Dallas (CBSDFW.COM) — Maybe it’s just a bad game. After a week, all will be forgotten. Yet everyone from golfers to baseball players has probably considered an alternative explanation for Brett Maher’s multiple missed shots in Monday’s Dallas Cowboys playoff game.
“yips” may pop up. A catcher who throws a single willful throw to a pitcher will find himself paralyzed at the prospect of throwing the ball back the next time. A golfer who misses his putt by two feet puts his next putt on the green.
Matt Johnson, Ph.D., a consulting sports psychologist in Fort Worth, explains that a lack of control can be debilitating. He often sees athletes who have been trying to break the yip for months, only to sink deeper and deeper.
“If our minds are thinking, ‘Oh my god, I gotta win this, don’t miss this,’ it distracts us from what we’ve done millions of times in the past,” Dr Johnson said. “
Whether this is the professional athlete experience that millions of people saw on Monday, he couldn’t say. Rather than labeling a problem when he sees it, he chooses to help the athlete refocus and address it.
Thinking more about mistakes just leads to an increase in high-frequency brain waves — interfering with once-reliable muscle signals about the sequence of when to fire, how much force to use and focus on the target.
He found that getting back into a routine and reducing distractions was often the most important factor in regaining control.
There is no timetable for the fix.
Dr. Patrick Cohn often tells athletes he finds it’s not like recovering from a cold. They have to focus on regaining a certain percentage of control and working their way back.
At his practice in Central Florida, he developed programs for young baseball players to fight off yips, which he says they often liken to the feeling of aliens taking control of their arms.
Restoring athletes to trust in their ability, routine, and freedom of movement can often get them back on the right path over time.
“If it’s just a game where the athlete is very worried, anxious or overly controlling, then I think it would be quicker to get the athlete back on track,” Dr. Cohen said.
Nor did he want to conclude that the repeatedly missed kicks pointed to a diagnosis of any deeper problem. Only athletes can determine what they need to get back to their goals, he said.