What “The Yips” Teach Us About Handling Temptation


Remember when Chuck Knoblauch turned from All-Star second basemen to a guy that couldn’t throw to first base?

Recently, Jon Lester’s battle to pick off runners at first has brought a fascinating mental phenomenon back into the headlines. The yips can turn a Rookie of the Year winner into struggling minor leaguer. Just ask Rick Ankiel.

The yips are also known to plague golfers, free throw shooters, and field goal kickers.

This Golf.com Podcast interview with Sports and performance psychologist Dr. Bhrett McCabe discusses the mental side of golf. One of the things he discussed was how he coaches players to deal with the yips. Dr. McCabe has developed a revolutionary mental process that allows you to ignore the fear swirling in your head and to focus on executing what is next. Listening to his advice is helpful for processing and working through the yips but also any temptation, failure or mental hurdle.

Dr. McCabe defines the yips as a panic attack that sets in for high achievers who are worried about failure and feeling insignificant to those who around them. McCabe points out, “The primary motivation when getting the yips is to hurry up and get out of the situation and avoid the pain and stress you are experiencing.” This inward focus causes players to make adjustments mid-round, focus on not failing and worry about what is going to happen when they do. This causes players to speed up processes they have mastered beforehand and not execute them properly.

When you feel that fear swirling in, Dr. McCabe suggests four steps.

1. Give the fear that comes in a name.

This helps clarify what the fear is and objectify it so you do not feel like you are the reason for failure.

2. Acknowledge the fear when it shows up.

As stated above, when presented with a fear, we focus on removing it and getting away from it instead of working through it. This causes us to forget our fundamentals and “press”, or speed up, to get out of the situation. Acknowledging your fears presence forces you to slow down and not press.

3. Put the fear in the box.

To put the fear in the box, start by taking a deep breath. Then zoom out to a 30,000 objective view and remind yourself of the truth. Think about the lie the fear is telling you and remind yourself that it doesn’t define you and he can’t have any real harm to your life.

4. Take Ownership

Once you have put fear in the box, you are in control. Compete to the best of your ability and accept the outcome. Something else that helps is being honest about where your current performance level is based on your preparation. I will talk more about this in a post later this week.

So what are the Spiritual implications?

When a temptation comes, following these four steps has been helpful for me. Sin is based on lies we believe to be true, and often these lies hit at the core of our identity the same way that the yips hit at a player’s identity.

For example, one area I struggle with is walking into a room with people that I respect and admire. This triggers sins of comparison, envy, and self-doubt. When I am at an event where a supervisor, other staff, someone I admire or someone that is important in my field, I find myself focused on what they think rather than being relational.

The times when I have realized when the fear shows up, taken a deep breath, reminded myself that I am valuable regardless of perception and made an effort to engage relationally, I have been able to avoid comparison, envy, and self-doubt and come away with a great connection to people I admire.

I think this process is applicable to all areas of sin. I have seen it work in my life and hope that you can implement the concept to temptations that are present in your life.

Keep an eye out for the next idea that Dr. McCabe gives and the spiritual implicaitons of the concept.


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