Friday, September 8, 2023

#251 / The "Yips"


Take it from Eileen Canney Linnehan, who is pictured above. The "Yips" are real. Linnehan is a former professional softball player, and is now a softball coach. If you'd like to arrange for some private pitching lessons, click that link to her name.

I had never heard about either Linnehan or the "Yips" until I read a "sports psychology" story in the Sports section of the July 27, 2023, edition of The New York Times. The story I read is headlined as follows: "Hiding From the Yips Will Only Make It Worse." 

For those, like me, who might have no idea about the "Yips," this excerpt from The Times' story will give you the idea: 

Maddy Wood was an incoming freshman at Western Kentucky last fall, on scholarship, in shape and elated to pitch for the Hilltoppers. The feeling lasted only a few days, before that old, insidious anxiety gripped her. Wood could no longer throw the ball to the catcher’s glove. 
Her pitches skidded in the dirt, bounced off home plate and soared over the catcher’s head as onlookers snickered and grumbled. The game that had been Wood’s passion was now her torture. 
“I had lost all hope, honestly,” Wood, 19, said in a recent telephone interview. “It wasn’t fun. I hated going to practice. I was considering quitting, until I spoke to Eileen.”

In technical terms, as The Times says, "the yips is the inability to perform a previously learned movement, often, but not always, because of a mental inhibitor. The problem manifests in embarrassing public fashion that can ruin careers."

Since "politics," not softball, is the focus of this blog, you can probably see where I am going. It seems to me that the "Yips" phenomenon is not confined to softball alone. A sudden and disconcerting inability to do something that one absolutely knows how to do - something that one has done countless times before, something that one is good at - is not something that manifests itself only on the sports field. 

Take holding elections, for instance. Doesn't it seem to you that something we have done, successfully, for maybe two hundred years, plus, is now causing us inexplicable problems? What about "democracy" and "self-government" themselves? Surely, we all know how they're done. All of a sudden, though, aren't we beginning to doubt that we can do what we formerly took for granted? 

Who is going to coach us out of that species of the "Yips"?

At least according to the article, the only way "out" is "through." If we are beginning to doubt our "democracy," our ability to make our governmental institutions do what they have always done - and what we absolutely need them to do, of course - then we need to admit there's a problem, and just "play on." 

At least, I think that is what Eileen Canney Linnehan would advise. 

That's what I'd advise!

Are we worried about about our democratic institutions? Well, "yes," we are. So, get that out on the table. Don't pretend there isn't a problem. There is! 

The main point is that we shouldn't quit. The main point is that we shouldn't give up. 

The main point is that we must play on!

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