Cricket ‘yips’ A player returns from six years in the wilderness to enjoy playing again

Yips the silent destroyer – when your life changes overnight!

*George played cricket since the age of 6, County level all the way through the age groups – As a talented fast bowler he is offered a pro contract and becomes a key player in the team.

At age twenty he has his first class debut against Australia – obviously a bright future ahead!

6 years later George, (having being released from his contact), is  playing for his local clubs second team – in the fourth division! After bowling two beamers he suffers the embarrassment of being brought off by the umpire for dangerous bowling.

A young man with proven talent, in his late twenties who should be approaching his peak is now finding it difficult to pitch a ball anywhere near the wicket  – for the first time in his life George gives up playing.

What happened? George’s fall from Grace was dramatic/sudden/mysterious?

George was trapped in the fatal grip of ‘yips’ 

When trying to bowl he would feel tension in shoulder/arm, lose the feeling in his fingers. His mind would often go blank, tension also in the chest, shallow breathing, sweaty palms, incredibly at times he would find it difficult to actually release the ball.

When the ball was released it literally could go anywhere- hence the beamers!  Imagine the underlying fear of being embarrassed again and again during the cricket season? This fast bowler who enjoyed striking fear in batsman, always keen to bowl, take wickets, was now living with the fear of being called up to bowl by his captain.  The joy from playing the game had long been replaced with a feeling of dread in is stomach, with just the mention of cricket.  

How bad can it be? How much can it effect a players life?

Many of the cricketers I work with thrive on being the main person in the team, the go to guy – match winner! When the yips strike they lose confidence, lose their identity and sense of purpose.

One of the players I’ve helped resonated with the story of what happens to a dominant lobster when it loses a fight:

“It loses confidence, If the defeat was bad the lobster becomes more subservient and adopts a lowly position in the pod.” 

In world of cricket and life George lost that vibrant positive image of himself and like that lobster now had a tendency to live in the shadows, dreading being called into action. 

George came across my You Tube video Cricket bowling yips – Problems/Solutions, resonated with the message and contacted me for help.

When does a routine action become so complicated?

From my experience of working with struggling players, the problem at times I’m sure seems insurmountable. Conventional ways of solving this problem – more practise, changing grips, run ups, pushing through it etc, often doesn’t help and sometimes make it worse. This combined with the fact that there are few players, coaches, parents who understand the problem which can leave the player feeling lost, helpless, rejected and a failure.

Commonly this isn’t a mechanical problem, it’s often the ‘trauma’ of past experiences stored in our mind/ body that constantly trigger the fight, flight or freeze response to stress.

One of the key elements to providing a solution is to discover and determine the negative turning point. When does a routine action become so complicated?

George’s initial negative experience was during a match where he was playing for his county, bowled two dangerous beamers and was brought off by the umpire.

This trauma from this bad experience would then trigger George in other matches, he had over twenty similar experiences, this of course destroyed his confidence. Almost overnight he’d gone from the dominate lobster to the bottom of the pack. His world began to change as that part of our brain that keeps us safe, (the amygdala) decided that when George played cricket – he was in danger!!

It’s not safe

The accumulation of stress/ bad experiences often results in the underlying program that runs our lives developing faults which lead to poor performance. The negative thinking triggers the fight, flight or freeze response in our body. Classic symptoms are tightness in your chest/muscles unable to think clearly, shortness of breath and moisture build-up in the palm of your hands as your body doesn’t feel it’s safe. The result is the fear of poor performance means you begin to struggle to play or even practice. The ‘freeze’ response literally takes control of the mind/muscles in your body.

Each day you are almost stuck in the past as the negative programme of feelings, thoughts, emotions and expectations take control and create a continuous loop.

The solution

By releasing the destructive negative vibration from a past memory/ experience this helps calm the nervous system and allows the cricketer to feel safe when they play.

I began to help George by using Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Tapping  to help release the trauma of those past experiences. We focused on one of those occasions when George bowled the beamers and was taken off. When he felt lighter, calmer we were able to reframe/reprogram and use performance psychology to help create a more positive outlook.

I then asked George to imagine himself bowling well in practice (until now this was something George was unable to do). When he struggled with the image we would use tapping to clear the underlying negative sabotage. When the session finished George was able to imagine/see himself bowling well.  

This was a message I received following our session;

“So my training session that week was nothing short of remarkable, my friend that helped hasn’t seen me bowl that that ever.

Moving on to this Saturday just gone I opened the bowling for the first time in 6 years. Bowled fast and in the perfect spot. Odd bad ball, but I put it down to fitness, it was quite hot. I focussed heavily on staying relaxed, tapping through my fingers and just re-setting at the end of my mark.

I noticed the ball was held much lighter in my fingers not gripping onto it with dear life –  this was a big factor I think.”

This was another message from George a few weeks later:

“I bowled in the last 4 games of the season and dominated as I should at that level. Second in bowling averages in 4 games –  Across the whole club!!”  

With his mind free George was able to step up bowl and enjoy playing again – normality has resumed.

The key is that we are able to release the faults in the underlying programme that runs us. By identifying and removing the internal negative chatter, interference, we enabled George to access his talent!

What’s your story? Have you struggled? If you’d like help, contact me for a free initial 20min consultation at sean@confidenceontap.com or alternatively call me on 07818851643. We can discuss your challenges and formulate a solution. From there we can arrange a one-to-one session on Skype, Facetime or Phone. I look forward to speaking with you soon!

*The player gave me permission to write this blog – In a bid to spread the word about help being available. Also, George is not his real name.

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