Fear of the Ball is a natural instinct

Whether you are 11 years old and facing the hard ball for the first time or a seasoned professional playing in the ICC World Cup, no one likes getting hit by a fast short length ball or even worse a beamer. The difference is that the professional has the mechanisms in place (they have the technique, reaction time and mental toughness to a) face 150km/h balls, b) to avoid getting hit and c) if they do get hit how to put it behind them and focus on the next ball).

Facing the quicks can be a daunting task.

So how do we help our 11 year olds to develop this ability. The thought of getting hit by a quick ball results in fear and in a young player that generally result in then backing away from the ball and avoiding it at all costs, they don't want to be out there in the middle. The player only sees the negative aspect (getting hit) and even though the player tries to focus on the fun aspect of scoring run, this overpowers them and having fun is not enough to banish those thoughts in fact it is all they can think about. How many times have you seen when running a net session some players always find their way into the medium/spinners net avoiding the quicks? This isn't productive as you can't protect them out in the middle. Teach them how to cope.

Our jobs as coaches is to replace those negative thoughts/images with a coping mechanism. In other words give the player the technical knowhow to be able to confidently deal with the short ball, how to tactically use the short ball to their advantage and work with them to execute this well enough be be able to believe in themselves that they can do it.

Start off by using tennis balls, the worst case scenario is the player ends up with a stinger, but by doing this you have eliminated the fear factor.... it won't hurt, focus on getting players to learn how to duck and sway out of the way of balls and once they can do this get them to make the right decisions on which balls they can turn into scoring opportunities. Once a player realises that his chances of getting hit are minimal (as they are watching the ball, and have the technique and skills to avoid it) and that they can turn this into runs (a positive) they will start to play to their true potential.

Mental toughness starts from a young age by sowing the seed, which in tears to come will make sense and will help them to be better players and more resilient to what life throws at them.

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