Mental Toughness in Sports Parenting: Hitting and Fear of the Pitcher Part 2.

Mental Toughness in Sports Parenting Fear of the baseball and the pitcher.

Fear.   Youth coaches and sports parents deal  the young players fears all the time.

A lot of the players’ fears are, of course “performance” related. “Performance anxiety” is the correct term and, as we all know very well, the condition is NOT confined to the players. The parents suffer from it as well.  Oftentimes MORE than the kids.

Much of these fears come under the heading of “fear of the unknown”; meaning being afraid of something (which we PERCEIVE as being …) “bad” that MIGHT happen.  It doesn’t HAVE to be real.  We just think and more importantly we FEEL that it is.

Striking out for example.  An error that costs the game.  Walking in the winning run.

What about real PHYSICAL fear; fear of “bodily harm”?

Specifically how about fear of physical harm from the BIG kid?

The big kid?

This does not come up that often but it DOES come up.  Don’t think so?  Click on the link and watch Larry Walker in the all star game a few years ago!!!

The big kid!!! I remember my own Little League days.  There was an eleven year old player in the town named Stan Williamson; a little bigger (not much) but he threw gas.

Now the term “gas” is, of course, relative.  For all I know eleven year old Stan Williamson probably threw about 60 – 65 mph but, to us, it was blinding.

“Gosh, Mr. Umpire, sir … I don’t mean to argue and I’m not sure but that sure SOUNDED like a ball to me.”

Stan TERRIFIED us.  When we were playing Stan’s team we would show up early just to witness his arrival and let the fear (and goosebumps) slowly build.

“Is he pitching today?”  “If he’s pitching, I’m not playing.”  “He scares the cr_p out of me.  Forget about hitting because that’s impossible.  I’m afraid he’s going to hit me.  Anybody who throws that hard could kill somebody.”

We would all nod with reverence.

Stan is a dentist in the Minneapolis area now.  I am sure he would get a big laugh over the memory and I may just reach out and remind him.

When I was eleven the fear was real.  Very.  Click and get some more proof … and laughs!!!

There is a “Stan Williamson” in every little league in America; a player who literally SCARES the other players.  He’s the player that, even the parents begin to whisper about.

“That kid CAN’T be twelve.  They’re cheating.  I want to see a birth certificate.  He’s got a beard and a driver’s license for God’s sake.”

Most of the time he’s just bigger due usually to the timing of his unique individual growth patterns.  He’s “ahead” of the curve.  Others are “behind”. In the vast vast majority of instances, it all levels out.

How do we deal with the players who are genuinely scared.  The bigger and stronger kids are terrifying to pitch to when they hit and even scarier when they are on the mound.

As I said and thought when I was a child myself.  “… hitting was impossible.  I just want to get back to the dugout alive.”

This becomes an issue when certain talented players are “moved up”.

The trick in DEVELOPING young players (actually the trick in developing ALL players at every level; yes, ESPECIALLY in pro ball as well) is to “balance” the concepts of CHALLENGE vs. CONFIDENCE.

Play DOWN and DEVELOP confidence.  Play UP and be CHALLENGED.  It’s a PROCESS; a DEVELOPMENTAL process.

Every player (and of course his/her parents) wants to be selected to play “up” of but oftentimes the elation wears off in that moment when they feel they are OVERMATCHED.

Being “overmatched” is most times only a PERCEPTION.

If the “moved up” youngster can get rid of the fear they will usually find that the opposing player; i.e. the BIG KID is, in fact NEITHER Superman NOR Godzilla and with a few adjustments the younger player will discover that they CAN compete.

At worst, as we all know, even if there IS a demonstrable imbalance in competition, it is momentary. Ultimately, like all endeavours in life, talent, hard work, intelligence, and patient perserverance wins the day; as opposed to how big you are when you are eleven years old.

However, whether the PERCEPTION is based on truth or not is, at least for the moment, irrelevant for unless the younger/smaller/less gifted player can adjust to the “perception” of imbalance … his/her confidence can be shattered.

Are you as a player/parent/coach struggling with this issue in yourself or someone else?  Is fear; in any form keeping you or your son/daughter/players keeping you in a “struggle” mode rather than where you are playing your best and achieving your the top level of your potential.  I have programs and methods which have dealt with all of these issues and had success with hundreds of players at every level.  Don’t put up with it for a second longer.  Call and let’s get you on the boat and away from Island A; where you are now and off to Island B; where you want to be; where you perform to your potential.


All of a sudden little Johnny … who was a star in 10U goes hitless for two weeks because he got “moved up”; faced the star of the older league TWICE … good old  twelve year old Six Foot Sam … and looked horrible.

Johnny got moved back down and is now 0 for 23 in his last six games at the lower division.


Johnny is considering switching to lacrosse.  His parents are suing the league.

Recently I had a client who was experiencing EXACTLY this malady and we fixed it with an old trick I learned from a “relationships” therapist I knew when I was starting out in consulting.

I call it the “when you WANT to fall OUT of love, use the old think FUNNY thoughts and pictures trick.”  Here’s how it works.  (And BTW: It DOES work).

Let’s say you have a client who has recently split up (read: been dumped) by the woman/man of their dreams.  As we all know dreams are both “unreal” and “temporary” but at least for the moment the client is berserk with grief and filled with misery; absolutely consumed by rejection in the form of their (former) Significant Other.

Learn to LAUGH!!!

My therapist friend would tell the Miserable One (the client) to “imagine” (close your eyes if you have to …) your “ex” in the most ridiculous circumstance you can come up with.  He used to use images such as “covered with mud” … “dressed in a clown’s suit complete with orange hair and red nose” … or (my favorite) “with a bowl of spaghetti over his/her head”.

Close your eyes and picture it and … let the laughter … and the healing … begin.

Recently I had an extremely talented young man; ten years old who had been recently moved up at ten years old to the “majors” division (11 and 12) and his little league and he was just absolutely “freezing” at the plate.  Most of the kids were suddenly older; bigger, stronger ….


This youngster is not only talented but EXTREMELY talented and intelligent.  We talked through some mental toughness exercises and then I threw the “bowl of spaghetti on the head” image.

He almost rolled out of his chair with laughter.

I told him that the next time he stepped in against this player all he had to do as to remember how that picture (Spaghetti Bowl Head) and he would be fine.  You can’t be scared and smiling at the same time.

He went 3 for 3 next game!!!  Against the best pitcher in the league.

The process works when you work the process.

The process works when we work the process so here is the process …

 KAIZEN:  Constant Improvement.  LEARN and GROW.  Break it down!!!  Slow it down!!!  Do it Correctly!!! HABITUATE:  Correct habits. Do it correctly over and over and over again.

 “If you are a player or parent or coach struggling with a performance issue or a coaching/teaching or even a “relationship” issue between players and coaches and parents that just isn’t responding to instruction and hard work, then call me now and let’s fix it.   The tip I gave you in this article is just the start.  If you’re sick and tired of competing with EITHER a MECHANICAL ISSUE that is impacting performance OR the twin gorillas; FEAR and DOUBT on your back and ready to be done with it, I’ve got a systematic process that takes care of any interference you have to the ultimate performance potential that you have seen short bursts of…and want to see it show up consistently!  I can help make you feel great about who you are.  Call me or email me right now while you’re thinking of it!”  I work with clients all over the country by using video and  ZOOM over the internet!!!





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