A sportsparent asks:
My son loves to play and understands the game but is afraid of the ball. He played baseball Fall/Spring when he was 4. At 5 we joined a team that was crazy good and played with them Fall/Spring in modified coach pitch, 5 pitches if they miss then they get 3 swings off the tee. Now at 6 it’s the fall season and this league is much more relaxed and it’s all about having fun, they don’t even keep score until spring. It is 7U coach pitch.
He cannot catch it. He moves out of the way and it’s super frustrating. He can field grounders and if the ball bounces before it gets to him he can get it. Last night while playing catch he kept stepping back away from the ball. I had him stand against a brick wall so he could not move back away from the ball and he actually closed his eyes when the ball came towards him.
My husband said if he can’t catch by the end of fall he doesn’t want him to play spring ball. He is a strong hitter. I think it’s too early to decide to pull someone from baseball at six and to give him time. My husband disagrees and thinks if those boys are throwing a ball to him and he’s still afraid of it he is going to get hurt.
My question is how do you get a little boy over his fear of the ball, or will he ever get over it?
There are really two issues I want to address in this question: first, the issue of helping a child not be afraid of the ball and second, the issue of whether the child should play when he is afraid of the ball.
First, how can you help you child get over his fear of the baseball/softball?
I had to go to my husband-coach for this one. He has coached sports (football, softball, basketball) for 28 years. He suggested that you begin by playing catch with your child with a tennis ball and with only a few feet separating you. Begin with grounders being gently rolled and teach him to open his arms wide, one to scoop the ball on the bottom, the other to scoop the ball on the top, like an alligator’s mouth. From there it is a small progression to tossing gently, moving farther apart, and then eventually moving up to a regular ball and glove and throwing harder. The idea is to get him totally comfortable with each stage of the progression. And always, always encourage.
Second, should your child still play when he is afraid of the ball?
I tend to agree with your husband on this one. Your son is only 7; he has plenty of time to play sports if he wishes. Waiting a couple of years until he is more mature and ready to handle the ball is not a bad idea. What’s the rush? You’re not preparing him for college at 7 years of age. If he plays in fear, closing his eyes and backing away from the ball, there is a much greater chance of him getting hurt. Some kids can really throw hard! If he doesn’t outgrow his fear of the ball, then maybe baseball is not the sport for him.
Do you have a sports parenting question? Leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.