Overcoming the Yips

With little league baseball in full swing and the Major League Baseball clubs in spring training, I came across an article about a couple of Dodgers pitchers who both experienced a “career-threatening case of the yips — a sudden and inexplicable loss of the skills to throw a catchable pitch, baseball’s equivalent of the golfer who locks up trying to putt.”

I had never heard of the “yips.”  I have seen it in little league.  It is when our best pitcher suddenly cannot throw a strike to save his life (or our team’s chances at a win).

According to Hong-Chih Kuo and Chris Webster, the yips may have come as a result of soreness.

Have you ever had the spiritual yips?  You seem to be strong, focused, and going in the right direction and then all of a sudden, everything seems to start going wrong.  Temptations seem to be more appealing, trials seem to be that much more difficult, and suddenly the desire to go in the right direction is a distant memory?  Maybe the tipping point was being worn out.

It is interesting because if soreness precedes the yips in pitching then you would think that a pitcher would overcome the yips by not throwing.

In baseball, the way out of the yips isn’t from quitting.   According to Chris Withrow: “control returned after months of throwing, but he can’t explain why.”  He goes on to explain: “One day it came, and I couldn’t control it, and one day it was gone,” he said. “Maybe it was the soreness that started it. I don’t know. I know that year was a circus for me, but I don’t dwell on it. It’s in the past, and I look forward to putting all that behind me and working on things to get me better. I know I’m more mentally strong because of it, and that helps me today.” (Read the entire article here.)

Too many of us do not say “no” until we say “I quit.” When we are spiritually burning out, we need to learn to say “no thanks” or “not now.”  Maturity is being able to say “yes” AND “no” to opportunities.  We need to discover what refuels us.  The greatest source of burnout in my life has been when I was serving in an arena where my abilities and passions did not align. Compounding the problem was my lack of  courage to do anything about it.

After being recently sidelined with sciatica and then back surgery, I have discovered the best way out of emotional, spiritual, and even physical burnout remains serving in my areas of strength and passion.  Rather than feeling sorry for myself (which did happen), I began to see my opportunity to help others through their struggles helped me through my own.

What has helped you through your case of the yips?

  • Good article. Also, I’ve discovered that sometimes the yips is the result of a mental block – the result of a belief system (in this case) usually driven by fear or anxiety. Fortunately, it can be quickly corrected.

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