Collegiate Baseball Yips

 

bobbennettmd

COLLEGIATE BASEBALL

THE BASEBALL YIPS

By

Bob Bennett

Hall of Fame Coach, Retired

“The answer to solving this debilitating throwing problem has been discovered. There is no longer a need to suffer from baseball yips. Dr. Richard Crowley can help separate players from this terrible monster.”

– Bob Bennett

Some give it a name. It is called “the yips,” “the monster,” “the heebie-jeebies,” “the hitch,” “that throwing problem,” “the demon,” and many expletives. Others will not name it, not recognize it, and will not admit that it even exists. It does exist, however, as well as a viable cure that can quickly remedy just about any player who is struggling with it.

This invasive, cruel, mind-boggling, and strange phenomenon is a weird, unsolved mystery that appears in every level of baseball from Little League to the Major Leagues. It is a game wrecker for many players. It steals concentration from other parts of the game. It saps energy and takes the joy out of throwing the baseball.

Some coaches recognize it and try to develop cures for it. I personally had this problem as a young college catcher and had many outstanding coaches try to help me solve it but to no avail. Their solution was to “just throw the ball back to the pitcher,” “don’t think about it, just throw the ball,” “you’re thinking about this too much – just throw the ball,” “count to three and throw the ball back to the pitcher,” “just cut loose and don’t worry about where the ball is going.” As well-meaning as all of these people were, none of these suggestions ever worked or ever will work with this problem.

Many catchers have experienced having difficulties throwing the ball back to the pitcher. Infielders also experience this problem when throwing for short distances and for some throwing at any distance. Outfielders sometimes undergo this phenomenon when throwing at shorter distances. Generally speaking this phenomenon hits pitchers when they are making a short throw to first base or a short throw to home plate on a force play. However, some pitchers experience this problem when throwing to hitters. There have been some that suddenly lose the ability to throw strikes. When this monster strikes, they have no semblance of control. We have all witnessed this from pitchers at

all levels, including the major leagues. Sadly, we watched this occur in the World Series a few years ago to a young pitcher with the St. Louis Cardinals.

PART II

The monster has been responsible for shortening the careers of many professional baseball players. It is an endemic problem in professional and amateur baseball and continues to destroy the careers of many players. Sadly, the problem is not addressed. The solution professional baseball has for this problem is simple-get another player.

This uncaring intruder visits some on occasion while for others it moves in and takes permanent residency. It is evil, uncaring, and unyielding. Its goal is to disrupt throwing motions. Its job is to upset the timing and rhythm of the player it invades. It doesn’t listen to logic. It seems to enjoy taking the fun out of throwing.

Playing catch is one of the most enjoyable activities associated with baseball. There is a freedom about it. It is both relaxing and invigorating. For a father and a son or daughter, there are a few exercises that equal the benefits of playing catch. Even those that don’t play the game can enjoy and benefit from playing catch.

The act of throwing is a rhythmical movement that does not require a lot of thought. It is almost an involuntary action. One just brings the arm up and throws. Throwing more or less takes care of itself. When we get too involved we become mechanical and troubles result. That is not to say that we should not stress mechanics. I am a strong proponent of sound throwing mechanics. Using sound throwing mechanics does not mean the throwing motion should be mechanical. On the contrary good, sound throwing mechanics provide the thrower with a solid base. However, within the act of throwing a baseball one should not be thinking of each movement.

When the monster moves in on a player that player becomes consumed with thoughts that result in over management of the throwing action. The player worries about throwing the ball away. He is constantly asking himself questions such as: when should I release the ball? How hard should I throw the ball? Will I have this throwing problem forever? Why can’t I just throw the ball? These questions seem to continually keep popping up. They’re almost obsessive in nature.

So what causes this intruder to appear? What causes one player to develop the yips and another to be free of them? After an injury many players experience the problem. Timing and rhythm appear to get out of sync. For some this seems to be an open invitation for the yips. Since no studies have been done concerning anything to do with this problem, I only have empirical knowledge to support my assertions. Perhaps the injury causes a loss of feel and during the recuperation period he heals but does not regain the normal throwing rhythm. It is also possible that the injury causes the player to compensate, thereby losing and then altering his normal throwing motion. Once healed, he becomes confused. He then becomes unfamiliar with his throwing motion.

There is no scientific evidence to support why they developed the problem. My observations lead me to believe that when a player is injured and shuts down throwing for a week or more he loses his rhythm pattern. Most get it back after a few throws but some remain out of rhythm, causing them to overanalyze the throwing motion. When the problem lingers the player over thinks the act of throwing.

It is as though the player forgets how to throw. He then begins to aim the ball, or throw with a different arm slot. In other words, he is throwing with an unfamiliar motion. When the player gets fixated on the throwing motion he begins to have difficulties. He tries to find the right arm slot. He asks himself when and where to release the ball. He is now in unfamiliar territory. Under normal circumstances throwing happens automatically.

It appears that having a traumatic experience can also open the door to this uninvited guest. Players report that they never had experienced this problem until a specific incident occurred to them. An extremely bad throw in a crucial situation, followed by a reprimand or self punishment may have added to the errant throw. A batting practice pitcher may develop this problem because of fixating on hitting a batter. Catchers report that sometimes when the pitcher turns his back as the catcher is returning the ball, the yips are introduced. When the yips takeover and are at their zenith pitchers with great control are unable to throw strikes. Batting practice pitchers are unable throw batting practice efficiently. Catchers have difficulty throwing the ball back to the pitcher, infielders have troubles with short throws and playing catch becomes a negative ordeal. Short distance throws are particularly a problem when afflicted with the yips.

Until recently I found no one with a specific reason for the invasion of the yips. There were no answers to explain why a pitcher with great control suddenly becomes unable to throw strikes and is negatively affected to the point embarrassment. No definitive solutions have been found concerning the player that is accurate with his throwing and then becomes so fixated on the problem that he is unable to even play catch without enduring mental turmoil.

Imagine being unable to throw batting practice! Some players and coaches simply refuse to take a turn throwing batting practice because of the anxiety and stress involved. Almost everyone that has played baseball has experienced the yips in some form. For most, the problem last only a throw or two and is quickly dismissed as a simple mistake, an error, or is simply an isolated incident. They’re able to deal with and discard the problem immediately. They can leave the problem behind them and move on without giving much thought to this temporary difficulty. Others are not so fortunate. The problem not only lingers but is magnified in the player’s mind. When this problem is in full bloom it consumes the player’s thoughts. He can’t get the throwing problem out of his mind. He begins to have problems just playing catch. The more time he has to execute the throw, the more the difficulty magnifies. What was once the normal, almost automatic movement that was executed with ease and freedom has suddenly turned into a nightmare.

No matter how the problems started the factor in common to all of inflicted is that they over think the throwing process and continue to have negative thoughts about throwing. There appears to be more tension when the player has a lot of time to make a throw. Most players have short-term memories about errant throws and are able to recover and return to their normal throwing motion.

If the monster is fully embedded in the players mind, it takes over and disallows the player to think normally. Few understand how this could happen; telling the afflicted player to get rid of the negative thoughts and just throw the ball… To the observer, the problem seems to be minor and frivolous. To the afflicted player, the monster is real and is in complete control, able to consume his thoughts.

The player says,” don’t think about the throwing problem,” his mind ignores the “don’t” and paints a mental picture of the problem being replayed. The result is a repeat of the same problem. The energy depleting, interest stealing, confidence grabbing, and sometimes career ending monster is real to those it visits.

For years, I have talked to sport psychologists, coaches, players, visual experts and explored the literature for answers to this problem. Until I got a phone call from Dr. Richard Crowley, a sports performance troubleshooter, I had tried to use the information I had gathered, but netted unsatisfactory results. Visualization exercises, closed eyes throwing drills and stick drills did help to some degree. But the phone call I received from Dr. Crowley asking me to review his book, MENTALBALL, revealed that an answer was in store. He said,” I understand you’ve been trying to find the answer to the throwing problem that catchers have trying to return the ball to the pitcher.” I answered,” Yes. I have been trying to find an answer for a long time. He said,” “Coach, you’ll never come up with the answer.” I said,” Why not?” He answered,” Because you are using the left brain to try to find the answer and you should be using the right brain.” The moment Dr. Crowley made that statement I knew he had the answer.

He said, “You’ve been trying to solve an irrational, inexplicable problem with logic found in your left brain’s hemisphere. But the player’s problem can only be solved by tapping into his imagination located in the right hemisphere of his brain because that is where the problem originally infiltrated – in his imagination. He is right. In his book, MENTALBALL, he cites example after example of how he has helped players from all positions solve this growing problem. He does this by enlisting a player’s imagination with a process he created almost two decades ago.

This is a relatively simple process for Dr. Crowley, but it is not so simple that anybody can do it. It does require one to be professionally trained in his method. After a single telephone session with Dr. Crowley the player will find some immediate relief. If the yips are severely embedded in the player’s mind, several other sessions may be necessary. But with each session the player will make progress. The answer to solving this debilitating throwing problem has been discovered.

Dr. Crowley’s techniques and methods also help players who are undergoing slumps at the plate and struggles on the mound. Shawn Green, former Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets outfielder wrote one of the two forwards to his book praising Dr. Crowley’s work for helping him end a prolonged slump with the Dodgers. Steve Blass, current broadcaster and former Pittsburg Pirates pitcher wrote the other forward. Blass not only found his strike zone after 24 years following a 90 minute session with Dr. Crowley, but at the age of 62 he amazingly pitched 8 and 2/3 innings at the Pirates’ fantasy camp.

There is no longer a need to suffer from the yips. Dr. Richard Crowley can help separate players from this terrible monster. Imagination created it, and imagination can get rid of it.