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Sports Psychology: Baseball Hitting And Pressure For Young Athletes

Posted by: Dr. Granat on July 2, 2007

“If You Don’t Hit, You Sit.”


It’s the middle of the travel baseball season for a lot of kids around the

country. Highly competitive baseball can put a great deal of pressure on youngsters,

coaches and their families.

Children who play baseball at a high level have an intense schedule that can include

four games a week and three or four weekly practices. The locations of the games

requires the kids and their parents to do a fair amount of driving, traveling and,

in some cases, flying to different baseball venues.

I am currently counseling a number of kids who play in these so called “elite

teams.” One of my patients is a talented twelve year old who lives in Louisiana.

This polite young man has some real baseball talent and he is from a family of coaches

who are quite well-known and well respected around the state. Many of his baseball

games are broadcast on the internet. This gives you some sense of the importance that

is placed on baseball in some parts of the country. And if you have ever been to

Louisiana, you know that people are crazy about sports in this part of the world.

This youngster plays in several tournaments every month during the baseball season.

One of the teams that his team played against recently had a record of 106 wins and

no losses. On this powerful team, if you don’t hit, you are simply replaced with another

player in the team’s next game.

This year, my patient and his teammates are hoping to go to a tournament which is

held at Disney World. It sounds like a great week for the kids and their families.

Lots of baseball and the all of attractions of Orlando should provide the children with

a great experience.

However, there is a ton of pressure on these youngsters to perform well. Not

surprisingly, there is a huge emphasis on hitting. In short, “If you don’t hit, you

sit.” For some kids, this means they don’t get to play in the field and they spend

a lot of time in the dugout. This policy can also create some fierce competition among

members of the same team. Teammates can start to resent one another when they

ought to be supportive and encouraging each other.

Now some parents and coaches believe that this pressure is good for the kids. And

it can teach them some useful lessons about managing pressure as they go through life’s

stressors. I might add that I spend a lot of my professional life helping young athletes

to better manage this kind of pressure. I teach them how to stay relaxed, confident

and focused under game conditions.

Nevertheless, I am certain, that for some children, this pressure is simply too much

for them to handle at this young age. This is not to say that they can’t learn to handle

the pressure in time. Some are simply not mature enough to manage it at a young age.

Some kids really benefit from taking a little time away from their sport and the


Others find that they are better suited for a different sport or a different kind of


One of my patients was a talented pitcher, but he discovered that he liked individual

sports like golf and tennis much more than he liked baseball. He went on to play

Division I tennis at fine university.

Other kids just love the camaraderie that is often part of a team sport like baseball.

The child I am working with in Louisiana is trying to sort out whether baseball

is right for him. This decision is a complicated one for him and for his family.

He could play on a less competitive team, but all of his friends play on the elite team.

Parents, coaches and kids to sort out what is the right sport for their child

and they also need to determine what is the right level of competition for their youngster.

I have seen many fine athletes burn out on a sport because they were pushed too hard

or treated unkindly by their parents or a coaches.

Remember, very few athletes will earn their living through sports. So, it is most

important that they compete at a level which challenges them to grow and allows them

to enjoy their participation.

Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is a Psychotherapist is River Edge, NJ. He can be reached at or at 888-580-ZONE.

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