Hitting - Fear of Being Hit
The fear of being hit affects most young baseball players. Young pitchers that don't have much control can often throw very hard. This combination gives many kids a real fear of stepping into the batter's box. This fear of being hit affects their ability to develop a good swing and approach at the plate. In addition it quickly reduces confidence and enjoyment of the game.
The younger they are, the more chance that they will freeze when a pitched ball is thrown at them. Often they try to get away from the ball by backing away. This puts them in a position to get hit in the side or front of the body or possibly the face. Once a hitter has been hit a couple of times, it can be a major task for them to overcome those painful experiences.
One of the most effective ways of dealing with the fear of being hit is to teach kids the proper way of getting out of the way. Often young kids that are afraid of getting hit will step in the bucket and bail out of the box. There is no way they are going to hit with this approach, and honestly, if their fear is great enough they are probably happier about not getting hit than they are sad about striking out. By teaching the player to get out of the way properly, you can also emphasize that stepping in the bucket actually exposes the front of their body and face to the pitched ball. Below are three images demonstrating how to properly get out of the way of a pitched ball. This method protects the front of the body and the face. It also puts the back in a position that allows the ball to glance off, which hurts much less than a direct blow.
You can practice this method as a station during batting practice as follows. First couple of times you work on it, have a parent or coach stand 10-15 feet away from a player in the batter's box. Use either tennis balls or soft incredriballs. Start by tossing the ball softly over the plate, the batter should not swing. Then start moving the ball inside. When the hitter thinks he will be hit, he should turn his body away from the pitch. Rather than giving the kids instructions about how to bend their back and where to keep their arms, etc., I tell them to turn and place the end of the bat directly on the ground behind them. This forces then to turn away and duck down to place the bat on the ground. They seem to get this and have an easy time repeating it.
As the kids get good at turning away from the ball, I add to the drill by throwing some of the balls over the plate and some that they have to get out of the way of. On the balls over the plate, have them hold or stride like they are going to swing.
If during the drill, the player starts stepping in the bucket and tries to back away, stop the drill and have them hold their position. Show them where the ball can hit them in this position and ask them if they think it will hurt worse getting hit in this position or in a position where they are better protected.
When a player is comfortable getting out of the way, they will have much more confidence stepping up to the plate.