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Friday, June 9, 2017

Service Yips - a Novice Opinion

I describe myself as a simple blogger. No more. No less...

About a month ago, I decided to research the service yips due to a problem a partner had at a tournament. I have shown several views of the yips, including both psychological and neurological. We have now looked at the advice of pickleball experts as well as gold experts. The bottom line for me is...I don't have the right answer, but I do have a couple of thoughts.

Are the yips psychological or neurological?

I tend to think that the yips are psychological in nearly all cases. The discussion about focal dystonia in golf was mostly about small muscle failure. This is much more important in golf and music than pickleball. Certainly, small muscle issues can cause the ball hand to cause a mishit. But that doesn't seem to be the primary problem with the service yips. The issue is more related to the big muscles of the paddle arm. My logic is that focal dystonia wouldn't be very likely. Then again, I am not an expert so who knows.

If they are psychological, what steps can be taken?

I believe the yips set in as a result of a feedback loop. That means a couple of bad serves start to cause doubt and expectations change. Players begin to anticipate bad serves and each bad serve keeps reinforcing that expectation. The problem can be fixed only by breaking that feedback loop.

The pickleball experts try to accomplish that break by mechanical changes to increase focus and simplicity. In other words, don't anticipate but focus only on the service routine. There are a couple of tips to help do that:
  1. Be aware where you put your focus. It should be on the paddle making contact with the ball. If your focus isn't there, it may drift to future outcomes and the feedback loop will not be broken.
  2. Develop and stay focused on a pre-shot routine: review your opponent's position, determine your target, establish your position, relax with deep breaths or ball bounces, visualize your shot, commit to the shot, and then hit your serve. Repeatedly following a routine helps keep your mind focused on what you are doing and not the potential outcomes.

Of course, none of that might work. I know some players that simply could not get their serve in, at least effectively. They ultimately made a dramatic change to their serve. One example is shown in a Pickleball Channel video called Unique Backhand Serve with Slow Motion - Byron Freso.

In the end, pickleball players will do whatever they must in order to play the game.

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