“YIPs”

Written By Natasha Watley

Yips

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Every year I always look forward to attending the NFCA convention. From just simply reconnecting with old teammates, coaches and vendors to just being in that softball air. It’s an environment to get re-inspired, get new motivation, receive new ideas, hear old ideas with new verbiage and lastly just hearing something that you can completely relate to. Like every year, this year's convention did not disappoint on those aspects. This year I really enjoyed Eileen Canney's presentation on the yips “When Mind Matters”. I not only enjoyed the topic because it's hardly ever mentioned or talked about but mainly because so many others and I could relate. It was surprising to see how many people in the room had seen someone else suffer or had suffered themselves. Hearing Canney’s bravery in sharing her experience, made me really want to open up about my experience and hopefully shed light on something that's not given much light in our sport. Hopefully opening up conversation about the yips can make the experience easier for those who suffer from it in the future.

My Experience

Recently, I have suffered from an annoying case of the yips. The thing that's most frustrating about it, is I can’t really pinpoint the exact moment it started. My yips occurred when I was throwing. It felt like it went from making one bad throw, to throwing becoming the most difficult thing that I ever had to do. It had the snowball effect overnight and literally felt like I was trying to throw huge snowballs. Before my experience, I never really knew much about the yips. It’s one of those things that I never in a million years thought I would experience because throwing was second nature to me and with errors and mistakes I was patient with overcoming failure. Come to find out, the yips has so many layers and just simply being in denial about it, ignoring it and thinking it will go away on its own makes it worse.

When I started having a series of throwing errors, I cannot begin to tell you the countless hours I spent practicing trying to perfect my throws. I began to become obsessed with trying to fix my mechanical issues with my throw. I was in denial that it could be more than physical. As athletes we are taught to be mentally tough so, I figured if I stay tough and laugh it off, it would just go away. Finally, it took my Japanese coach saying that he thought I had a case of the yips for me to even actually acknowledge and accept that was what was going on. The Yips is very similar to being an addict in the way you have to actually admit to yourself that you have a problem, then from there you can begin to fix.

How do you know if you’re a yipper?

You know you have the yips when it affects your physical actions/reactions and feelings. You can feel clammy hands, tension, and fear. It’s a continuous feeling, not just a one-time thing. In Canney’s presentation, she talked about the physical reactions and anxiety you experience and feel. For example, she talked about her stomached dropping right before she had to throw overhand. For myself, in between pitches, my right arm and fingers would tingle and when I got the ball to throw, I could not grip the ball to go into a full arm circle. These physical reactions are different from the occasional error or mistake because it has triggered something psychologically, where an athlete hasn’t been able to move past. You have the yips when your mind and body go into a state of feeling like it’s in danger when you have to perform the task. It's so easy to dismiss that you have the yips, because you simply feel like they are physical mistakes. It’s important to recognize the difference of just an occasional mistake vs. the continuous feeling you get when you know that you’re going to have to perform task.

Misconceptions about the yips

The yips manifest itself physically (i.e. throwing errors), but it’s formed mentally and psychologically. A huge misconception, in which Canney touched on, is that the yips occur because of a physical issue, or perceived as something that can easily be fixed. When it's actually something neurological, where your brain associates your version of yips as a traumatic experience. So it's something that needs huge attention on and off the field to help you overcome.

What worked

After reaching extreme frustration after a practice in Japan, I think I reached my all time low. The minute I got home that night, I spent hours researching The Yips. I was so eager and desperate to talk to someone and I was willing to do anything to get over this experience. That's when I came across Dr. Tom Hanson. Dr. Hanson has a series of tapping exercises that helps you overcome the yips. After several Skype sessions with him while I was in Japan, where we spent the entire session tapping physically on different locations on your body while revisiting and going back to every bad episode of the yips you can remember. I literally noticed a difference the next day at practice after my first session. I still do have the occasional occurrence of making an error, but now when it happens I have the tools to help the anxiety and move on. Now when I do feel that anxiety in between pitches, I can immediately go to tapping to suppress that feeling.

You're not alone

For any softballers out there, you’re not alone if you’re experiencing the yips. I learned, it not only occurs in many other sports as well but in other professions ; dentists, surgeons and even singers experience yips. I didn’t experience the yips until I was 23 years into my career. Unfortunately, the more experience you have, it doesn’t keep you safe from the yips. Fortunately there are methods and people out there that can help. If you can locate sports psychologists in your area, I suggest you do so. The best part about the challenge of the yips is that it is curable and you can overcome it with several different methods. Stay strong and fight through it. Good Luck!

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The Glass Is Neither Half-Full Nor Half-Empty

Written By Dalton Ruer

Dallas / Fort Worth Coaches Group

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If you are a player I sure hope you aren’t disappointed if you were hoping for another great article about Getting Dirty because this month’s article is vastly different. In fact it’s for coaches and not players this month. Don’t worry I will be back next month with dirt. Plenty of DIRT. In fact next month I will be starting a series on sliding.

But this month is for coaches. You see the guy who puts this magazine together asked all of us if we could somehow incorporate the National Fastpitch Coaching Association’s National Convention which was held in December into our articles. Yikes! What’s a poor writer to do when he was on the field with players and didn’t get to attend this year? Well not wanting to disappoint him I figured I’d simply pretend I was delivering a presentation at the convention.

While the setting is imaginary the message is real. I love this game and I LOVE “softball players.” I assure you I would have challenged you as strongly in San Antonio as I do in this video. So coaches sit back, relax and pretend you are seeing my presentation as the key note address for the NFCA Convention. What? You didn’t think I was going to pretend I was delivering a presentation on the last day, in the smallest, hottest room right after lunch did you?

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Fastpitch Softball Magazine Issue 54

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Issue 54 of The Fastpitch Magazine Published By Gary Leland

This month's featured video is an interview with 2004 Team USA Softball Olympian, Amanda Freed. I have also included one of my great softball drills, another featured chapter from The Fastpitch Book, and a number of helpful articles from our amazing writers.

Welcome to the February 2017 Issue of the Fastpitch Magazine. The Fastpitch magazine has been bringing you more fastpitch softball articles and videos than anyone on the planet for over two full years.

Aaron Weintraub starts this issue with “Attitudes Are Contagious” from the column Bridging the Gap.

Michelle Diltz's column, School of Strength with her article “It's “Excuse or Statement:Part 3”.

This months featured video of the month is an interview with Olympian Amanda Freed.

Mitch Alexander joins us again with his article from Softball Academy, “Comparing NCAA Divisions”.

I also feature my interview of the month with Olympian Shelly Stokes.

All this and more in this months issue.

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Importance Of The Trunk/Core in Pitching

Written By Sherry Werner

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Importance Of The Trunk Core While Pitching

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Without a doubt, arm motion is important in the windmill pitch. And, most of us agree that the legs play a big role in pitching. My last two articles were devoted to the importance of footwork and the legs. Very rarely, though, do you hear much about the part of the body connecting the legs and the arms- the trunk/core. If the forces used in pitching originate through the feet and legs and are eventually imparted through the arm and hand to the ball, the trunk and core must be important, too. Unless the forces generated at the ground are transferred properly through the trunk to the pitching arm, the pitching motion is inefficient.

During the stride, motion of the pivot foot allows the hips and trunk to open toward third base. This, in turn, allows the arm to “windmill” more freely and puts the trunk in position so that as the hips close, they can contribute to ball speed. The muscles of the trunk are larger than those of the arm and legs. It only makes sense to use these muscles to assist in propelling the ball. Due to the quickness of the windmill pitch (average time from stride foot contact to ball release is about one-tenth of a second!), the hips should open and close as quickly as possible. As the hips and trunk rotate toward a closed position (square with home plate), the throwing shoulder moves with the configuration of the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones to make this process extremely complex. Coordination of joint movements ensure efficient transfer of force is very important.

Force production first comes into play at the end of the stance phase. As the pitcher's center of gravity shifts from being centered over the back (stride) foot to being centered over the front (pivot) foot, the stride begins. The front foot then presses against the ground (and the ground pushes back with an equal and opposite reaction). This force acts to move the body forward through the stride. As the stride foot touches down it then assists the pivot foot in creating forces to close the hips and drive the body forward. Once the ball is released, hip rotation and the drive of the stride leg should cause the pivot leg to move forward, and the pivot foot steps up toward the stride foot. This step forward assists in dissipating the energy built up in the arm.

Principles of and flaws in the mechanics of the stride

Just as proper positioning of the feet is important during the stance, stride foot placement is also vital to pitching performance. For each athlete there is an optimal stride length depending on body height, leg length, flexibility, etc. Problems result in both underestimating and overestimating this optimal length. Under-striding creates timing and force generation problems. A short stride does not afford the arm enough time to go through its motion, and lower body movements get ahead of upper body movements. If coordination between the lower and upper body is compromised, efficient flow of forces from the legs through the trunk to the arm is also compromised.

Over-striding causes a multitude of problems as well. Pitchers who over-stride tend to land on a straight stride leg. A slightly bent knee is more advantageous because knee flexion can absorb some of the vertical force on the stride leg. Otherwise, this force could manifest itself in hip and/or low back injury. A pitcher who does not close her hips has to use shoulder muscles to move her arm toward the release point. For obvious reasons, it would be more advantageous to use a large body part (the trunk), with more muscle mass, to move a small body part (the arm).

Failure to close the hips also goes against a widely accepted principle in Biomechanics. Proximal to distal sequencing refers to a pattern of timing in human movement where the body part closest to the center of the body reaches its maximum speed, then the next closest body part reaches its maximum velocity, and so on until the body part furthest from the body ‘s center reaches its peak speed. In pitching, when the hips are open to third base and begin to close, maximum hip rotation speed will occur before maximum shoulder rotation speed. Then, once peak shoulder speed is reached, elbow flexion velocity is maximized followed by peak wrist speed.

This sequencing is thought to maximize joint coordination and ball speed. If the hips are not rotated toward a closed position, this timing pattern is adversely affected. Lack of coordination caused by not closing the hips also creates an inefficient flow of forces between the legs and throwing arm. Although failure to close the hips is a more common problem in pitching, closing the hips too early also creates unnecessary stress on the shoulder. Closing the hips prematurely decreases the trunk's contribution to the pitch. Any time the trunk and arm are out of synch, efficiency of movement is compromised.

Another detrimental effect of not rotating the hips toward home plate is seen during the follow through. If the hips close, the arm moves with the body, but if the hips remain open, the arm moves forward and across the body. This causes unnecessary stretch and stress on the shoulder joint. Any time that the arm moves as a separate unit from the body, stress occurs at the joint (the shoulder) between the arm and the body. Closing the hips also tends to pull the pivot foot forward during the follow through so that the pitcher is in a good position to field the ball.

Opening the hips to third base occurs without much effort as the pivot foot turns outward and the stride foot moves forward. Closing the hips, however, requires a forceful contraction of several muscles. Although these pelvic, stomach and back muscles which rotate the hips are large, they are usually weak, especially in females. Often times these muscles are overlooked in pitching. Strength training programs focus on the arm and, to a lesser extent, the legs. A strong arm and legs cannot overcome weak trunk muscles. You have heard the adage, “You're only as strong as your weakest link.” The trunk (core) is just that- an important link between the legs and the throwing arm.

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There is a lot more than people think when it comes to developing good hitting mechanics. One of the biggest problems we see in Fastpitch Softball hitters is they get out in front of the ball and come around it. In other words, they do not keep their swing compact and hands inside the ball. Their arms end up extending too quickly and the barrel of the bat will get to the softball before their hands do. This small detail in your hitting mechanics makes a huge impact on how hard and how far you hit the ball. Working with the Hands Inside Trainer will help you get back on the right track to hitting the ball further and harder.

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The Hands Inside Trainer or H.I.T. is a simple, yet high effective training tool used by many Fastpitch Softball and Baseball players. The H.I.T. is a batting tee attachment that promotes the proper hand path during the swing. You can turn any tee into a swing trainer that will teach you muscle memory to keep your hands inside the ball. This device is a perfect tool to use no matter who you are. Great for left and right handed hitters, the H.I.T. is fully adjustable for different size bats and age groups.

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