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Thread: Fear of the Ball!

  1. #1
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    Fear of the Ball!

    Perhaps this is a thread somewhere from way back, so I'm sure you will excuse me. Other than throwing with my son as much as humanly possible, is there anything I can do to alleviate his fear of the ball? I must admit some degree of frustration when I toss him the ball (I don't "gun it"), because he is ready to run rightward, so as to catch the ball on the glove side, away from his body. I therefore sometimes deliberatly throw the ball to his throwing shoulder, making this maneuver very difficult for him, and forcing him to at least get his glove up to protect himself. When I do this he usually, although he is improving, will turn his head, throw his glove up in a defensive manner, and stiffen. Occasionally he will catch the ball like this, but I can't seem to get him to relax. Any Suggestions?

    Thanks,

    Tom

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by tominct
    Perhaps this is a thread somewhere from way back, so I'm sure you will excuse me. Other than throwing with my son as much as humanly possible, is there anything I can do to alleviate his fear of the ball? I must admit some degree of frustration when I toss him the ball (I don't "gun it"), because he is ready to run rightward, so as to catch the ball on the glove side, away from his body. I therefore sometimes deliberatly throw the ball to his throwing shoulder, making this maneuver very difficult for him, and forcing him to at least get his glove up to protect himself. When I do this he usually, although he is improving, will turn his head, throw his glove up in a defensive manner, and stiffen. Occasionally he will catch the ball like this, but I can't seem to get him to relax. Any Suggestions?

    Thanks,

    Tom
    This is a tough one. I have had some success with a couple different ideas. One, use T balls or tennis balls so that he becomes desensitized enough that he's at least not flinching away from the ball. Once he starts using the right moves its easier to transfer to regular balls.

    Two, get real close to him, may 3-4 ft away, and gently toss the ball to him in all kinds of locations, particularly the ones he has difficulty with. Then work on him holding the glove steady in front of the ball. Many kids who fear the ball will tend to swat out at it. Once they internalize holding the glove in one place is the best way to catch it, it'll become easier.

    Good luck.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by bbjunkie
    One, use T balls or tennis balls so that he becomes desensitized enough that he's at least not flinching away from the ball. Once he starts using the right moves its easier to transfer to regular balls.
    Good luck.
    Agree with the above, you can also get Incredaballs, They're made for indoor practices. If you can't find on the net let me know.

    Anoter suggestion is whiffle balls...

  4. #4
    Something else you could do is convince him that proper technique will equal him not getting hit with the ball as much, although everyone went through this fear in all contact sports at one time or another.

  5. #5
    I assume your son is fairly young, maybe a T-baller? Just learning the game? I suggest a kind of "baptism by fire" let him get hit a few times, just don't throw hard. We learn through our mistakes. He might cry, but he'll learn that it doesn't hurt that much. If he was older I would suggest getting him a cup. When I finally got a cup, nothing could scare me .
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  6. #6
    Some kind of Incrediball or SoftStrike ball (available in almost every chain sporting good store) is a good start. The problem is that they're sometimes so light and bouncy that they come right out of the glove.

    The problem's a rite of passage for almost every young player -- first catching everything glove side, then trying to backhand everything (even balls thrown at ankle level), and then finally "getting it". One approach might be to design a game where he gets points for each proper catch. Say, five points for catching the ball between his shoulders with the glove in proper "fingers up" position, four points for catching it with either of these approaches, and three points for catching it at all. You can measure progress by seeing how many throws it takes to get to a hundred points.

  7. #7
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    My pop when I was learning the game would make me stand, put my hands behind my back, and under hand a softball at my stomach or legs.

    It never really hurt at all so I knew that the ball wasn't scary.
    "I feel like I'm the luckiest man on the face of the planet, I might have had a bad break or two but I have an awful lot to live for, thank you."
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by YankeesCatcher
    My pop when I was learning the game would make me stand, put my hands behind my back, and under hand a softball at my stomach or legs.
    Sounds like the "Happy Gilmore" approach, lol.

    This is a tough question.

    This is about trust and fear. He needs to realize that there's nothing to fear if he trusts himself. The more you play catch with him, the more comfortable he'll get, progressing at his own speed/comfort level.

    One thing you could do, is kinda like what YankeeCatcher mentioned. Stand very close to him with a real baseball, but have him take his mitt off. Get a coulple feet apart. Just toss the ball back and forth to eachother underhand; you could even tie his throwing hand behind his back. May not seem like much, but psychologically his comfort level will increase as the distance increases, and the more he sees the ball coming at him. In time, he will come to trust his barehand, and then wearing the glove will be no sweat.
    "Everyone left here, but I remain at my post, documenting my sports writers and photos. I don't do Ty Cobb anymore. I did for him everything I could do. Work will live on. Personalities will fade.

    Fever members come and go. Not relevant. Your documentations will live FOREVER, my brother. That outweighs all the Fever jack-asses. Ignore what you must, document all you can."
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  9. #9
    Sultan said: This is about trust and fear. He needs to realize that there's nothing to fear if he trusts himself. The more you play catch with him, the more comfortable he'll get, progressing at his own speed/comfort level.
    I think there are parallels to toilet training here. While a certain amount of practice can speed up the process a little, for many kids it's just a matter of the mind/body link being ready for it. And, if you rush it too hard, you'll put the kid off the game and get his mother convinced you're some kind of obsessive Dad living through his kids' sporting achievment. Once he's ready, he'll keep you out on the field hitting him flies for hours.

    While you're at it, as the throws get longer, you might want to encourage the kid to keep his feet moving to get centered in front of the ball. One thing that drives me nuts is seeing kids -- who aren't schooled to catch the ball with two hands the way we were -- just planting themselves in the general flight path of the ball and snagging it with their 12" monster gloves. (Our league has a windy outfield, so those stonefooted kids regularly have easy flies bounce off the ends of their gloves because they don't adjust with their feet to the sideways movement of the ball in flight.)

  10. #10
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    Fear when hitting

    Guys, I need help!

    I am trying to help my son becoming a fairly solid player. He loves the game, or at least seems to, and a friend of mine has told me that my guy has made the most dramatic improvement of anyone he has seen from last year to this, particualrly during this winter's indoor hitting league. I guess that's good news, but in reality my son is struggling and last night, the last night of the hitting league season, he had one of his worst nights in a while, and he was really down. He's only 8 (just turned) and I don't want him to lose his enthusiasm. None of his teammates showed up (4 on a team, he was alone), so that didn't help, but there's more to it. I watched closely as he swung. I don't not video tape it because I didn't want to pressure him at all, or make him feel pressured. We have gone to the indoor facility each Sat. for a month now, but only hiting off the tee, front soft toss and some throwing. Those days he hits very well. Pulls many balls, hits most on the nose, generally pretty good. Again, I have not yet videotaped him in this environment, but will soon. We both thought he would have a good night off the machine, but he did not. His warmup at bat wasn't bad, but the third pitch in his first "real" at bat came sailing in on him and he had to scoot out of the way. He hit only four balls the rest of the night. As I watched closely I noticed that he was blinking as he swung. He was missing many badly, and the ones he did hit, well, he takes his top hand off too soon and the bat actually flys backward on contact, resulting in little dribblers at best.

    He admits to being afraid of the ball, and I have informed him that he's got to get over that, because he is going to get hit at some point, and if he is thinking about it, it will make hitting the ball that much harder, and its pretty darn hard as it is! I have also told him that hittig off a wheeled machine is particualrly unnatural(and he often swings VERY late) and I am more interested in our workouts together, but he is down and I don't know how to help him. He seems SO much more tentative than the other kids. He hits NO balls with any authority, his hands are weak, and his bat slow. He is not tiny, but he is a little small for his age for what that is worth.

    In addtion, I will concede, that while I am not a NIGHTMARE father, truly I am not, I do get frustrated with both my inability to make him more confident (so far) and his tentativeness. I have not always been the model of fatherly understanding on these matters, but at least I am conscience of that.

    Anway, I am considering bringing him back there and putting him in the cage with the machine (which does not scare him in and of itself) and begin by having him watch the abll all the way to the net, and then to simply have him bunt the ball until he can do it consistently without fear. I am sure that the first few times he makes contact he may lose the bat completely, but this will make him grip the bat more firmly and force him to be stronger (in an exertion-stability sense, not sheer muscle-strength sense). Of course if he continues to blink he will not make any contact. My hope is that he will make this correction and then seeing the ball to the bat will become more natural for him.

    Thoughts?

  11. #11
    Tom, we know you're not a nightmare Dad. But, you gotta realize that, at age 8, kids are going to have good days and days where their heads are not into it at all -- especially if he's been spooked. (They aren't using real hard balls, are they?)

    After your post, I looked at my son's first BP at age 8 and a half, with two years of ball behind him (one coach pitch, one kid pitch) and cringed at what he looked like then. In his first season of kid-pitched ball, he hit one fair ball all season, and was half way into his second, nine year season before he got his first hit. He's eleven now and hitting just fine.

    I'd back off a few days and let him hit wiffles with an overwide plastic wiffle bat just to get his swing and confidence back. As the youth psychologists say, if you continue to bring up the issue, you "invest the kid" in it, and make him worry more about the "problem" than he otherwise would. If the hands are coming off too soon, you might try to get his posture tilt back and work on rotating his hips-- it's harder to throw the bat out of the top hand that way.

    When he gets back before the machine, he may well forget his fear. Kids' memory is short and time isn't as compressed as with us. Give him time.

    One other thing: I've told kids is that, "Hey, there isn't anyone in the world with better dodging reflexes than a boy who's [8/9/10/11/whatver]; you'll get out of the way if you're relaxed enough." Or, you might try "bomber drills" -- throwing wiffles or tennis balls at him in his stance and let him practice dodging -- to convince him of this.

  12. #12
    Best thing you can do is relax. Be patient and help him realize that the goal is to enjoy himself. My older son has struggled through the middle of each season (usually starts with his first HBP) and slowly works his way out of it by all-stars. I have worked hard NOT to let him know I was teaching him a proper swing, but trying to get him relaxed as he approached the batter's box.
    As his comfort level grows, his swing is improving, and his confidence is growing. I found that sometimes, the best thing to do is forget about the results of the at bat, almost distract their attention from it and let their body take over. After a solid 2-3, he would calm down and get back to basics.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by tominct
    He admits to being afraid of the ball, and I have informed him that he's got to get over that...
    Thoughts?
    Hi Tom,
    This won't work with an eight year old.. If he's afraid he's afraid - telling him not to be won't help. My suggestion is along the same lines as Ursa. Do something to make hitting fun for him. Starting with wiffle balls and oversized plastic bat would be a good start. Maybe small bean bags etc... What you are going through is normal. I went through it with my two boys.

  14. #14
    Good point, Jake. While I don't know Tom's son, my experience has been that -- if you tell a kid he shouldn't be afraid -- you give him an extra dose of angst, because he feels guilty about being fearful about something he's been told he shouldn't.

    Frankly, I think the solution here -- beyond the mere passage of time -- has to be all carrot and no stick. He'll hang in when he hits well enough to enjoy the smack of the ball so much it overrides his fears. Sounds like a conundum, eh? How to hit well when he has fears? Put him in no-stress situations -- tees, soft toss, etc. and using soft balls.

    Tom, part of my advice here comes from a sense that I have no rational basis for believing but have picked up from your past posts. I have a sense that you're enough of an athlete and a good enough communicator that it's all going to come together for your son sooner rather than later. Let's touch base on June 1, 2008, and I'll put money on the fact that your son at that point will be one of the top three players on his team. Hold that in your mind, and his hitting today will seem less worrisome.

  15. #15
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    Tom,

    You could just let your son throw baseballs at you over and over. So he could see that it doesn't really hurt
    "Everyone left here, but I remain at my post, documenting my sports writers and photos. I don't do Ty Cobb anymore. I did for him everything I could do. Work will live on. Personalities will fade.

    Fever members come and go. Not relevant. Your documentations will live FOREVER, my brother. That outweighs all the Fever jack-asses. Ignore what you must, document all you can."
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ursa Major
    Good point, Jake. While I don't know Tom's son, my experience has been that -- if you tell a kid he shouldn't be afraid -- you give him an extra dose of angst, because he feels guilty about being fearful about something he's been told he shouldn't.

    Frankly, I think the solution here -- beyond the mere passage of time -- has to be all carrot and no stick. He'll hang in when he hits well enough to enjoy the smack of the ball so much it overrides his fears. Sounds like a conundum, eh? How to hit well when he has fears? Put him in no-stress situations -- tees, soft toss, etc. and using soft balls.

    Tom, part of my advice here comes from a sense that I have no rational basis for believing but have picked up from your past posts. I have a sense that you're enough of an athlete and a good enough communicator that it's all going to come together for your son sooner rather than later. Let's touch base on June 1, 2008, and I'll put money on the fact that your son at that point will be one of the top three players on his team. Hold that in your mind, and his hitting today will seem less worrisome.
    It is sometimes hard to see the forest through the trees. I will remember the carrot NO stick approach. Thanks for all the advice.

    Tom

  17. #17
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    How about everytime he flinches you sock him, kinda like a pavlovs dog thing right?
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