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Great practice hitter--bad game hitter

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  • Great practice hitter--bad game hitter

    My son is 10 and has always been a great hitter.....at practice. Get him in a game and he freezes up and everything changes. You can actually see the nervousness in his face. I know the ability to hit is there, but the mental aspect of his game is causing him to suffer.

    I have tried a lot of things, even doing nothing, but he still can not perform in games.

    Any ideas.

  • #2
    Is he afraid of the ball? I used to be, but overcame it. Also, is he making a lot of contact or just holding the bat on his shoulder waiting for a walk?

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    • #3
      I used to go through the same thing. Just a tip, before he goes up to bat tell him to squeeze his bat as hard as he can, it relieves tension. That's what I do and it works everytime!
      Rest in Peace Jose Fernandez (1992-2016)

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      • #4
        Originally posted by JTODAD View Post
        My son is 10 and has always been a great hitter.....at practice. Get him in a game and he freezes up and everything changes. You can actually see the nervousness in his face. I know the ability to hit is there, but the mental aspect of his game is causing him to suffer.

        I have tried a lot of things, even doing nothing, but he still can not perform in games.

        Any ideas.
        Yes.

        Believe in him until he believes in himself.
        Translation from practice to games will happen.
        Measure good "at bats" (temporarily) not by whether he gets a hit.
        * Did he swing at a good pitch
        * Did he battle with 2 strikes
        * Did he draw a walk
        * Did he hit one hard that was caught or a good play was made
        (just as examples---remember he is 10--)

        I describe an upward spiral to some parents that goes like this;

        Johnny will have a good hit.
        His confidence will go up.
        He will swing better.
        He will have another good hit.
        Confidence goes up more.
        Swings even better.
        A nice upward spiral.

        This is simple, I know,,but since he is hitting well in practice it will translate.

        If you play golf---many times you can "hit it like a pro" on the range and the instant you get to the first tee---- things change.

        Maybe think of it like this; in practice you "mis hit" one --
        you get another pitch.
        In a game--mis hit one--- you go take a seat.

        So, you could do this
        one last thing suggestion;
        When I have two kids hitting in the same time slot and we move from our drills to live arm---I try to hold fast to "you get 5 cuts"...because in any one at bat you won't get many more than 5 cuts, if that,--- including some foul balls.

        This generally (not always) will translate to them not only swinging at better
        pitches but sort of takes them out of the mentality that they "get another chance." (better focus)

        I think many here have gone thru the same thing you're talking about.
        Last edited by LClifton; 05-01-2008, 03:32 PM.

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        • #5
          It could be he is worrying too much about winning or doing well instead of having fun at that level. He might feel alot of pressure causing the nervousness. Also sometimes flaws that are not always obvious in practice begin to get exposed in game situations where people are trying to get you out as opposed to help you practice.
          “If there was ever a man born to be a hitter it was me.” - Ted Williams
          "Didn't come up here to read. Came up here to hit." - Hank Aaron

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          • #6
            Thanks guys. He is a great ball player but has always been nervous. I believe he is thinking to much. He is having good at bats. Last night may have been just a bad night. It was cold. He had 3 K's, two looking on 3-2 counts. However, he did foul off at least two pitches on each 3-2 count. He is in major leagues, so he is playing with 12 year olds.

            I just want him to believe in himself, as I believe in him.

            I have been coaching for 15 years and know that it is supposed to be fun.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Francoeurstein View Post
              I used to go through the same thing. Just a tip, before he goes up to bat tell him to squeeze his bat as hard as he can, it relieves tension. That's what I do and it works everytime!
              By the way, Jeff Francoeur is his favorite player. His jersey number for little league is 7.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by JTODAD View Post
                My son is 10 and has always been a great hitter.....at practice. Get him in a game and he freezes up and everything changes. You can actually see the nervousness in his face. I know the ability to hit is there, but the mental aspect of his game is causing him to suffer.

                I have tried a lot of things, even doing nothing, but he still can not perform in games.

                Any ideas.
                What I would do is if in the game you face live pitching then do some live pitching in practice and let him get the feel for it.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thats a tough one. Because it may have layers.

                  Hitting against 12 year olds can be terrifying.

                  I would continue to reassure him that "it doesn't matter", as long as he tries to make good contact. remind him with a smile that one day he will be that big and someone like him will have to bat against him.

                  Turn half of your BP into game situation at bats and tell him that you are now trying to get him out. So you change speeds, throw balls in the dirt, over his head, anything that resembles what he sees in a game.

                  But turn it into a game, runners on, 2 outs, only swing at good pitches. Play 1-3 innings of this. Make sure you are throwing from the same height as the kids.

                  Hope that heps.

                  -scott
                  "There are no miracles in sports. Miracles have been rehearsed hundreds of times in practice." - Scott Waz

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Sounds he has some control of the strike zone, but I had an issue when I started playing organized ball...the coach would lay the ball in the zone during practice and I would hit it at least as well as anybody on the team, but I would swing at anything during the game and K. I also pitched, and it was very easy for me to throw strikes...I spent hundreds of hours throwing to a pitchback net and developed very good control for my age. I couldn't understand at first that most of the other pitchers were throwing lots of balls, and would swing at anything because I thought they were all strikes. It took me a while to notice that all my teammates were drawing walks (which gave them a swing off the T at that time) and that I was swinging at almost all bad pitches.
                    Also, do you have parents yelling at your son while he's hitting? Do you have any dummies or hotheads who say things that are making him nervous and uptight? My coach that year was a maniac and would always yell at me about having a "bad" pitching motion (I just took a small step and fired the ball in there sidearm, nothing fancy), plus I'd have 5 different parents in my face every time I left the mound telling me different things. Two would say I was great because I struck out the side, one would say that I shouldn't feel bad about giving up two runs because my teammates made 5 errors, and two would say that things would have been OK if I hadn't hit that one guy (I would lose my release point once or twice a game and usually hit the batter in the butt). Then, they would all give me "tips" about mechanics at the same time. Finally, the coach would make me watch what a great motion the opposing pitcher had as he walked 7 straight hitters.
                    Remind him that Willie Mays started his ML career something like 0-20, and always be smiling and positive if you get a chance to encourage him before his at bats. If he can tell you're uptight about him finding his groove, he will be, too.
                    "I throw him four wide ones, then try to pick him off first base." - Preacher Roe on pitching to Musial

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                    • #11
                      Try doing "at bats" in practice or when he and you are by yourself. Start with an 0-0 count and go from there. Do a few buckets that way.

                      When my son and I, and now my daughter, are working on hitting as we get closer to the season we do at bats. Different level of pressure on them even in practice. Eventually they get used to it.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        This really just sounds like a "mental approach" thing that most young players have to figure out.

                        During batting practice the hitter knows he's swinging at the next pitch and knows it will be around the plate. The hitter starts his pre-swing movement before the ball is out of the pitcher's hand, yet he's still able to abort the swing on a pitch out of the zone. This is exactly the approach that needs to be used in a live situation.

                        What usually happens with players who haven't "figured it out" yet is they get into a real game and try to start what should be the pre-swing movement AFTER they see the pitch. They get blown away by the fastball because they start too late. A lack of confidence develops usually accompanied by weak hands-only swings and taking pitches right down the pipe (deciding not to swing before the pitch).

                        The thinking is "if it is a good pitch, then I'll swing". The thinking must be "it will be a good pitch and I will be swinging".

                        Some players get it quickly, others take a while to have that "Aha!" moment. When they do figure it out, the swings get better and the fastballs don't seem so fast anymore.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I think we sometimes forget that age brings mental maturity in addition to physical maturity. Sounds like your son is somewhat advanced in his physical ability. But from a mental perspective, a 10YO being intimidated or nervous against 12YO pitching is, well, normal. Might he be better off (read: happier and more successful) playing with boys who are closer to his age? Just a thought. Playing two grades up at that age is difficult. Some can do it. But his struggles at the plate would indicate that perhaps it is too much of a stretch for him at this point in his development.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            JTODAD, you've hit upon one of the great mysteries of youth baseball, and, if there were a simple answer, the discoverer thereof could make millions. At the heart of the problem is a condundrum -- nothing succeeds like success ... but how do you get a kid the initial success? With Ursa Minor, who couldn't hit for squat in his first year of 9-10 y/o ball (heck, he wouldn't even swing), the answer came one day when an opponent ran out of pitchers and put in a kid who could only shot put the ball to the plate. With all that time, UM could bail out, return, and still get a good swing in, and cracked a hit down the third base line. After that, he was okay.

                            Short of that, you want the kid to have success in practice and drills. As others have noted, modify those situations so that they get closer and closer to game situations, so that coming to bat won't seem so different f5rom those situations he's faced -- and excelled in -- before.

                            Obviously, you want the kid to develop good basic situations in practice and drills. Hopefully, when he does break down somewhat in game situations, it will be only one significant flaw that does him in, so you can have him concentrate on overcoming that one flaw as he prepares for subsequent at-bats.

                            Otherwise, in game situations be positive and be simple. For example, I was watching an 11-12 y/o game that UMinor was umpiring Monday. A weak team with a notoriously high strung manager somehow had managed to take the first place team into extra innings, and had runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the first extra inning. A nervous but good sized young hitter came up, needing only to put the ball in play to plate the winning run. As the kid came up, the manager ran up to him and gave him a series of no fewer than eight instructions -- something like, "Be aggressive but don't swing at anything bad, and keep your hands back and step to the pitcher and watch out for his changeup and don't move your head." Something like that. The kid worked the count to 3 and 0, and the first base coach yelled, "Don't swing at this pitch no matter where it is." Sure enough, it was a low strike and the kid swung and missed. Rather than let it go, the manager ran down the line from the third base coach's box and screamed at the kid, "What did he just tell you?" The kid shrugged, waiting for the end of the lecture. Of course, the kid froze up and watched the next two perfect strikes go down the middle, and struck out. The next batter made out, and the other team went on to score five runs in the top of the next inning to win the game. The coach proved he was "right" in catching the kid in a mistake, and lost the game (and likely the kid's confidence) from there on out.
                            sigpicIt's not whether you fall -- everyone does -- but how you come out of the fall that counts.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by skipper5
                              Hellborn,

                              that's a great post. I grew up playing sand-lot. Somehow we hit, threw, and caught the ball without a flock of advisers micro-managing us.

                              simi, what you are talking about is my no. 1 coaching point to non-elite hitters. Many need to be reminded before every at-bat. By doing this, I become a micro-manager. Baseball is ironic.
                              I had a buddy two blocks over with an empty lot next to his house...that was great fun. My pal was such a baseball nut that he would keep complete stats on everybody who played...when we showed up for a game, he would tell everybody their updated BA and slugging %.
                              Despite the chaos of my Little League, I enjoyed it a lot, and was pretty upset when I had to "retire". My family situation was really in the crapper then (unemployed alcoholic dad, mom working 3 jobs to keep us afloat), and me playing baseball put a lot of stress on an already desperate situation. Maybe if my coach hadn't been so overbearing, I would have fought harder to keep playing, but I just accepted the inevitable without much complaint. The only time my coach said anything nice to me was when he stopped by to pick up my uniform and said he looked forward to coaching me again the next season...when I told him I wouldn't be playing, he was flabbergasted. How could I quit after making the All Star team, being his only good pitcher, etc?
                              That's when the back lot games came in and let me compete and get out of the crazy house for a while without stressing everybody out.
                              "I throw him four wide ones, then try to pick him off first base." - Preacher Roe on pitching to Musial

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