How to Beat the Yips
Ironing It Out
The central nervous system (CNS) is comprised of the brain and spinal cord. The three broad functions of the CNS are to take in sensory information, process information, and send out motor signals.
The CNS receives sensory information from the nervous system and controls the body's responses. Since the yips is a central nervous system issue, then the solution is to train the CNS to perceive the environment as non-threatening.
Once we understand that the problem is involuntary tension due to a subconscious perception of danger and the solution is to train the subconscious to not perceive the environment as threatening, then we can create a plan of how to do so.
A plan gives us hope. A proven plan is one we can trust. The plan below, although new, has not failed yet and currently pushing into about 20 successful cases in less than a year.
We change our subconscious perception by having a higher understanding of ourselves. Players need to establish an ego (sense of self worth) that is less dependent or completely independent of the game and external influences, especially critics.
Place your value in those who love you for who you are, not what you do. Recognize that what you do does not define who you are, but who you are defines what you do.
When our identity is independent of, or at least not dependent on the profession, our central nervous system settles in harsh circumstances.
This is because our self worth isn't dependent on the game and as such, our subconscious doesn't perceive life and death danger when traumatic, adverse and unfair things occur.
The adverse experiences are still painful, but we know we'll be ok without the game if that were to be the case, because we value ourselves outside of it. We know we can live without it and still value who we are.
This makes it less likely for our CNS to produce involuntary tension causing flexing of the muscles as we try to extend at the same time.
When I work with players, we create a Who What Why. We must know who we are, what we want and why we want it. This establishes an identity and an ego that is grounded in a strong internal foundation.
It makes us less dependent on the affirmation of respected peers in terms of people and entities as well as authoritative figures. We appreciate their validation, but we're not dependent on it.
This is covered in detail in Fundamental 4: Identity in the Fundamentals of Winning Curriculum. The FOW are 14 fundamentals of mindset and culture that increase human performance in high pressure environments.
I have been teaching the FOW since 2014 to MLB players, athletic teams and corporate groups across the country. We just customize the instruction to relate directly towards defeating the yips. The principles are as follows:
7) Mental Toughness
8) Team First Mindset
11) Relentless Desire to Win
12) High Leverage Composure
13) Failure Analyzing
14) Never Quit
In addition to mindset training and probably more important, we change our subconscious perception through repetition of action.
We must have practical throwing/putting solutions to go with the mindset training in order to Iron Out the mechanical glitch.
The subconscious part of our mind works in automation. It just does things. So we have to prove to it that free dexterity is to be trusted, instead of tension.
This means we have to throw. Although the mindset training is vital, there is nothing anyone can say that will spark a thought or emotion that will suddenly make the tension go away.
I wasn't nervous when I first experienced the yips. Most players claim the same. We don't need to relax or visualize it away. The techniques don't work in live competition. We have to train it away.
Relaxation and visualization are the traditional methods given by sports psychologists. These techniques can be a small part of the solution, but are not nearly comprehensive enough to be a sole solution. Anyone who tells you different is either ignorant or dishonest no matter what their title or education level is.
Using the shooting of a gun example again, I know when my gun is dry (unloaded) versus when it is loaded. I can tell myself to do everything the same way, but I know an explosion will take place in my hands. I can only trick my central nervous system so much.
In the same way, players understand the difference between warming up, the bullpen and a live game and the escalated consequences of success and failure.
When we have the yips, our central nervous system believes that a defense mechanism in the form of tension is needed to protect us, until we train it to trust free dexterity.
If I threw a punch at you, you would tense and tighten to protect yourself. The same response is happening, but we need to loosen up rather than tighten up in the midst of the threat.
We do this by overriding the defense mechanism (mechanical interruption caused by involuntary tension) over and over and over again. How?
In special operations, we trained with competition shooters. They taught us that they shoot dry fire 75% more than they shoot live. Dry fire means there are no bullets in the gun, and it just goes “click” when we press the trigger.
This is to train the subconscious part of the brain to not associate the trigger press with an explosion and teaches their subconscious to perceive the action as non-threatening until it becomes the default.
We override the defense mechanism with the yips the same way. We recreate the dry fire process in the form of our sport. We execute the action right where it is being interrupted.
Dry Fire - We throw or putt in a comfortable environment and distance and associate the feeling of the seam rolling off of the finger or the connection of the club with the ball with “good.”
98% of your throw or swing is good. It's the last 2% where it's affecting you. Find the interruption point and work through it at an easy distance and a comfortable target or no target at all.
We get the feeling back in our hand and forearm by paying attention to them. Focus on feeling the seam with your finger or club grip. Sometimes I have players count the stitches to center their focus on finger and seam.
Then throw nice and easy while focusing solely on feeling the seam roll off of the finger or the club face connecting with the ball.
We reverse engineer the parts of the throw or swing from the interruption point until we are in a full motion. For example, I face my partner and have my elbow and the ball up by my ear and just flip it forward feeling the seams roll off of my finger. I don't step or rotate or anything other than feeling the ball come out of my hand.
Don't add another step in the motion until you're 100% comfortable with the one you're on. Eventually the action becomes without thought or innate in our being and fun.
There is more to the Dry Fire Process that can be found here. More videos to include golf example will come. Please bear with me.
We’re going to fall in love with throwing/putting again. The ball is your friend and together you’ll dominate again!
The next thing we do in order to change our subconscious perception is to invoke the tension intentionally but incrementally.
If you pulled your hamstring, you wouldn't sprint in a game the next day. You would train it incrementally up to the capability of a 100% sprint and change of direction.
The yips works the same way. It's as if we've pulled a hamstring, but in our subconscious mind. Rather than get it "taped and iced" (relaxation and visualization techniques) then sprint 100% in a game, we need to train and rehab our injury.
Talking to the Tension- We increase the distance we are throwing where can no longer track the arm easy. We are a distance where we have to whip it, but also can't throw it as hard as we can.
Or we change the environmental conditions to invoke tension...maybe I switch sides with my throwing partner so there is no longer a wall behind him as a backstop.
We find our danger zone and work through the tension by “Talking to the Tension”. Your body is trying to help you but having the opposite affect.
So, we tell the tension, "I know you're trying to help me right now, but I trust freedom." Exhale and let the tension pass through and settle.
The speedometer is redlining about to blow the engine just like when we initially receive an adrenaline hit. Rev the engine back down as much as you can. Let the wave crash and settle.
Feel your finger on the seam and give yourself complete freedom to fail over the next 3-4 throws. To help your CNS allow this freedom, expand the error box - make your target bigger. Think of a 10 foot ring around your throwing partner, or a frisbee sized hole for golf.
Your goal is not to make an accurate throw or putt, but rather to gain a quality release / connection with the ball. If the ball comes out of your hand with the proper rotation, then keep throwing.
Then continue to increase the tension through environmental conditions a little more and a little more until you are in full game mode. This requires some refinement. I guide players through how to do this when we train together.
The third part of practical throwing solutions is “Closing the Loop.”Emotion is initiated through environmental stimulus. However, we can also initiate and change our emotions through thought.
Tyler Matzek developed a system he calls his "1,2,3's. It is vital for making the transition from warming up in catch play to a live game situation.
First, we initiate an aggressive mental mindset through a pre throw thought. Say something like "Drive the ball through his chest" that sparks aggression.
Notice I said "through." When we are struggling with the yips it often feels like we are throwing / putting "at the target" rather than through it.
Next, we assign a number or a word and mental picture to each part of the throw or swing. Our minds are always thinking. We can't stop thinking, but we can choose what we think about.
By intently focusing on the parts of the process in the action of our delivery, we close the loop and don’t allow the environment to penetrate our thought cycle. This is why I call this Closing the Loop.
As we move through the sequence of the throw, we continue to build aggression and fill our soul with fight over fear so that we are at our most aggressive and free state when we release the ball / connect rather than our most tense.
This is an outline of the course. There is more detail involved in training that would simply be too much to write here and each person's case is unique. However, I hope this helps.
When training one on one, we spend a single training session on each one of the 14 Fundamentals as the practical throwing solutions in 45 to 90 minute video sessions.
I'm also working on scaling the training with online videos and book formats. Until then, it is delivered through live zoom sessions. The number one thing I can advise that helped me the most is to focus solely on feeling the seam roll off of the finger.
In-person training may be available on request. My inbox has new messages everyday. I'm working through them and will answer all of them. Click below to send me a message. I'd love to hear from you.