What Are The Yips?
Have you ever spent months or even years training for your sport to suddenly feel as if you don't even remember how to play? If this has ever happened to you, you may have experienced the Yips. Unfortunately, the Yips are all too familiar with athletes. They can lead to a variety of undesirable consequences, such as being cut from a team or performing poorly in a game. Because we know how unpleasant suffering from the Yips can be, we have included everything that you need to know about them in this blog.
What Are the Yips?
The Yips occurs when an athlete who has a considerable amount of experience suddenly loses the motor skills and psychological sharpness needed to excel in their sport. Anxiety is the primary cause of the Yips, and as a result, they usually occur around the time of a crucial game. The physical symptoms associated with the Yips may vary; however, the most common are cramps, tremors, and spasms. The most common psychological sign of the Yips is freezing up in the middle of a competition. However, even though many athletes have suffered from this phenomenon at some point in their career, professionals have still not agreed on a specific definition for the Yips.
Stigmas Surrounding the Yips
Mainly due to the lack of knowledge surrounding the Yips, many stigmas surround the athletes who are suffering. Many athletes worry that if they suffer from the Yips, they will be seen as mentally weak or unfit to be an athlete, and as a result, many do not open up to their teammates or their coaches. This illustrates the importance of learning more about the Yips, as these stigmas and stereotypes about athletes who have the Yips are far from the truth. The truth about the Yips is that they can happen to anyone. The fact that stigmas are surrounding the Yips may also discourage athletes who are suffering from admitting that they have the Yips and seeking out help, which can be extremely harmful to the athlete and the team. If you are suffering from the Yips, it is essential to remember that you are far from the only person dealing with them. If you have a teammate who has the Yips, it is vital to remember that the stigmas that come with this condition are misconceptions. You should treat any teammate who is dealing with the Yips with kindness and encourage them to seek out assistance.
Though many people suffer from the Yips due to sports-related anxiety, medical professionals have recently discovered a potential neurological cause known as focal dystonia. Sports psychologist, Nick Molinaro, estimated that approximately 70% of cases dealing with the Yips are due to psychological reasons. In comparison, approximately 30% of these cases are due to neurological reasons, such as focal dystonia. Focal dystonia comes about due to the repeated use of the same muscle groups and can cause muscle spasms. Many individuals who are suffering from focal dystonia have noted that their hands are the primary part of their body that is affected and that they have, at times, lost control of their hands or their fingers. Though focal hand dystonia is the most common type of focal dystonia, especially for athletes, the disease can affect other parts of the body. Some other examples of body parts that can be affected by focal dystonia include:
- The feet
- The vocal cords
- The neck
- The eye
Though the overuse of a particular muscle group is the most common cause of focal dystonia, there are other causes, as well, such as side effects to medication. It is also important to note that a loss of muscle control is not the only symptom of focal dystonia. Individuals suffering from this disease may experience irregular sleep patterns, mood swings, stress, difficulty concentrating, and more. As such, you should consult with a professional to determine if you have focal dystonia or if the Yips with which you are dealing is a result of anxiety.
Who Can Get the Yips?
Though we will be focusing on the Yips as they pertain to baseball in this blog, baseball players are far from the only athletes prone to the Yips. The Yips can plague musicians, as well. Individuals who are most prone to the Yips include:
- Baseball Players
- Softball Players
- Darts Players
- Piano Players
How the Yips Can Be Seen in Baseball Players
The Yips may look different for athletes participating in other sports or even athletes who play the same sport. The primary reason for this is that the Yips are primarily caused by anxiety. Because anxiety can present itself differently in different individuals, the Yips' symptoms can vary, as well. However, there are a few symptoms of the Yips in baseball players that are very common. The first of these symptoms is the inability to throw the ball accurately. Pitchers who suffer from the Yips often lose their ability to throw strikes. However, batters can also struggle with the Yips. If a batter were to have the Yips, they might not be able to swing the bat with accuracy, preventing them from hitting the ball.
How to Get Rid of the Yips?
If you are struggling with the Yips, you inevitably want to learn how to get rid of them so that you can get back to playing the sport you love to the best of your ability. Luckily, there are some steps that you can take to mitigate the symptoms of the Yips. However, it is essential to remember that just because a suggestion works for one person does not mean that it will work for you. Because the Yips are often caused by anxiety, and anxiety presents itself differently in different individuals, people may need to treat the Yips in different ways. However, it is also important to note that just because one solution does not work for you does not mean giving up. If you keep working, you will eventually find a way to cure your case of the Yips. Below, we have included what we believe to be three of the most effective ways to get rid of the Yips.
1. Simulate High-Pressure Situations in Practice
Many athletes suffer from the Yips when they are in a high-pressure situation because they are not used to the pressure. Athletes are typically more nervous in these situations, which can make them doubt themselves. We recognize that it is impossible to recreate every aspect of a game day at practice and that there will never be as much pressure at practice as there is during a big game. However, if you can replicate some game-day conditions, such as crowd noise or wearing your uniform, big games may not seem as intimidating anymore, which can alleviate some of the nerves that go on to cause the Yips.
2. Focus on Your Breathing
Because the Yips are often psychologically induced, they usually come about when you are having anxious thoughts. As such, focusing on your breathing when you feel your thoughts start to spin can be a very effective way to mitigate some of the symptoms of the Yips. Concentrating on your breathing both distracts you from the ideas that are causing you to suffer from the Yips and helps to make you more relaxed, which can prevent the Yips.
3. Meet with a Sports Psychologist
Because they are clinically trained to understand the human mind and how it works, sports psychologists are extremely capable of helping athletes work through sports-related anxiety and the Yips that come about as a result. These psychologists can walk athletes through mental exercises to understand the relationship between their thoughts and their body's physical reaction. This exercise shows athletes that the Yips' symptoms are caused by their minds and not a lack of athletic ability. Additionally, as many sports psychologists were once athletes, many have had to deal with sports-related anxiety, and some even have experience dealing with the Yips. As such, they can use their personal experiences to help athletes overcome the Yips.
The Yips is one of the worst things that athletes can struggle with during their careers, and they can be made worse by some of the stigmas surrounding them. However, it is essential to remember that the Yips are common and that it is not your fault if you are dealing with them. Luckily, there are a variety of ways that you can go about treating the Yips so that you can go back to playing and excelling at the sport you love. We hope that this article was helpful if you, or anyone you know, is suffering from the Yips.
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