that taking drugs to loosen up is not the answer, so please understand that it is all in your head.

How To Overcome The Yips In Baseball

Dear Ball Player or Coach,

The moment has finally come. We are at that point in the blog where I am going to tell you how you can overcome the yips. So if you are thinking about throwing in the towel (or in this case, a baseball glove), read on to see how you can fix this issue!

  1. Do not show annoyance with the player because that will just make things worse and by all means, never tell them “It is in their head,” or “It’s all mental.” The minute athletes start to think it is mental, they will be on their way to giving up the sport. The less made of their disorder, the better, even though everybody knows it is mental. 
  2. Do not let other athletes show annoyance or make an issue with the clear problem. Suppress any remark about that as soon as possible.
  3. Frequently there is a mechanical problem that is wrong, even though they can get the better of it in practice when there is not as much pressure. Attempt to assure the player that the problem is physical because that provides them with something specific to practice. Any basic change, whether you know what the glitch is or not, can help.
  4. Imitate game-type circumstances as much as you can in practice.
  5. In the same sense, have the player use different equipment, a friend’s bat or glove, for instance, can give them a different outlook.
  6. Provide the troubled athlete with verbal signals to clear the mind of past actions. “Alright, today is a new day, the past is past, I cannot change it, it is time to move forward.” The athlete has to get rid of any negative mentality, but of course, it is never simple once the yips have kicked in.
  7. In the same sense, educate them on positive self-talk to repeat before every play, at-bat, or pitch. “I got this,” and “I can do this,” are confidence-boosting examples.
  8. Educate them on smaller focus skills. As an alternative to saying, “Watch the ball,” ask them to see the seam on the ball, or as an alternative to focusing on the first baseman before throwing, have them attempt to concentrate on the player’s eyes.
  9. No different than with any other player, helping them have a steady and regular breathing pattern before game action may help.
  10. Educate athletes on attending solely to the procedure of doing, not of thinking about how they do it or the potential result.
  11. Ask them to look back on times that they have played well. Creating mental pictures has to be a part of all player’s pregame and pre-play routine. Mental picture exercises at home are imperative, also. When one can get a glimpse of themselves doing it again and again in their mind, they can persuade themselves they can do it in games.

The Different Categorizations Of Yips

Two separate kinds of yips have been put forward and the two are believed to lie on separate ends of the spectrum- Type I and Type II.

Type I Yips

Type I Yips (occasionally referred to as Lost Movement Syndrome or LMS) has been recorded in research that proposes that the yips are set in motion by focal dystonia, which is made worse by anxiety. Although, the exact etiology of FD is not specified. 

Reported dystonia-impacted sports apart from golf consist of table tennis, pistol shooting, and tennis. Every one of the separate sports reported limb or hand dystonia symptoms. Also, Type I yips are related to inflated intensities of practice, attentiveness, tension, and years of competition.

Type II Yips

Type II yips are thought to be a form of psychologically-based choking. Type II yips are believed to be shown in disrupted attention as a consequence of intensified self-focus or distraction. Funnily enough, while the yips have been known to result in performance anxiety, there has been zero difference noted between the anxiety level of golfers with or without yips during a match. This type of yips appears to be connected to the individual, as Type II yips is more likely to happen around the ages of 18-20 which is when generalized anxiety begins to spring up in a person as well.

This growth in self-focus could be because of the environment the player is in or no apparent reason at all.  In any case, internal instead of external focus is the key facet of type II yips, instead of a complete breakdown of the function of the basal ganglia. This probably can be reduced by switching the focus and attention of the athlete from an internal focus to an external one.

Final Thoughts For Coaches

Research about the yips can be utilized to make a team’s entire pitching staff better instead of just one individual. If you recognize what makes a yipped athlete, you may be able to apply a few crucial concepts to make the command of the whole staff better. The yips are obtained and are environmentally dependent. One environment that brings about the yips is one where a player is not looking forward to practicing.

So with that being said, if a player hates being at practice and has a negative coach or team environment, it is impractical to hope for positive results. If a coach’s approach is established around punishing lack of success, “tough love” and shouting- it might make sense to steer clear of that approach altogether with your yipped-up athlete.

Final Thoughts For Players

To make your command better, a player’s energy should not be concentrated on being emotionally involved with thinking about errors or other poor practices. In other words, the additional 10 practice balls you threw because you did not like your performance probably is more damaging than it is helpful, which is another reason it is crucial to track improvement over time. 

So to sum up what I have just said; if you complete a bullpen and it is not a good day, do not throw additional pitches as a way to fix the bad performance. If you do not have a good bullpen, just allow yourself to have a bad day and let that bad day go tomorrow.



Be sure to check out Ryan Weiss's coaching program and his other training programs to elevate your game.