It can be especially intimidating for a young player to bat against an inexperienced pitcher knowing that if they get hit by the baseball, it will hurt. And this is just one fear. There is also the fear of failure, which is common in sports, especially for something as difficult as hitting a round ball with a round bat, squarely. Even the best hitters in baseball fail seven out of ten times.
It is no surprise that young ballplayers are nervous when batting in a baseball game (it may help lessen the fear a little if they’re distracted over their excitement about getting a new baseball bat). It can be a very frustrating time for the parents also to see their child bat, when the child is too nervous to swing the bat.
Following are some helpful tips that will help these nervous players overcome their fears and, at the same time, help parents and coaches deal with kids who are too nervous to perform well.
How to Help Young Players Get Over the Fear of Getting Hit
1. Instruct players how to correctly get out of the way of a ball coming at them. The correct technique will ensure the player avoids being hit by the ball or gets hit by the ball in an area of the body where a serious injury should not occur. Check with a hitting coach on the correct way, if unsure.
2. Explain to them that the pain (when hit by ball) will go away after a minute or two and that you know they are tough enough to overcome it. (If this doesn’t work, cry with them and that may take there focus off their pain.) Just kidding, but may be worth a try.
3. Also explain that being struck by the ball is part of the game and good players will shake it off and “get them the next time.” Coaches may have to be good salesmen at times.
4. Using a softer ball for batting practice can be helpful before moving up to a hard ball. Less fear of being hurt by the ball can give player confidence.
5. Encourage good at-bats and good swings as opposed to only hits.
6. Encourage players to remember their good at-bats and forget about the bad ones.
7. Coaches and parents should be patient with players who are very nervous and give them time to deal with their fears. Yelling and getting frustrated with with the player will usually make the situation worse.
8. Trying to keep players “in the moment” is a goal of the coach. Having players focus on where the ball is and not where the ball might go is important. Of course, this is easier said than done after a player has been hit a few times by a pitched ball. A good technique in batting practice is to ask the batter where he expects the next ball to be pitched? The batter’s response should be “right down the middle.”
9. Explain players that nervousness is common and necessary to being a good player, but they can concentrate through their nerves to perform.
10. Tell the players how good they will feel when they do overcome their nerves and play up to their capabilities.
11. If all else fails, parents may want to miss a game and see if the player performs better. Parental pressure, real or imagined, is a strong source of fear-of-failure.
12. Finally, grilling a player immediately after a game as to what they did and didn’t do in the game is usually counter-productive for erasing pressure and game nervousness. Parents might want to keep the talk after games about the team effort and only talk about their own performance when the player brings it up. Saving useful advice for a later time, like after dinner, is good.