Every kid interested in sports should get the chance to play baseball at some point during their childhood. The sport has been around for generations, and it is a great way for kids to build long-lasting friendships while having a lot of fun.
If you are coaching a local youth baseball team, then you will likely have help at least one kid deal with their fear of the ball. While a fear of getting hit by the ball can develop at any age, it is far more common in younger players. These are the five best ways to help a young player overcome their fear.
Acknowledge and Affirm the Anxiety
The first thing you need to help a kid overcome their fear of the ball is tell them this is a completely normal problem. They need to know that they are not alone, and that you are not mad or upset at them for being scared. Sit the kid down and tell them that almost everyone that plays baseball has had to deal with this fear before. Y
ou may even want to tell them that there are players in Major League Baseball that have dealt with the same problem before turning into superstars. Once the child knows they are not alone, then they will be prepared to cure their anxiety.
Show How to Safely Avoid Ball at Plate
While everyone playing baseball should know how to avoid getting hit at the plate, it is even more important to teach this skill to kids that are afraid of the ball.
The proper technique is to turn your back and face to the pitcher before dropping to one knee. They will also need to slightly lift their head at the same time to protect their neck. If this technique is performed properly, then the ball should just glance off the body when getting hit. This essentially eliminates most of the pain when getting hit by a pitch.
Once the young player knows that they will not get hurt at the plate, their fear of the ball should start to go away.
Teach Proper Fielding Technique
While the fear of the ball is more prevalent when batting, it is entirely possible for a young player to be scared of fielding too. This fear will cause them to turn their head every time they try to field a ground ball.
The best way to eliminate this fear is to teach the kid the correct fielding technique. They need to get behind the ball and set their feet before lowering their glove to the ground.
This will prevent errors and protect the body from bad hops. If the ball does take a bad hop, it will only hit the fielder in the chest. Perfecting this technique should help the kid feel safe in the field.
Practice with Tennis Balls
Once you have taught the kid how to stay safe at the plate and in the field, it is time to test those skills using tennis balls. This will allow the kid to hone their technique without having to worry about getting hurt by the ball.
Pitch batting practice to them with tennis balls, but make sure to mix in a few wild pitches too. The same thing should be done to help their skills in the field. You do not want to transition to baseballs until the young player starts to overcome their fear.
Regularly Go to the Batting Cages
Baseball is a game of muscle memory, and their is no better way to build it than by regularly going to the batting cages. Every pitch will be over the plate, so the young player will be able to work on their batting skills without having to worry about getting hit.
Developing a solid swing in the batting cage will give the kid the confidence they need to succeed in a real game. Once they have confidence at the plate, they will only worry about getting base hits. The thought of getting hurt by the ball will never come into their head.
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Photo: Sheribeari / CC 2.0