NERVES, BLOCKS, YIPS
A performance block, also known as the yips, choke, glitch or monster, is a potentially career-ending, mentally crushing condition that causes a player to freeze and forget how to perform movements that were once simple and routine. It is experienced as a trauma; complete with fear, rising blood pressure, sweaty palms, anxiety, and tension.
Left to right: Dr. David Grand, Mackey Sasser, Rob Polishook, Dr. Alan Goldberg at Shea Stadium before a game (2006)
Performance blocks, aka yips, choking, glitch, slumps, and the monster, usually rear its ugly head under pressure and seemingly completely out of the blue. Years ago, the infamous Steve Blass of the Pittsburgh Pirates coined his experiences with the yips as the “The Monster!”
The Mackey Sasser Story
"Everyone kept saying I had a phobia," Mackey Sasser said. "I didn't have a phobia. I just had a lot of things built up inside of me. Rob Polishook and Dr. David Grand taught me how to release all of that and just let it go.
Mackey Sasser, former NY Met and current coach of the Wallace Governors in Dothan Alabama said “I feel like a 500 pounds weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I can throw batting practice to my college team without any problems thanks to these guys.”
Mackey Sasser's throwing problem (yips) could be seen in MLB with the NY Mets when he double and triple pumped the ball before throwing it back to the pitcher. The press called it sasser syndrome and even sasser-itis. My colleagues Dr. David Grand, Dr. Alan Goldberg and I helped Mackey resolve his throwing yips.
Today, Mackey coaches at his alma mata Wallace Junior College in Dothan Alabama and no longer has has a problem throwing. Mackey says "I used to concentrate on throwing the ball down the middle of the plate, now I’m hitting corners, I can throw it out when I need to throw it out, I can throw it in when I need to throw it in…and what has actually happened instead of focusing so hard, it has just become a reaction, just tossing the ball where I need to put it. It has totally taken the thinking process out of it. It feels like a 500 pound weigh has been take off my shoulders."
Rob Polishook Interviews Mackey Sasser
Fields of Fear
Academy Award® winning producer Alex Gibney directed a "30 For 30 Shorts" film about the
former professional baseball player and New York Met Mackey Sasser, his throwing yips, and redemption. Click Here to watch the full "30 For 30 Shorts" documentary originally aired September 16, 2014 on ESPN.
Polishook stated, “My colleagues and I worked with Mackey though the lens of More Than an Athlete. Person first. Athlete second.” This freed us up to see the whole picture: Mackey was not just as an athlete, but a whole person. The yips was not the problem, but a symptom to underlying things which happened both on and off the field. It was the perfect storm… and ultimately resolved. Sasser described it as a “500 pound weight lifted off my shoulders.”
Articles on Performance Blocks
Nicknames, Nomenclature and History
Slumps, Chokes, and the Yips
Understanding Performance Blocks
Symptoms, Causes and Resolution
Fight, Flight, Freeze
The Seven Biggest Fears That Paralyze Athletes in Sports
Tension, Tears, and Twitches
The Secret to Managing Stress
Broken Rackets, Bad Body Language
Solving the Problem by Addressing the Cause