Friday, 15 June 2012

Have you got the yips?

The “yips” is a condition that can turn a promising sports career into a case of what might have been. But what is it, how does it work and can it be cured? The following report is a summary of an article which appeared in the Metro newspaper in March 2012 by Journalist Ross McGuinness.

The yips are normally associated with golfers – perhaps the most famous victim of the golfing yips when putting is Bernhard Langer, the German two-time Masters champion who first encountered the problem as a teenager. Bernhard was 18 years old when he won his first tournament on the European tour and this is when he first developed the yips. Langer continued to battle the yips throughout his career, even changing his putting grip several times to alleviate the condition.

The yips is not however exclusive to golfers. Steve Hooker is the Olympic pole-vaulting champion. The 29 year old Australian has jumped the second highest mark in the history of the sport however we will not be seeing him at the London Olympics this year. Steve has pulled out because he is struggling with an injury of the worst possible kind – the pole vault yips. Steve says “to be at your best, a pole-vaulters mind must be clear. If you have numerous calculations going through your head on the runway and through take-off, it just doesn’t happen. Sometimes I run in and I don’t take off. It’s as simple as that.”

Steve Hookers condition shows that even an Olympic and former world champion can succumb. Darts player Eric Bristow, snooker’s Stephen Hendry are just another couple of the famous names who have been affected. And it is not even just sports people who suffer with the yips – dentists, surgeons and even singers and musicians have experienced it.

The yips can manifest itself as a shake, tremor or a twitch while putting in golf or by not being able to physically let go of a ball for example in Cricket when bowling. It therefore manifests itself physically, however Dr Mike Rotherham from the Metaphorics Performance Consultants in Sheffield believes it is formed psychologically and is often caused by some kind of mental trauma associated with the action. Dr Rotherham reports that sometimes people panic or feel trapped inside the process and they then start overthinking, analysing, thinking some more and just heightening the experience. People who suffer with the yips often describe it as like a mental hesitation as they are trying to execute the skill, almost as though the brain is telling you it’s a dangerous situation. When this happens, the brain is irrationally saying that the specific process is more important than it actually is, like it is life and death; when in reality it’s not. 

So if someone has the yips, what can be done about it? What most people try to do is trick the brain to think they are doing a new skill so they’ll change aspects of their technique or change the equipment they are using. This can help initially however usually the yips will come back because the brain realises what has happened. Typically it affects people who are quite obsessive, highly perfectionist in their thinking and quite self-conscious. 

The search for a complete cure continues however experts have been very impressed with the impact of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). This is a psychological version of acupuncture which releases the energy blockages that often cause negative emotions. EFT works on an instinctive part of the brain where our unconscious thoughts and behaviours are stored. EFT has been successfully used in the UK for over 10 years now and has a rapidly growing following, particularly in the field of complementary medicine.

If you would like to find out how EFT could help you with your game of golf, then please give me a ring or drop me an email.