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Author: Chris Geier, Certified Hypnotherapist

Chris Geier

Date Published:
Publisher: Hypnosis Motivation Institute

Yikes! You Got a Case of the Yips

The new buzz word going around the subject of sports performance studies recently is Yips. This often crippling syndrome is affecting amateurs to seasoned pros. More and more athletes are catching a case of the Yips.

What pray tell are the Yips, you ask? I believe Yips are a negative physical reaction resulting from a repressed emotional trauma; in other words, an abreaction. How are the Yips different from anticipatory anxiety, or phobias and fears? An abreaction is a visibly obvious occurrence. Athletes can observe the affliction while it occurs as an involuntary muscular response, and in that moment they cannot deny that there is a problem. Hypnosis has proven a useful tool in helping my sports clients who struggle with the Yips.

I recently had a Division 1 college golfer come to see me who was struggling with this issue. His driving game was great; he could hit any driver, any iron and place the ball where ever he desired. But, he struggled with his putting game. Each time he had to putt, he saw negative outcomes; he was worried about what others would say if he missed the easy two foot putts. He was so anxiety riddled when he was putting that his hand started to twitch uncontrollably.

This went on for years; he didn’t know where this came from but knew that he couldn’t control it. He tried to grip the putter differently he tried changing his technique altogether. Finally he started a concentrated hypnosis process to help reprogram his subconscious mind. Through hypnosis he changed his automated association to putting that took him from the anxiety response with negative associations, to a confident, controlled and relaxed player.

This condition has been called many different things: Steve Blass Disease, Steve Sax Syndrome, and Knoblauch Disease, but it was brought to the forefront by pro golfer Tommy Amour in the late 1930’s. Tommy Amour suffered from uncontrollable flinches or twitches, and these were readily evident during his putting game. Many have tried to pinpoint the cause of this issue with no success. The Mayo Clinic had trouble pin pointing a cause in its studies. It was once thought that the Yips were always associated with performance anxiety. However, it now appears that some people have Yips that are caused by a focal dystonia, which is a neurological dysfunction affecting specific muscles. The Mayo clinic later confirmed that the Yips are actually a psycho neuromuscular affliction. Part of their suggested treatment includes the following: relaxation, visualization and positive thinking. Positive thinking in particular can help reduce anxiety, increase concentration and ease fear of the Yips.


Relaxing during an event can be challenging for an athlete. How can an athlete change their automated excitement (negative or positive) and achieve a more relaxed state during a perceived pressured play? That is exactly what a sports performance hypnotherapist can help with. A sports performance hypnotherapist can create a paradoxical state where anxiety and relaxation cannot coexist. Sports performance hypnosis can help form a new neuropath way for a new conditioned response.


As a Sports Performance Specialist and Guided Imagery Facilitator many athletes who come to see me tell me they only envision negative outcomes of their performances. These images often become the basis for a self-fulfilling prophecy over time. Working with hypnosis to reprogram the subconscious mind in an attempt to rid it of the unwanted scenes and produce positive visualizations is exactly what the subconscious mind needs and can help an athlete change negative imagery.

Positive Thinking

How does an athlete keep composure if they believe they are down or going to lose even before the event? That is the subconscious mind and its automated reaction and a sports hypnosis specialist is able to help change these issues from something that doesn’t work to something that does.

Hypnosis is the bridge between conditioned mental responses and physiological outcomes. As such, it can affect the success of these outcomes. In all of its automated responses the subconscious mind is the connection between the conditioned mental response and a muscular action. Until an athlete has a break in their negative patterns with a negative response and recognizes they are no longer in control of their outcome they should seek a Sports Performance Hypnotherapist to help them overcome these issues. The Yips can affect anyone. From young players to the most experienced pros. By understanding the subconscious mind and automation, it is the hypnotherapist who can link an athlete’s mental game with their physical attributes and create a successful outcome.