Flatground Sports

I was plagued by the “Yips”

I was plagued by the “Yips”

Josh Gessner, Flatground Content Provider

In 2019, I was plagued by the ‘Yips’.

For 3 years, I struggled with the crazy phenomenon.

Here’s what it is (and how to overcome it):

The yips are a phenomenon that leads to the sudden inability to throw accurately.

Its attacked the careers of many baseball players.

• Jon Lester

• Daniel Bard

• Steve Blass

Most famously Rick Ankiel:

He played in the MLB as a 20 yr old, and was considered a rising star.

This came to an end during the 2000 post season…

Not only could he not throw strikes – he couldn’t throw anywhere near the catcher.

He threw 5 wild pitches before getting taken out.

The next game, it got worse.

He threw 20 wild pitches in the first inning.

I had a bad case of the yips.

When I played catch, I threw the ball away at least 90% of the time.

One time I threw the ball OUT of the stadium before starting a game.

It was caused during a game, where I hit someone in the head with 95mph.

I became deathly afraid of throwing – of repeating the same incident.

When I did throw, I would either spike sail my catcher.

I lost the feel for the baseball.

However I have since competed for 5 years in professional baseball, and throw well.

I will cover what I did on the mental side first, then the throwing program second.

They were both just as important, and I did them together.

Mental Step 1) Recognize the yips are rooted in fear.

When we feel fear, our brain goes into fight-flight-freeze mode.

We can’t run away from throwing, so we freeze up.

Our muscles tense.

Throwing to a target suddenly seems impossible.

I know this feeling all too well.

How do we combat this?

We need to get clear on what we’re fearful of.

Throwing a baseball itself isn’t scary.

When you’re alone in a batting cage, you can throw freely.

But when others are there, something changes.

We need to understand why.

Is it the fear of embarrassing yourself in front of everyone?

Or disappointing the people around you?

It takes time and effort to figure out your fears.

Try writing down your thoughts.

Thoughts can be messy, but writing brings clarity.

Mental Step 2) Begin your self-improvement journey

The yips strip away your confidence, leaving you demoralized.

It’s time to change that.

You need to start building confidence in yourself as a person.


Do hard things and be the hardest worker in the room.

As Sahil Bloom says, There’s no such thing as a loser who wakes up at 5am and works out.

Do things that a Badass would do.

Self-improvement also involves learning.

Learn more about yourself and the world.

Explore how the mind and brain works, self-help and philosophy.

The books that had the biggest impact:

When you compound these actions, slowly you start to build confidence.

“You don’t become confident by shouting affirmations in the mirror, but by having a stack of undeniable proof. Outwork your self-doubt.”

The Throwing Program:

The program I did was a progression, slowly exposing yourself to uncomfortable situations.

Progression Requirements:

1) You can hit the target 7/10 times with consistency, usually at least 3-5 throwing sessions in a row.

2) You follow your cue each time you throw.

3) If you have 3 bad throwing sessions in a row, regress. (Don’t worry I did this many times!)

Progression 1) Throw to a target on a fence.

But don’t just throw mindlessly.

Develop a cue that you use every time you throw, something that lets you hit that target 7/10.

We’re going against conventional wisdom of ‘Stop thinking and throw the ball!’

If this had worked for you, you wouldn’t be here.

You need a cue that you know will deliver the ball where you intend it to.

For me this was:

Staying closed and slightly cutting the ball.

An important note: Don’t change your cue after every bad throwing session.

Give it time.

When you find a cue that fits you, stick with it.

Progression 2) Start playing catch, without anyone watching.

The key here is to follow your cue, and deal with the fears that arise.

Progression 3) Introduce a team setting

Don’t jump straight into practice.

Ask to throw before / after practice, or on a different field.

Get used to people watching you.

Progression 4) Integrate into team practice

Finally, you can integrate into team practice.

Progression 5) Get into games.

F*cking Rip.