Posted by: Jack Henry | August 10, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Yips and twisties

Hello out there! I hope your summer is going well so far. I am relieved that I finally got to see my family in the Northwest and enjoyed a week of talking, hiking, and having adventures at Mt. St. Helens, Deception Pass, Nisqually Delta, and several other beautiful places near the Emerald City.

Outside of picnics, visiting with friends, and watching butterflies hover over flowers, another thing that’s been keeping folks busy is watching the Olympics. I always try to catch some swimming and gymnastic events, and this year I’ve been following some of the news about the mental health of several athletes. In particular, Simone Biles a U.S. gymnast who had issues with the twisties. Twizzlers? Who has problems with Twizzlers? They’re delicious!

But twisties are something completely different. And apparently, they are related to something else called yips. Let’s see what yips and twisties are.

From Wikipedia:

In sports, the yips (in gymnastics, the twisties) are a sudden and unexplained loss of skills in experienced athletes. Symptoms of the yips are losing fine motor skills and psychological issues that impact on the muscle memory and decision-making of athletes, leaving them unable to perform basic skills of their sport….

Originally coined by golfer Tommy Armour to describe a sudden and inexplicable loss of the ability to putt correctly, the term has later been broadened to apply to any unexplained loss of skill, and has been applied to athletes in a wide variety of sports.

Merriam-Webster offers a little more on the topic:

In gymnastics they call them “the twisties” — when the brain and body conspire to self-sabotage. Precise moves honed over years, to be as automatic as driving a car, suddenly become a torture and a danger even for a sporting phenomenon such as Simone Biles. In golf, the putting “yips” can feel debilitating, but no one gets hurt.— Matt Dickinson, The Times (London, Eng.), 28 Jul. 2021

None of that sounds very fun. Actually, watching the gymnasts always makes me wonder, “What made these kids and their parents think jumping on a trampoline and doing backflips was a good idea?” I think I’ll stick with swimming.

Cheers to this year’s Olympic athletes! They are the best of the best, except maybe when it comes to Olive and Mabel.

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

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