It is often said that to become a professional at something, you must work diligently at your goal for at least 10,000 hours. Whether this quote is true or not, the dedication of time and effort has been shown to be a constant in the makeup of a professional. So why is it when an up-and-coming Major League Baseball catcher that is known to have a damn near rocket for an arm, all the sudden can’t simply toss the ball back to the pitcher without awkwardly double clutching?
Mackey Sasser was a young catcher for the New York Mets in the early 1990’s that looked to be on the rise to the top as one of the best catchers in the game. Unfortunately, it never turned out that way. In just another day at the ballpark, Sasser was involved in a vicious play at home plate where the runner ran him over that should have put Sasser on the disabled list. The coaches decided to keep playing Sasser the next few games, with his ankles taped and bandaged up like a mummy to continue to help his team despite his injuries. Unfortunately, his ankles being taped prevented Sasser from him being able to comfortable rock back and forth on his ankles in a crouch like all catchers do to be able to toss the ball back to the pitcher. Thus came the “yips”. Sasser began to double clutch and float the ball erratically back to the pitcher. When I finally saw the footage it was awkward to watch and as many have wondered, how could something like this happen? Unfortunately, not many people understand what was going on and often got frustrated and can’t help but ask why he couldn’t make a throw that most ten year olds could make. The yips can be described as a mental block that an athlete forms in their own mind that prevents them from achieving a normally easily obtainable goal. It is not the hard plays that they can’t make, but often the easiest of plays that they have been making since childhood. It could also be situations that require thought were the athlete’s fear settles in and takes away all self-confidence. In Sasser’s case, this led to a short MLB career. The yips can be fixed through some mental therapy to relax the athlete’s mind and to take away the fear that is associated with the act. The yips are more common than people would like to think, but yet there is so little knowledge about what they are and how they affect athletes.