How to Improve a Young Hitter's Courage

One of the biggest obstacles young hitters face isn't just hitting the ball, it's also learning to not be afraid of the ball. Here are two drills parents and coaches can use to make sluggers comfortable, safe and fearless at the plate.

Being Timid Doesn't Make You Safe

The timid batter always seems to assume that backing out or stepping out toward third base will automatically prevent him from being hit by the pitch. You might notice that he starts his getaway before he has any notion of where the pitch is really headed.

I have had some success against this tendency by throwing behind the timid batter's back. After all, he will get plenty of these pitches at the little league level, and you don't want him backing into them, getting hurt, and becoming even more afraid.

Tennis Balls

If the habit is deeply ingrained, you might want to start out with tennis balls. You can also start by throwing a lot of pitches behind him, and then gradually decrease the frequency of these pitches as he starts to break the habit.

Soon he will realize that he had better not back up until he sees where the ball is really going. This will make him much safer at the plate, which will appeal to the timid batter right away.

And while he's watching the ball more closely, he's going to realize that he doesn't have to hide from the good pitches, but can stay put and hit them instead. I have seen it work many times.

Fancy Footwork

Another simple drill I use with these hitters is to have them stand-in at the plate and take short practice steps in the proper direction (toward the pitcher), over and over again. If he's very timid, tell him to think about stepping toward the second baseman (or the shortstop, for lefties).

In his fear, he will adjust his step back to the middle, which is where you wanted it in the first place. After 15 or 20 reps, we resume pitching to him.

Admittedly, this won't work miracles in the worst cases, but sometimes it's enough of a push to get a player hitting.

Back to Basics

Sometimes you're using a drill for a pitcher and a catcher, and you just need a batter to stand in without swinging (maybe you're getting a new pitcher gradually used to the idea of pitching to a batter, or getting a new catcher used to the idea of having that bat swinging around in his peripheral vision).

At these times, choose one of your more timid kids to stand in, and have him concentrate on watching the pitch closely all the way. This gives him a chance to practice this without the pressure of trying to hit the ball.

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