How to Overcome Fear of Being Hit
The Beginning Hitting Series
Baseball and Fast Pitch Softball
In this post, Building Rome Series provides 4 concepts and 4 drills to help your young hitter overcome the fear of being hit by the pitched ball.
Most young hitters are afraid of being hit by the pitched ball. It is a difficult stage, with short arms and short bats. The young hitter must stand close to the plate (click link for the most productive set up position) to hit the outside pitch solidly and consistently.
Moreover, young pitchers often do not have much control and may throw hard.
Unfortunately, these dynamics can harm the young player’s enjoyment of the game.
Concept 1 to Overcome Fear of Being Hit
Make the Early Years Fun
The good news is the young, fearful hitter will mostly grow out of it before you know.
In the meantime, do your best to keep the young player comfortable, having fun, and playing the game.
Concept 2 to Overcome Fear of Being Hit
Reduce Fear by Learning to Protect
To reduce the fear of being hit by the ball, teach kids the correct way to react when the ball is coming at them.
Overcome Fear of Being Hit Drill 1 – “Protection”
Use lite-flite (image above) or wiffle balls. Begin protection training by throwing the safe ball at the hitter’s feet and legs. They will quickly learn they can jump back or over the pitch when it is on the ground.
Then, throw these same safe (foam) balls at the head with a helmet on. The hitter should duck or pull back and let the ball go by.
Lastly, when a ball is heading towards the hitter’s torso and there is no escape, have the hitter practice the following techniques:
- First, immediately turn their upper body into the plate.
- Second, raise the front shoulder to protect the face.
- Third, drop the front elbow to the side to protect the ribs.
- Fourth, dip the chin down to protect the neck.
- Lastly, pull hands and forearms in tight and hide behind the front side.
If the hitter adjusts incorrectly, the coach can explain how opening up and backing away exposes the front of the body, and arms and hands.
Significantly, when a player feels they can react automatically to protect themselves, they will hit more confidently.
Concept 3 to Overcome Fear of Being Hit
Reduce Fear Through Desensitization
Next, the coach or parent can continuously build confidence by gradually helping the young hitter overcome their fear.
Overcome Fear of Being Hit Drill 2 – “Desensitization”
Here is a deliberate practice routine to gradually ease fear:
- Begin by having the young hitter show you the distance from the plate where they are comfortable and won’t jump or step away from the plate. Mark this spot (with tape) in the batter’s box.
- Progress slowly, beginning with a soft toss, then a pitching machine, and finally, live pitch. Repeat this sequence of hitting practice, from toss to machine to live, asking the hitter to move an inch closer to the plate each time through.
- If they begin backing or striding away, stop until they are ready to try again. Keep measurements and record. Set goals. Celebrate progress!
Concept 4 to Overcome Fear of Being Hit
Make Compromises Between Fear and Fundamentals
As we have described in a previous article, setting up too far from the plate:
- Exposes the outside corner pitch location to a swing and miss.
- Creates the habit of a casting swing.
If we insist that our fearful hitter get closer to the plate to get more hits, then fun, comfort, and confidence can be affected.
The two following drills offer suggestions on how to compromise between fear and fundamentals.
Overcome Fear of Being Hit Drill 3 – “Stride to Outside Pitch”
Here is a short-term compromise for the young hitter who stands too far away from the plate due to fear. That is, to take their stride inward, toward the plate. They should do this only when they identify an outside pitch location.
This is a short-term compromise. Striding closed puts the hitter into a closed-off hitting position. Importantly, a closed hitting position is not productive for the long-term.
Overcome Fear of Being Hit Drill 4 – “Stride Even Front Toss”
Here we see, when the young hitter sets up in a productive position from the plate, they stride away to keep a safe distance from the ball. The youth hitter can barely get their cap on the middle location machine pitch due to stepping out.
Certainly, many less than productive habits, which can creep in during the younger years, can be attributed simply to fear.
Crucially, wiffle tosses are the best way to develop good habits, removing fear as an issue.
In this drill, we first ask the youth hitter to set up close to the plate. Next, encourage the hitter to stride directly at the pitcher while keeping arms and hands tight to the body for a compact swing. They are now developing fundamental swing habits.
A patient process of desensitization over time is the best plan.
Furthermore, overcoming the fear of being hit by the ball requires time. Be patient; it will happen! These fearful kids will turn into fearless hitters in an amazingly short time.
Building Rome Series Blog: The Beginning Hitting Series
Here are the 12 videos and articles contained in The Beginning Hitting Series:
Building Rome Series Books: Building the High-Level Swing Series
See Building the High-Level Swing for a detailed and comprehensive description of 100 hitting fundamentals and 140 step-by-step drills that efficiently construct the batting swing from the ground up.
In the Building Rome Series of books, the construction of skills are in functional order, providing a “roadmap” to becoming a great hitter.
All baseball and fastpitch softball players can “climb the Roman Coliseum steps” to become a powerful and productive hitter.
Enjoy the quest!