Fighting the Yips

Marty Judge

Your mind can be a powerful force – either positive or negative – in everything that you do.  One player is seeking advice on how to fight “the yips” in his tennis game.

Like Golfer’s Putting Yips

George, your posting on the toss happens to be very timely for me. Lately — over the course of the last six months or so — I have developed a nasty case of the “yips” with my service toss. It is kind of like golfers getting the yips when they putt.

I do all of the right things to avoid/ prevent it — like holding the ball in my fingers, trying to keep my arm straight and not break my elbow or wrist when I toss, practicing the toss before I serve, etc. — but it is mainly mental with me. When the yips come, I wind up tossing the ball all over the place, including both not being able to control the toss’s direction as well as its height. However, it does not come all of the time; only in certain instances and against certain opponents, which is why I know it is more mental than technique in origin.

A good example of the problem occurred yesterday when I played a friendly match of singles against a friend who is about my age and happens to be a top level player in Middle States. This is someone whose game I respect enormously and who I have always looked up to.

I wound up losing 6-4, 6-4 but I had a legitimate chance to win both sets, and maybe even win the match, since 3 out of the 4 games that I won in each set came from my breaking his serve. However, what was enormously frustrating is that I just could not toss the ball properly on my own serve and I wound up giving games away with many errant and just plain crappy serves and even a few double faults. All of this came from my yippy toss.

I know that the stock flippant answers will be to go see a shrink or give up tennis, but quite seriously, has anybody encountered or heard of this issue and does anybody have some good advice on what I can do to get over it?? It is driving me nuts (okay, nuttier than I already am) on the tennis court.

Marty, maybe some more knowledgeable players than me can comment, but my feeling would be to practice with friends and play friendly matches where “it doesn’t count”; so you can regain your confidence.

Fred Drilling advises people play most of their practice matches vs. players they can beat; so they can practice shots and build up their confidence by winning.

Other thoughts??

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4 thoughts on “Fighting the Yips

  1. Hi Marty. I’ll bet that right before you start your toss you get a picture in your mind of your toss not going where you want it to … and part of your tossing motions’ finish is to be ready to catch it 😉

    If your tossing technique is good, then all that’s left is to break that mental habit of assuming it’s not going to be a good toss placement.

    Start to build a habit where you can visualize the placement you want so that when you do look up there, it’s waiting for you to unload it!

    If you want, take a short video of your serve (just 2-3 serves. 20 seconds max) with your phone and send it to me at and I’ll be happy to do a comp voiceover analysis video for you to make sure your tossing technique is good. Brent

    Brent, great advice and great offer! Thanks, george

  2. Mental yips are not part of existential reality …
    As such … your thoughts are one thing, but when you combine a “physical action” or “physical affirmation” to your thoughts , that’s when we get pretty clear manifestation.

    My guess is that you’re manifesting these “worry thoughts” with a few physical things like…
    1. You’re stopping breathing or allowing your breath to be extremely shallow
    2. You are creating tension somewhere … most likely your chest area which effects the shoulder range of motion and flexibility

    Mindfulness and really paying close attention to what’s happening I think will get you through this…..

    Marc, thanks. George

  3. I always go back to Gallway’s “self 1” and “self 2” from “Inner Game of Tennis”. Self 1 is the negative head trash that does nothing but get in the way of you playing your best tennis. Self 2 is the instinctual non thinking part of you that knows exactly where that toss needs to be and what it feels like to hit your best serves. Visualization, breathing, …all great tips for beating the yips!

    Jim, a good source of info! thanks, george

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