Eliminate FEAR in Hitting a Baseball with Youth Players & Chuck Norris
I agree with Ted Williams that hitting a baseball, by far, is one of the hardest things to do in any sport. Couple that with fear of getting hit by a pitched ball and you have yourself a boogeyman to overcome.
Kids may seem fearless growing up, but, unlike Chuck Norris, have unarguable weaknesses, such as a FEAR of:
- The dark,
- The "Thing" hiding under the bed,
- Parent abandonment, and of course
- Getting hit by a thrown/pitched baseball.
Finding out the world has Chuck Norris to battle the Boogeyman can be liberating, yes, but...
Hitting a baseball well depends on how we address the fourth issue above early in life. The earlier we deal with it, the better, so we're going to go over 3 fool-proof ways to make youth adjustments that are a WIN/WIN for everyone.
Don't worry, we're getting off the Chuck Norris kick (pun intended)
If you haven't read the "How To Grow A Super Athlete" pdf, then I'd highly recommend doing so because it has key insights about how to properly train youth, which will help players and coaches alike (caveat: it is 18 pages with pictures, so do it when you can set aside some time, it's well worth it).
The 3 major steps to overcoming fear of the baseball early on, are:
- Start SLOW,
- Go Soft, and
- Make Games
1. Start SLOW
Starting slow is all about developing the proper muscle memory for a sound baseball swing. Kids know what the term slow motion is at an early age because it's in cartoons and video games, so use that word a lot with them.
Early on, you may even have to help them by physically directing their hips, hands, or bat as they hold it or initiate a movement. Also, you may even want them to close their eyes as you help direct the movement to intensify motor learning.
In teaching the ability of hitting a baseball to youth, it's most important to build a good waist down approach. You can use the Bat Behind the Back AND Balance & Reach drills article located here.
The tendency for kids hitting a baseball is to swing too fast and hard at first, so your job is to slow them down and keep both wheels on the tracks before moving onto more advanced hitting techniques.
2. Go Soft
This does not mean taking away discipline, God knows the youth need more of that these days...no, what I'm talking about is going to whiffle and softer rubber tee baseballs as training tools.
Nothing derails a kid more than getting hit with a pitched ball. Instead of hitting a baseball, start with a whiffle ball and bat. They get so much more out of it because the ball moves all over the place, also the bat is so thin, key eye-hand coordination muscle receptors are massaged, which is what we want.
You can use those soft rubber or whiffle balls for the Bean Ball Drill, where you purposely throw at the hitter from close range, and the hitter pivots towards the catcher to expose their big muscles (back, butt, and back of their legs) to the pitched ball.
3. Make Games
Above everything else you must make hitting a baseball fun for kids, so in order to do that you have to make games out of drills. I always like to use the tee for this in the cage and set up a point system, such as:
- 2 points for hitting the throwing screen on a line,
- 5 points for hitting the back wall on a line,
- NO points for hitting the top or the pull side of the cage.
Then you can add pressure with a time limit, and the most points at the end wins, while the non-winners have to clean up the cage. You can do whatever you want, but make it fun. If it's hot outside have squirt guns ready for the winner to get the non-winners, or the winner gets first ups in games like kickball, total bases, or last man standing.
Whatever you decide to do, use these guidelines to make hitting a baseball both constructive and most importantly FUN!!
And remember, "Chuck Norris doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants."
[Sorry about being "on one" with Chuck Norris this article, just been laughing at the insanely funny stuff on the internet featuring him]
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