Ask The Experts
Life lesson: Conquering fears
Q: I have a child on my 8-and-under baseball team that got hit by a ball. Now, every time he comes up to bat he runs away, cries and refuses to bat. How can I help him get over his fear to enjoy the game?
A: For a young child, this is an understandable reaction. It hurts to get hit by the ball and his fear is now rational. I am assuming that he previously enjoyed the game before getting hit. If this is not the case, it’s simply time to find a new activity.
If he wants to get back to baseball I would suggest a few things to help him get his confidence back.
Practice hitting with a soft ball that he can feel, squeeze and know that if he does get hit, it won’t hurt. Start in a relaxed environment away from the team, in the backyard or a local park.
Once he feels more confident, then he can practice hitting a harder ball, eventually graduating to a regular baseball.
After he’s feeling comfortable in a quiet environment, then he can practice hitting with the team at practice.
If he regresses, bring back the softer ball until he’s comfortable again and work your way back up. Chances are he will have some setbacks and have to work through them.
It’s imperative that as a coach and/or a parent you keep the big picture in mind: this is not about hitting a baseball.
The big picture here is about overcoming challenges in small steps. He needs to learn that in life there are things that happen that scare us and we can (with help and support) work through them and learn to have fun again. This is a huge life lesson. Baseball is simply the medium through which this young athlete will learn this lesson. The ultimate goal is for him to be ok feeling a little nervous and have the confidence to know that he can work through it. Work slowly and be patient.
Erika Carlson is the owner and founder of her firm, Excellence in Sport Performance, where she coaches elite youth, collegiate and professional athletes on developing their mental skills needed for consistently strong performance. She is a Certified Consultant for the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, a competitive athlete (Ironman 70.3 finisher and equestrian show jumping) and is the mom of 3 athletes. For more information visit www.ErikaCarlsonSports.com.
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