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Player terrified of hitting - any suggestions?

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  • Player terrified of hitting - any suggestions?

    Hi all,

    I have a 9 y/o that is a descent player on the field, but when it comes time to bat, he is absolutely terrified. I am not sure how this started but it is clearly a problem. His swing is fine and can hit soft toss or off a tee just fine, but with live pitching (even slow pitch from the coach) he just bails out every pitch.

    I have worked with him on stepping in the bucket and he has gotten better. One idea we use is that we draw a line behind his feet and he has to make sure he does not step over it. This has worked to some degree.

    We had our first game last Friday and while standing on the third base line I could see just how scared he really was. His knees were actually buckling and his whole body was shaking. The pitcher just threw down the plate and got him out without swinging. My other coaches and parents, watching from the other end, told me that after every pitch he was breathing a huge sigh after every pitch, like his life just flashed in front of him each time.

    I had a kid last year that was a descent hitter and was hit by a pitch once and got scared for a while. I had him bunt until he was comfortable again and all was good once more. But this new player is in a league of his own when it comes to being scared. It's really troubling me as it almost looks like some sort of phobia towards pitched balls (not kidding).

    Any suggestions to help him? I'd really like to get his confidence up, even if he doesn't hit a ball this season, I want to see him stay in there and try.

  • #2
    from the sound of it it is all in the head. he is scared of getting hit. bunting would terrify him more because of the way he would veiw the ball coming in. i am no doctor by any means.

    u probably need to just sit down with him and talk with him and his parents. explain to him that his bat is his defense and the ball is his worst enemy or the thing he would just like to hit to keep it away from him. also explain to him even if he does get hit it will only sting for a min or so. (dont use the word hurt)

    i have seen a few of these kids in my time when i helped coach during my son's LL time. one thing we would tell them is and as long as he can catch a ball when it is thrown to him. to just think he is catching the ball with his bat. we would get a L screen and about 15 ft away and throw to them softly once they would swing and just get the bat on the ball about 10-15 time and would feel comfortable. we would back up a few more ft and increasing the throw slowly. its all a matter of confidence and to get his fear out of the way and not fear the ball. once we got them hitting from a coach we would turn it to a older kid and explain to him its no different. repeat the same thing as u did with the coach throwing.

    i hope this helps but remember u will need to sit down with this child and his parents and talk to them and explain thins out

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    • #3
      I had the same problem when I was around that age. My coach used to bring me to the diamond on days there was no training. He would just pitch the ball to me, no pressure. After a month or so, I was hitting decently. Then he got his sons and nephews to field, and my family, and the remaining of his family to sit in the stands and shout and criticize. After about a week, I was htting very well, and even now, I realize the way to hit better is not to be scared, or think about anything. It taught me that you need to blank out all the distractions, and to focus on one thing... hitting the ball.
      MySpace Codes

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      • #4
        Originally posted by jbolt_2000 View Post
        I have a 9 y/o that is a descent player on the field, but when it comes time to bat, he is absolutely terrified. I am not sure how this started but it is clearly a problem. His swing is fine and can hit soft toss or off a tee just fine, but with live pitching (even slow pitch from the coach) he just bails out every pitch.
        I've been in EXACTLY the same position and here's what worked.

        1. Teach him how to tell if a pitch is going to hit him or not so he doesn't always bail out. Throw foam balls at him so he learns when to get out of the way and when not to.

        2. Try distracting him. Have him focus on getting his setup and load right so he doesn't have as much time to think and worry.
        Hitting Coordinator for Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis.

        I also work with the pitchers who are dealing with injury problems.

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        • #5
          jbolt,
          A very real situation, especially if the kid has been plunked a couple of times.

          Recently while working with a young man that just turned 10 he was doing the same thing. While throwing BP,, the COACH,,, had plunked him twice.
          Needless to say he was a little wary in the box.

          The first move was a "lean back" away from the plate (weight moved to the heels) followed by the step in the bucket.

          When he recognized it was a good pitch--- too much posture change and direction of stride had occured (obviously) to hit the ball with any authority.

          Here's what we did to help him.

          I put him on first base and asked him to take a lead off.
          Had him stand straight up and moved him so his weight was on his heels.
          From this position he had to "re-align" himself to be able to steal or to dive back to the base. I asked him if he would ever put himself in that (poor) position when attempting to break one direction or another,,,quickly.
          Of course he wouldn't. So, I asked him to show me what he looks like when he takes his lead off. We duplicated that position at the plate.

          Demonstrating to him how much quicker he could move from an athletic position made sense to him.
          He is now in a better position "to bail out" if he needs to--not to mention a much better position to hit.

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          • #6
            One thing I've used, both with catchers and hitters, is tennis balls. Once they learn that getting thumped stings a bit but doesn't really hurt flinching and bailing go away. Fear is a natural instinct that tells us not to do something, so in a sense it is in the mind. Teach them that courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to keep going in spite of it. Fear is normal, how we respond to it is a choice, and some are better suited to coping than others. There is a tremendous opportunity here to teach lessons about life and hopefully that's the real point of what you're doing.
            www.rpmpitching.com

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Coach45 View Post
              One thing I've used, both with catchers and hitters, is tennis balls. Once they learn that getting thumped stings a bit but doesn't really hurt flinching and bailing go away. Fear is a natural instinct that tells us not to do something, so in a sense it is in the mind. Teach them that courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to keep going in spite of it. Fear is normal, how we respond to it is a choice, and some are better suited to coping than others. There is a tremendous opportunity here to teach lessons about life and hopefully that's the real point of what you're doing.
              Coach45 beat me to it. Tennis balls mixed up with baseballs. Start by alternating them. Compliment the hits versus tennis balls but really make a point of praise when he drives a baseball. Then, rotate more baseballs into the mix and then, when you think the time is right, apologize for giving him a whole bucket of baseballs. If the kids has progressed right and if the praise is right, he will point out that he doesn't need the tennis balls anymore. This si what we used to do in the very first job I ever had. (Other than a newspaper boy) I worked in what was then called "The Clinic." It was a clinic where coaches signed up boys that needed extra work during the work day. Wow, what a great job. I've been blessed for a long time by this great game.

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              • #8
                You could try a pitching machine for a short while. Feed some balls with him standing just OUTside the box. Let him put himself in the box while seeing that the pitches are going down the middle. Do this without a bat at first and tell him to watch the pitches all the way to the backstop. This will get him used to being in the box and he'll show a little confidence. You might do this a few times, then change to a coach pitching again. You'll have to prove to him again that the pitches are going down the middle. Hopefully, he'll feel better each time he gets in there.

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                • #9
                  Thanks everyone. I got some good ideas here. We have practice tonight, and I am going to put alot of focus on him during BP tonight.

                  We'll see how it goes.

                  I welcome any other ideas as well!!!

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                  • #10
                    I agree with both coaches above.

                    I once had a kid that would just swing 3 times while bailing out just to get it over with. I started him with tennis balls in the cage then moved on to soft baseballs. While using the tennis balls, he learned the strike zone. Then I taught him how to get out of the way of a pitch...even hitting him a few time. To cure the bail out, I used a little bit of a drastic step. Using soft baseballs, I had one coach pitch him strikes and I threw another behind him.(not hard) If he bailed he got hit, if he stayed in he got a hit. By the time we moved on to real baseballs he stood in and hit.

                    Having a kid go to bat facing a 9y/o that is wild doesn't help either. They see a couple teammates get plunked and it's back on the heals they go.

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                    • #11
                      Great ideas here, especially the use of softer balls. The one new one to me is Loren's idea of having the kid think of the importance of his baserunning stance in being in the batter's box. (I actually use that equation to convey the importance of good posture, but I hadn't thought of it as a way of convincing kids not to bail.)

                      I sometimes make use of their skills in video games in this way. "Jimmy, who's got the quickest reaction when you're complaing a video game, you or your older/younger brother (or Dad or sister)?" "Uh, me." "That's right -- there's no one in the world who's got faster reaction time than a [8, 9, 10, 11] year old kid. If the ball really is coming at you, you've got plenty of time to get out of the way if you're weight is on your toes. The worst thing to do is to open up early and move your foot away from the plate, because you can't move quickly and if you are hit, it'll be right in the front." "Oh." Once they start talking about their concerns, it's got them on the road to fixing 'em.

                      For kids who are so fearful that they won't swing, it sometimes help to say -- the quickest way to get out of there is to hit the first good pitch. (You DON'T say that to kids who will swing at anything to get out of there.)
                      sigpicIt's not whether you fall -- everyone does -- but how you come out of the fall that counts.

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