The Yips

Parallel parking is easy when practiced in front of your house with cones and trash cans. It does, however, become infinitely more difficult when attempted in front of a swanky restaurant in between a BMW 7-Series and a Maserati with outdoor diners picking apart your every mistake. Soon, passerby begin to gravitate just to watch you take the wrong angle and start over for the umpteenth time. Put enough pressure on yourself while allowing the situation power over you, and you’ll fail more at parallel parking than Meadow Soprano.

Meadow can't park...

If you’re the type who’ll park three blocks away and pay $10 to avoid parallel parking in front of everyone, then you may have a case of the yips.

The yips are dangerous. Powerful enough to end careers and contagious enough to shun those afflicted, the yips are that little anxiety monster that grows and grows and eventually takes over in pressure situations.

In the athletic arena, it could look like Chuck Knoblauch launching short throws from second base into the stands, or Jean Van de Velde scattering golf shots all over the last hole to lose the British Open, or Mark Wohlers unable to find the strikezone, or LeBron James disappearing in the fourth quarter in the NBA Finals, or any Florida State kicker when trying beat the University of Miami. Those are just a few examples but the list is miles long of athletes who can do their task without trouble when no one is watching only to fail miserably when the lights burn brightest.

Some call it ‘white line’ syndrome. Step on the playing surface between the white lines of the football field, basketball court, baseball field, or parking space and the athlete can begin to over-think the most mundane of tasks. Short field goals become tricky, free throws are impossible, throwing strikes are out of the question, and parallel parking is calamitous.

Yours truly even yipped a stop sign some years ago. You know, those big, red octagonal warnings that have stop written across? I had a date in the passenger’s seat and my mind was preoccupied and sure enough, whoop-whoop! The policeman lectured me on paying more attention (no ticket!) and did understand that the sign was behind a large banyan tree. But had I been driving alone I certainly would have been locked in on the stop sign. The circumstances of my date and trying to think about saying all the right things led me to completely yip a stop sign!

Fortunately, no one was hurt and I have since learned from that experience. I have yet to miss a stop sign since! The yips can drive those afflicted one of two ways: Learn from them and improve, or, succumb to them and wash out.

When Rory McIlroy yipped away the Master’s many thought he would struggle in future similar situations. But he learned from the experience and won the very next major tournament convincingly. The aforementioned Van de Velde never came close to winning another major tournament ever again.

From champion to wading in muck: The Yips

So fear not. You may have badly screwed up that last date when you spilled all that wine on his smartphone and white Brooks Brothers shirt. Now you know you have to concentrate a little more when pouring wine. But don’t avoid that same situation; that would be succumbing to the yips. And don’t avoid parallel parking either. Find a teensy-weensy spot during happy hour between a Bentley and a Mercedes and yell “Take notes!” as you put on a show one-timing the parking job and saying “You’re welcome,” to the group ready to pounce on your smallest mistake.

No one really knows how to defeat the yips, but apprehension certainly isn’t the cure. Might as well be aggressive…

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Filed under Baseball, Basketball, Dating, Football, Golf, Yips

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