For many athletes, poor performance seems to hit them out of the blue. It comes at them unexpectedly, and they are surprised and sometimes devastated when this happens. They are playing at a very high level, and a few days later, they are struggling. I usually see these athletes after they have spent many hours and lots of money on private lessons, watched endless videos or had their skills broken down and rebuilt. When we begin our work together, they are lost and lack confidence or belief in their talent. They are frustrated, and their coaches and others in their system are frustrated, too.
I was working with a professional baseball player recently about his poor performance at the plate. He said he had been hitting the ball well all season, and then, one game, he struck out with runners in scoring position. This seemed to put him over the edge, and from that point on, he lacked confidence and struggled at the plate. His batting average plummeted, and so did his playing time.
This spring, I worked with about a dozen high school, college, and professional baseball and softball catchers. They all had one thing in common: they could not throw the ball back to the pitcher. They all had “The Yips.”
Another athlete, a very talented gymnast, walked into the gym one day and could not do any backward skills on the beam.
Each one of these athletes told me the same story. They could remember being confident, and then their confidence began to drain away. One day, they were at the top of their game, and a few days later, they could not perform the physical skills they had trained for years to master.
When I asked each athlete what they thought the problem was, they all had very superficial answers to my question. They seemed lost.
As we dug deeper into the underlying causes of each athlete’s performance issues, they were surprised at what we discovered. [Read more…]