As a hitting instructor, my job is not only to create the perfect swing, but to help all aspects of batting in games. When your kid isn’t hitting, it can be for a number of variables. Most of them are more psychological than anything else. We can attribute this to a fear of failure or embarrassment. The biggest factors of fear are:
Self sabotage which includes excessive anxiety and procrastination. Excessive anxiety may lead to hitters not swinging the bat because of a mad fear of failure. As they look at pitch after pitch, strikes are called, putting the batter in a deep hole which now they fear they can’t escape. Finally, hitters are forced to swing at anything close either getting a pitch they don’t want or taking a soft hack at a pitch just trying to make contact.
Perfectionism may lead to hitters not swinging at pitches because they know that isn’t their “perfect pitch location” or they can’t use their perfect swing. So they watch pitch after pitch looking for the perfect one to use the swing they’ve been practicing on.
Coaches that teach their hitters to take pitches and therefore control their at-bat is another factor that lead to a fear of failure at the plate. This occurs frequently at the youth level as inexperienced AND experienced coaches teach hitters to “take the first pitch” or “take till you get a strike”. This happens so often that again, hitters are placed in a hole immediately if the pitcher gets strike one. Then, the at bat takes a negative turn.
Is this happening to your hitter? Are you a coach where this happens to your hitters? Here’s some advice when your kid isn’t hitting:
- Don’t control your hitters at-bats. You’ve taught the players balls and strikes, you’ve spent countless hours practicing and throwing them pitch after pitch. Trust them. Let them control their own at-bat. Allowing them to play their own game puts the accountability on them to swing it.
- Celebrate swings and misses. I’m not talking about celebrating failure, but rather celebrating the willingness to risk it all. I would rather have a hitter swing and miss at three horrible pitches than take 3 strikes in a game. A swinger sooner or later will begin to learn the zone, make better contact and create more confidence.
- Force them to swing. I will call hit and runs (which forces the batter to swing and hit it on the ground) and/or tell hitters to swing at every pitch they see, regardless of what happens.
As a coach or parents, you can help drive the hitter to “jump off the diving board” and take the risk that YOU want them to take. “I’d rather see you try and fail than not try at all”. Young hitters (and some high schoolers that I’ve had before) really need their on-field coaches to help them through this. After all, you want your hitters to hit don’t you?
I hope this helps,