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How To Turn Your Four Year Old Into A Fine Hitter

Posted by: Dr. Granat on April 24, 2006

Hitting a moving round object with a cylinder is one of the most

difficult tasks in all of sports.

There are a lot of theories and strategies on how to best teach a young

child the fundamental skills which are required to master this particular

athletic challenge.

Here are a few simple tips and a simple method to help young hitters, their parents and

their coaches:

1. Sport psychologists, coaches and learning experts like to break athletic tasks

down into steps. While there are some kids who can learn simply by

imitating what they see on television and their video games, many

children will better learn the basics of hitting if it is taught to them in

small steps.

Age four is a good time to start this kind of instruction. The first thing

to determine is if your child is more comfortable batting right handed or

left handed. You can sort this out by watching which hand they throw with,

eat with and write with. You can also have them hold a bat both ways and

ask them which is more comfortable.

My son and I are ambidextrous, so this was a little confusing at first,

since he initially felt equally comfortable on both sides of the plate. He

is now a switch hitter, but seems to hit the ball harder as lefty, even though

he throws right handed.

2. Second, hand your kid a whiffle ball bat and a few whiffle balls and simply let

them smack the balls around on the ground at a park or in your back yard.

Don’t give them any instruction yet. Just watch them and see if they

are at all interested. If they are, you can move on to the next step.

3. Second, teach your child to bunt the ball from a waist high tee. This will help

your youngster to learn to watch the bat making contact with the ball.

It will also start to build his or her confidence as most kids can do this.

If your child can not do this after some practice, you may need to have his

consult his or her pediatrician. Don’t panic, however, kids learn many things

at different paces and different ages.

4. Next teach your child how to hold the bat and how to hit the ball with a

short swing of about six inches in length. Emphasize contact not

distance or power.

5. Gradually lengthen his or her swing. Encourage your child to keep his or head still.

The head is the heaviest part of the body. If it moves, a lot kids will lose their

balance and lose sight of the ball.

6. Also, start to teach them the idea of stepping toward the ball in the strike zone.

7. Help your child to master the proper grip and not hold the bat too

tightly. If the bat is held tightly the hitter can not learn to generate the

centrifugal force he needs to hit through the ball. Also, he or she is apt

to tense up at the plate when they begin to face pitching. (By the

way, if the youngster likes it, choking up on the bat is fine at this

age.)

7. Once your child has mastered the abbreviated swing described above,

you can teach them to use the full swing off the tee. Emphasize balance,

weight transfer and what a ball in their strike zone feels like. You can

move the tee around so your child gets a feeling for what he can reach

and what he can not reach comfortably.

8. Once your youngster can hit ten balls off the tee in a row, it is time to start

pitching to him underhanded from a short distance. Begin with the bunting

exercise described above and progress in steps the same way you

did when teaching your kid to hit off the tee. Don’t go to the longer

swing until they can bunt the ball comfortably and consistently.

Keep the instruction to no more than ten or fifteen minutes at this young age.

If you proceed in small steps and provide lots of support, encouragement and

enthusiasm, your child will may discover that your he or she loves baseball. Also,

many of these skills will be useful in tennis, golf, lacrosse and other sports.

Who knows? Maybe the next Derek Jeter or Mickey Mantle is running

around your yard right now.

Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is a Psychotherapist in Bergen County, NJ and the Founder
of StayInTheZone.com

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