How to Bounce Back From the Yips in Baseball

Overthinking and Yips

McWilliams Gets a Brand New Start in San Diego

What is the most feared four-letter word in baseball? The answer is YIPS!

The yips have ended the careers of many baseball players. Players who were once All-Stars have been relegated to the bench because of the yips. Pitchers who were once considered elite prospects have quit the game altogether.

The thought of the yips can cause doubts within some players and ruin their season.

How can the yips be so destructive? Think of an everyday activity you have performed repeatedly, then inexplicably and suddenly, you had difficulty performing that task, such as driving a car. It’s hard to imagine.

Imagine having the yips… You have thrown the ball thousands of times without thinking about mechanics or hitting your mark. You just throw the ball. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, throwing the ball accurately seems impossible.

The fear and embarrassment of throwing the ball wild fuels the problem. Then the game-day arrives. Everyone is watching you. Your team depends on you.

Beads of sweat are running down your forehead. Your heart is pounding. “I hope I don’t mess up” are practically your only thoughts. You grip the ball a little tighter. You feel your forearm tense.

As you release the ball, you try to guide it to the target, but your throw is way off the mark once again. Your next thought is, “I will never throw the ball accurately again. I hope the coach pulls me out of the game. I want to go home.”

That is the internal experience of a ball player with the yips, and it’s downright maddening.

Most of the time, you hear stories of players who never regained their form after having the yips. However, many players have had a bout of the yips and have overcome them.

Bouncing back from the yips is more mental than physical. A focus on the process and not the outcome. Moving away from conscious thought to throwing with trust.

Free-agent pitcher Sam McWilliams has been working his way back from the yips that took hold of him in 2021. Sam McWilliams signed a $750,000 contract before even throwing a pitch at the major league level.

McWilliams was on Sports Illustrated’s cover and described as the new wave of pitchers with attractive analytic numbers. However, things didn’t go according to plan.

McWilliams failed to make the roster for the Mets and was designated for reassignment. By May, McWilliams posted a 10.80 ERA with eight walks in his first 8 1/3 innings in Triple-A. The yips were winning.

Eventually, McWilliams received a brand new start when San Diego picked him up. McWilliams walked 27 batters in 22 1/3 innings at Triple-A El Paso and was outrighted to Double-A, where he finished his season.

McWILLIAMS: “I kind of lost all faith in my ability… As someone who has done it their whole life, one day you’re nervous to play catch? It’s such a weird feeling. I’ve always been a guy that’s never had a problem working within the strike zone. It was such a strange feeling like, ‘Why can’t I do this? I’ve done it my whole life. Then you really just start to kind of dig too deep and let it weigh on you. And then it just snowballs into; I guess you’d call it the yips.”

After the season, McWilliams took a month off. After a while, McWilliams started playing catch with his coach and good friend Tyler Zombro. McWilliams seemed to hit the target every time and felt a sense of relief from the yips.

Often, over thinking is the culprit. When you have a catch, you don’t think about the act of throwing at all. You trust you will throw accurately. Even if you sail a ball, you dismiss it as a bad throw.  

Changing your thought process and focus is the mental strategy many major leagues use to bounce back from the yips, and you can too.

Bouncing Back from the Yips:

Before each pitch, take a deep breath and visualize the pitch hitting the catcher’s mitt. Avoid judging or focusing on your arm as that leads to over thinking

Make sure you have a positive intention for every pitch. Let go of analyzing what might happen. Flip the autopilot switch and throw the ball to a target!

Related Baseball Articles:

Yips CureBreaking The Yips Cycle Audio

If you can throw well when alone, but can’t take it to games, this is a mental game issue and not a physical challenge!

The Yips Cycle is a vicious cycle that causes ball players to stay trapped in overthinking and over control…

Learn to throw or pitch freely again with my proven audio and workbook program!

Leave a Comment