FALSE START #E - July 2003 by David E. Ortman


I've got the track "yips". Or at least the pseudo "yips." Maybe you've got them, too. Or maybe you haven't heard of the "yips", but have them anyway. Yikes. The "yips" were first discovered on a golf course by golfers. A golfer would reach the green, stand over the golf ball and bring back his/her putter. Just as the putter makes contact with the ball, the golfer flinches ("yips") and the ball goes shooting off the green instead of into the hole. Yikes. Professional golfers have given up the sport because of the "yips." Others are still in therapy wondering what their bodies are trying to tell them. In fact, even the Mayo (not the mayonnaise) Clinic has gotten into the act with medical research.

Like West Nile Virus, the golf "yips" seem to have jumped to track and field. Back in June I was throwing the javelin at a meet. Not far, mind you, and not hard enough to catch the "yips." But next day there was the right groin strain barking at me. A week of ice didn't seem to do the trick. During the high jump and long jump at the Hayward Meet, I could feel that things were somewhat out of whack. An attempted warm-up of the hurdles convinced me that it was time to call it a meet.

Then it was off to Puerto Rico for the WMA meet. As recounted on Masterstrack.com, I screwed up my left calf and the rest of the meet high jumping. So back to Seattle to rehab and in denial about the "yips." I decided its time for the Wednesday Edmonds all-comers meet. But wait, the day before the meet, the left groin comes up sore! Yikes. Nah, can't be the "yips." More ice. More rehab. The following weekend, I'm back on the track. Warming up and not running all that hard. Suddenly a sharp pain on the inside leg just above the knee. Something that has worked without complaint for fifty years has strained. Yikes. More ice. More rehap. Decide to skip the next Wednesday all-comers meet.

At the moment, I've got about five places that are rehabbing from injury. Now when I'm training and I feel something anywhere, I flinch, pull up and evaluate. Did I feel a season-ending injury? Or is it just a sore spot that will go away? Do I want to pull something in practice or at the meet? Going over a hurdle??? Yikes. Afraid to run an event for fear of injuries, I've got the pseudo "yips."

Now that I'm well versed in the pseudo "yips," I can spot the real "yips" a metric mile away:

High Jump. You run up, you plant, you launch. . . .right into the bar. In fact, you're the reason they invented the fiberglass mostly unbreakable bar. Yup, you have the "yips."

Long Jump. You run down the runway, you hit the board and bailout barely managing to make the pit. You seriously consider taking up the standing long jump. Yup, you have the "yips."

Pole Vault. You run down the runway, you plant the pole, you invert. . .and then hang upside over the pit going nowhere but down. You seriously consider giving up the pole vault. Yup, you have the "yips."

Hammer. You flex your muscles. You grasp the implement. You begin your mighty spins. You release the hammer. . .into the back of the cage. Yup, you have the "yips."

Sprints. You get into the starting block. Ready, set. . . false start?? Yup, you have the "yips."

Hurdles. You pound toward the hurdle. Oh, no! Neither your right leg or your left leg is in sync. Suddenly one leg stabs at the hurdle. That means a hurdle is going to go flying. Yup, you have the "yips."

Steeplechase. This is one of the worst places to get the "yips." For the barriers (and they are solid barriers, not hurdles), you can either hurdle or step them. And sometimes the brain chokes and can not make up its mind leading to a dreadful case of you and not the barrier going flying. Or, in what is generally a real crowd pleaser, the water pit awaits. Yup, you have the "yips." Time to call the Mayo Clinic.

Copyright 2003, David E. Ortman

"False Start Index" OR NEXT COLUMN