4 Tips to Help Your Baseball Player with a Fear of Getting Hit by Pitch.

I work with all types of fears in sports. A big one I see often is the fear of getting hit by the ball. Almost always I see this in baseball boys from the age of 9 to 12. For those of us who do not play baseball, this makes sense right? A really hardball is being thrown right at your face, yeah no thanks! For parents and coaches, this can be extremely frustrating as most of these young boys have been playing baseball for a few years now and never had any problems and have probably been hit more than a dozen times already. So why is this time different?

Baseball player afraid of the ball.

First the Brain on Fear!

Developmentally speaking this is a prime time for fears and worries. Between these ages, kids have very concrete thinking yet their minds have very vivid imaginations. They are now understanding the world around them better. That death is real and getting hurt is also a real possibility. They can and will imagine getting hit, going to the hospital, or even worse things. They have realized that pitchers are throwing harder, less accurate and it could really hurt. In actuality, their brain is functioning perfectly! A baseball coming in hot is scary and does pose a harmful risk. Yet, sometimes those vivid imaginations run too wild and cause major disruptions in the athlete’s ability to play and focus on what they can control.

Often, after an athlete has developed a significant fear of getting hit it isn’t because the last time they got hit was terrible even though it still really hurt. Rather because of their ability to understand that it could have been a whole lot worse and their imagination creates a whole dramatic story. Therefore the next at-bat poses a real possibility that the things they imagine might just happen.

Fear and Anxiety

As the athlete continues to think about the last time they got hit and what the next time could look like they are creating stronger fear memories and anxiety making it harder to stand in the box. For a lot of my little sluggers the anxiety that has been sparked is the main culprit. When the amygdala senses fear, the cerebral cortex (area of the brain that is for reasoning and judgment) becomes impaired. This makes it really hard to think clearly and logically. On top of that our brain is signaled to pay more attention to possible threats AKA little Tommy throwing wild heat! Unable to think clearly and focusing on getting hit their body is probably acting up as well. Increased heart rate, a sick feeling, extra sweaty, and probably shakey. With all that is going on in the game, in their head and body it is hard not to be scared. I also see common behavioral responses such as their stride leg stepping away, not swinging at all (frozen), big jerk reactions if the ball comes anywhere close, and swinging really late. So how can we help!?

4 tips to help your athlete with fear of getting hit by pitch

Here are 4 tips to help you and your Athlete overcome this fear.

Tip #1 Get the Whole Story

I have my athletes tell me what exactly they think could, might, and will happen if they get hit. Most of the time parents and coaches just leave it at my kids scared of getting hit. While yes, that’s it there is almost always a more in-depth and specific fear in there. It may sound like this: I am afraid I’ll get hit in the nose, it will break and blood will be everywhere. Then I’ll have to go to the hospital, my mom will cry and I won’t able to play anymore. Getting the whole story and all the what-ifs out is important! Then we acknowledge and validate those fears with no BUTS! Instead, take it with concern and allow space to problem solve game plan, and present facts.

Tip #2 Use the Imagination for Good!

As I mentioned above at this age their imaginations are big and powerful. They are currently using that power to play out fears. They also have the ability to do the opposite with a little help. I know you as a parent and coach have told your athlete just go up there and imagine getting a hit right? That’s wonderful but let’s help them go one step further. We want to give the athlete a base image or moment where they were successful. Have them think of a time they went up there against a hard pitcher and got a hit. Ask them to recreate everything they remember. This is the base image because it happened, it is proof of success and they can now build off of it. Once they get used to recreating that moment I want them to start collecting more and more moments to recreate that were good. This can be a simple hit off the tee that was right up the middle or solid contact made during BP that felt good. As the athlete starts collecting these great images then we can start shifting them into visualizing the upcoming game. I want them to use their collections to form their most confident self, seeing themselves handling fear and getting a great hit. What the mind creates the body acts out!

Tip #3 Give your Brain a New Job!

When fear is in control the athlete is thinking about getting hit not getting a hit lol. The hitter needs to give their brain and body a new job. The simpler the better. Help them create a new routine that involves prepared self-talk, a calming skill, and a focus point. I like to have them use and repeat as many times as needed to fight off the fear and slow the nerves down. Start this routine about 4 batters out or the whole time! Remember you have to choose your brain’s job or the fear will.

Tip #4 Courage over Confidence.

Something I hear often is the coach or parents have the athlete stand in the box while they throw tennis balls at them or dress them out in catcher’s gear and throw real baseballs at them. While I understand the logic behind this courage tactic the brain is too smart. Your athlete knows this is not real, that these exercises do not represent the actual moment. It might even be reinforcing their fear. Teaching courage as a skill can be more beneficial than the above method. Courage is knowing it is scary, knowing something could happen but stepping in any way! Cultivating a courageous approach with your athlete teaches them to accept fear and do it anyway. It stimulates problem-solving, and confidence from their ability to feel fear, feel nerves, and know that they can still survive hard moments. They are already being courageous each and every time they step in, if we can help them acknowledge that with the skills above they are one swing away from blasting fear out of the park!

Challenge The Challenger

Cortnee White, Performance Specialist

Are you up for a challenge? Ready to compete? Willing to do what it takes to win? I hope so because this challenger is the toughest one you might ever face…

-Cort

The Challenger

Of course I am talking about thoughts. Most of the athletes I work with are elite in their sport and discuss their thoughts as if it is the toughest opponent they face daily. Self-criticizing, what if thinking, I should have done this or I should have done that. These type of thoughts are the driving force behind low confidence, poor self-esteem, and performance issues. We can attribute poor self-talk and the thoughts we have to many aspects but that is a step we will have to skip for now.

Self-defeating thoughts run rampant through the minds of athletes, some more than others of course and some sports more than others. A recent study suggests we have around 6,000 thoughts a day, 85% percent are negative and 95% are repetitive. Yikes right!? If this is true imagine the mind of athletes who’s life is surrounded by trying to be perfect, achieving greatness, and keeping their outside life just as in order. Well, I can imagine it because it is my job to dive into the mind of the athlete and the study seems pretty legit to me. I hate for this to sound extremely harsh and that being an athlete is terrible because it’s not, but I feel it is my job to share that harsh reality that is true for so many.

The Challenge

Thoughts and emotions are scary, we try to hide from them, run from them or just ignore them. We hope they will go away, fade and never come back. Unfortunately, they usually don’t and just keep coming back bigger and stronger. Athletes do incredibly scary things every day like flip and twist through the air, dance in an arena full of eyes watching every move they make or stand in a batters box with the game on the line. Now that’s scary. Why can’t we do the same with our thoughts?

This is where I place the challenge. I challenge you to challenge your thoughts. I challenge you to confront them. I challenge you to not run from them, hide from them or ignore them. Your thoughts are always challenging you why not challenge them back.

How do I challenge my own thoughts you ask? Well, we as people like to make up stories, we like to assume, predict outcomes and fortune tell. Most of the time we are terribly wrong or we were right but it wasn’t as bad as we made it out to be. Instead of allowing those stories to be true, or consume us let’s take a breathe, stop the thought and ask a few questions.

  • Do I know this to be true?
  • Has anyone said this or am I just assuming?
  • What can I do in this moment to help me move on from this thought?

We have a lot of power and a lot of control if we choose to step up to the challenge. It is scary it is uncomfortable and hard but it is worth it. Like I mentioned above we skipped a step and that step is exploring where the thoughts stem from. This is where speaking to someone is so important. Let’s get to know the challenger, understand the things that make it so strong. That way we are more than prepared to take on whatever is in front of us. Whether that may be a competitor on the other side of the court an audition or maybe the thoughts that hold you back. These things are not weaknesses, or failures just challenges. Do you accept the challenge?

Cortnee White M.Ed

Let’s talk!

Are you an athlete or a parent of an athlete that is struggling with thoughts, emotions or performance issues?

I specialize in stress and anxiety management as well as mental blocks.

Email me at cortneewhite@tinssp.com

Mentally Tough Athletes: What Separates The Good From The Great.

Mentally Tough Athletes: What Separates the Good from the Great

Mentally tough athletes are unbothered, unshaken, and perform in clutch situations flawlessly. They aren’t perfect but those imperfections only make them stronger. Becoming mentally tough needs a foundation and that foundation is your emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence

Being an athlete means winning some, losing some, getting injured, being pushed mentally and physically. In order for us to handle tough situations, perform at our best in the clutch moments, and work well with others we have to have some capacity of emotional intelligence. What is this you ask? Emotional intelligence simply put is the ability to identify and manage your emotions and the emotions of others.

When you miss the shot what happens? What do you do, say, and think? When your teammate makes an error how does that affect you? What’s your body language like, do you comfort them, correct them, or say nothing at all? Are you blaming others or making excuses? How do you handle stress and expectations?

Mentally tough athlete training

Self-Awareness

What do you struggle with? Are you able to admit faults, and accept you are not perfect? Being able to identify errors in your sport, your thinking, and your actions are key in building self-awareness. We have to be able to identify what is going right and what is going wrong to change and grow.

Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is the ability to control your emotions. The first step is being aware of your emotions and the next step is being able to control them. Staying calm and in control of you when things get tough is sometimes the only thing we have. If we lose the ability to control our emotions our physical ability soon will follow.


Athletes that can self-regulate typically don’t allow themselves to become too angry or upset, and they don’t make rash or careless decisions. They are able to assess the situation, their feelings, and think before they act.
If you are wanting to work on becoming a mentally tough athlete start by self-assessing and self-regulating. The way you think, the way you behave, and the way you feel has a direct influence on your game. There are millions of talented athletes that get beat and get beat because they have gotten in their own way.

“What separates the good from the great comes down to how you let your mind and emotions either enhance or disrupt your physical ability.”

Cort

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