Sportopedia Glossary



Choking under pressure, Competitive anxiety, Performance Phenomena, Routines, Relaxation) n. The yips belongs alongside choking under pressure and lost move syndrome to performance phenomena that negatively affect performance, and is characterized by involuntary movements during the execution of a skill that constantly occurs in specific situations. For instance, in golf putting, the yips consists of involuntary jerks of the wrist just before hitting the ball, which usually leads to missing the putt. The term ‘yips’ is predominantly used in golf, but also in cricket or snooker.

Yips-similar-phenomena also appear both in other sports such as darts (dartitis) and archery (target panic), and in other occupations such as playing a musical instrument (e.g., guitar and piano; musician’s cramp),
writing (writer’s cramp)’ and surgery. The etiology of the yips remains unclear (Clarke, Sheffield, & Akehurst, 2015). Nevertheless, three different subtypes of the yips have been reported (e.g., Lobinger, Kla¨mpfl, & Altenmu¨ ller, 2014): (1) Neurological: The yips is a task-specific focal dystonia, a movement disorder that originates from a sensorimotor dysfunction acquired by overlearning highly skilled tasks. (2) Psychological:

The yips is a chronic and severe form of choking under pressure, where anxiety plays a key role. (3) The yips exhibits both neurological and psychological aspects and can be seen as a conditioned reaction acquired by a traumatic experience or the individual sports biography (e.g., racket sports facilitate the yips-development in golf putting) or fatal movement strategies in training. These subtypes illustrate that not only highly skilled athletes can be affected, but also beginners.
The currently best method to diagnose the yips is the observation of its characteristics while the affected skill is performed, which can be supported by kinematic and muscle activity measures of the affected body part. Self-reports by athletes only are not sufficient. Depending on the diagnostic method and the included skill level, the reported prevalence rates of affected golfers range between 17% and 48%. Affected golfers often try to avoid the yips occurrence by changing their movement technique, grip style, and equipment. Interventions should be selected according to the yips subtype and include neurological treatments, such as sensorimotor retraining/relearning and botulinum toxin, psychological techniques such as performance routines, attentional training, relaxation methods, and emotional freedom techniques, and desensitization methods by applying variability of practice or systematic contextual changes.

Clarke, P., Sheffield, D., & Akehurst, S. (2015). The yips in
sport: A systematic review. International Review of Sport
and Exercise Psychology, 8, 156 184.

Lobinger, B. H., Kla¨mpfl, M. K., & Altenmu¨ ller, E. (2014).
We are able, we intend, we act—But we do not succeed: A
theoretical framework for a better understanding of paradoxical
performance in sports. Journal of Clinical Sport
Psychology, 8, 357 377.

***Contributed by Martin Klämpfl for Hackfort, D., Schinke, R. J., & Strauss, B. (Eds.). (2019). Dictionary of sport psychology: sport, exercise, and performing arts. Academic Press.