How Do You Know if You Have the Yips?

Overcoming The Yips

What Are The Yips in Sports?

The yips do not discriminate for athletes. It occurs in many sports skills…

The golfer who suddenly can’t sink a three-foot putt…

The infielder who seemingly lost his ability to throw accurately to first base…

The quarterback who has difficulty making routine throws despite having no previous issue with his short passing game…

The basketball player who suddenly jerks prior to releasing his free-throw shot…

The tennis player who can’t make a smooth service motion…

So if you are experiencing a bout of the yips, you are not alone.

Those unexplained jerky movements or twitches are physical symptoms caused by mental interference–often related to fear.

Let’s be clear… Having the yips doesn’t mean you are “mental” or “weak.”

The yips are a case of mental static that causes you to over-think or over-analyze your actions smack-dab in the middle of performing a simple skill.

How do you know when you have the yips?

You might have the yips when:

–You stab, jerk, or freeze on a skill that was previously easy to execute or was well-learned.
–You feel so tight that you can’t complete the skill.
–You overthink how to do a skill and confuse your body with too many signals.
–You can’t stop thinking about the outcome or messing up.
–You blame a bad shot, pass, serve, or putt on poor mechanics and start to search for quick fixes, which leads to even more problems.

Even top athletes can get the yips.

NFL kicker Roberto Aguayo has been battling the yips early in preseason.

Aguayo was the most accurate kicker in ACC history, and the third-most accurate in NCAA history, making 88.5 percent of his kicks. Aguayo never missed a PAT attempt during his collegiate career at Florida State.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded up to the second round to draft Aguayo in 2016, making him just the fourth kicker in the past 25 years to be drafted in the second round or higher. All these circumstances may have added a bit more pressure on Aguayo to prove his value.

That pressure, or what Aguayo perceived as pressure, may have contributed to Aguayo yipping some field goal attempts well within his range.

Aguayo not only missed his first attempt as a pro but, during his first two preseason games, Aguayo was 3-for-5 and 3-for-4 on PAT attempts. Then, during a joint practice with the Cleveland Browns, Aguayo went 3-for-6 which brought with it unmerciful heckling from the fans in attendance.

Aguayo was incredulous after his second straight game of yipping and has consulted with a mental coach as well as former NFL kicker Ryan Longwell who is considered one of the league’s top kickers for the last two decades

AGUAYO: “It shouldn’t happen with me. You just have to fix it and keep moving on. I feel like that’s what preseason games are for, to get the young guys rolling in, to keep working, keep getting better.”

The frustrating part of the yips is that you know what to do, you have done it before but that mental noise inside your head interrupts your ability to perform at the most critical time.

And most athletes search for a physical fix to the yips when the cause is that it starts in the mind.

Teammate and former first round draft pick, Gerald McCoy (who struggled in his early years with injuries and not living up to expectations), provided Aguayo with some sound advice.

McCOY: “One thing I’ve done with him is go to him and encourage him. He’s a rookie. He was drafted high as a kicker, so a lot of expectations come with that with being that guy… I just go encourage him and say, ‘Hey, listen, stay the course. It’ll come along.’ “

Great insight… If you have done it before, stay the course and it will come along.

Tips for overcoming the yips:

Give yourself a reality check – Reality checking is a method to determine the validity about a belief or assumption.

–Do you know how to perform the skill?
–Have you performed the skill successfully in the past?
–Can you perform the skill with regularity during practice?
–Is there any physical limitation preventing you from performing the skill?
–Is the belief that ‘I can no longer perform the skill’ an accurate one?

Recognize that the yips may feel like a physical issue, but it’s often due to fear of failure, performance anxiety, and high expectations you feel to perform well.

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