Help, my kid is afraid of the ball. 10 tips for parent of a young hitter

Greetings fellow DC community member. It’s been a long, long time and for that I’m sorry. I have so much to share so this might get long. If you’re here for baseball-specific content, scroll down to the part about being scared of the ball.  Now, let’s get into it!



I’ll start and finish with the good news: Dugout Captain is now part of the MOJO Sports app. We’ve joined forces with MOJO to extend our reach and amplify our message. And more so than ever, I’ve realized that this truly IS a movement – a movement to make sports fun again so that kids can grow in positive and constructive ways.  It’s become crystal clear that selfishly and selflessly, THIS is my life’s calling and purpose:

To partner with the sports parent and volunteer in a collective effort to nurture and empower young people to smile and charge ahead in the face of fear and challenges.

As we’ll discuss more, fear has become an integral part of this purpose statement.  NOT to eradicate or remove fear, as this is impossible and not realistic.  Rather, our goal is to provide practice is dealing with, and devising strategies for, pushing ahead in spite of fear. This practice is what’s most vital to developing the skills and techniques to best handle fear later in life.

The first ask of you:  Please download the MOJO Sports app

and mention Dugout Captain as your referring party. I’m not even sure of the best way to do that, but here’s the link to download… and just mention DC at any opportunity.  This makes me, us, and DC look good… and shows we are a positive force in the movement to bring more love into the world via our vehicle – youth sports.  To find DC content when searching for practice plans or activities, click through the Focus Areas or Skill topics and look for Dugout Captain under the listing.


This last calendar year has been the most challenging, most powerful, and most important professional experience of my life.  In February of 2022, MOJO and I found each other.  I say it that way because it was a divine experience for me.  When my new boss (I hadn’t had a boss in 20 years 😀) first walked me through the MOJO experience, I wept.  No kidding, I shed a tear and said THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I INTENDED TO BUILD!  It was crazy, I had immediate thoughts of failure – that I hadn’t accomplished our goal on my own, that I had let down our investors, that I had failed.  And within seconds, I decided NOT to be a victim and that this was exactly where I was meant to be.  What I was most grateful for was the opportunity, the lifeline (and now, I realize) the ROCKET SHIP that had been placed in front of me, of DC, of US.

Fast forward a calendar year, and I’ve just passed 13 months with MOJO.  I met Tom (my boss) on a Tuesday in February of 2022… three meetings over the next six days and we shook virtual hands on a contract the following Monday.  These last 13+ months have been the hardest I’ve ever worked professionally.  First, I wrapped up teaching at Azusa Pacific University – a difficult decision made more easy when I realized that one can’t work 21 hours per day.  Next, I slowly let go of more and more responsibility with my wife’s business, working in promotional products for large corporations, events, and universities.  My role there, in and around Business Innovations, has been a huge blessing that has allowed me to “play” so much in baseball.

Over the months, I have also been forced to cut back on my own baseball training schedule, which has been bittersweet but absolutely necessary as MOJO grew, roles changed, and opportunity arose there to step up.  All in all, this chapter of my life continues to be a fantastic voyage of stretching, growing, reengaging with a team environment, and putting on whatever hats are required of me by the team.  I’ve worked very hard to humbly step into those roles with my best effort, which is EXACTLY what coaches ask of players in any team environment.


Link:  MOJO for Organizations

What we can do for leagues via MOJO blows away all that I’ve ever been able to do through Dugout Captain.  Establishing and nurturing THESE league partnerships are basically what I’m doing in my current full-time role with MOJO – outfitting groups, leagues and organizations with a standardized elevation of the playing experience on their fields and courts.  Through an instructional curriculum, ready-made practice plans, and 250 drill videos, all delivered in the Ferrari of youth sports apps, we can serve organizations, administrators, coaches, and parents right where they are.  Providing for the beginning coach a thorough and complete instructional solution, and for the experienced coach a new drill, keyword, or tip/trick to improve an already effective strategy.  To boot, MOJO provides a complete team management solution (superior to ALL other team management apps) differentiated by the inclusion of instruction.  This means schedule, locations, communication, directions, uniform color, driving directions, etc.

At the league level, this is all automated – which means parents and coaches are invited to their new season on MOJO, where their rosters are waiting (communicate in one tap), game schedules are ready (sync your personal calendar in one tap), practice schedules prepared, INCLUDING completely prepared practice plans!  There simply is no excuse not to provide a great experience for the athletes.  I call MOJO the league’s accountability partner, holding parents, coaches, and administrators to a better on-field product – and holding all those accountability via love and service. “We’re going to provide to you a tool in MOJO with all the resources you could ever need to do a great job for your kids!”

What a league registration was at Dugout Captain, is now called MOJO for Organizations .  If you want more information, fill out this form and you’ll make your way to me.  We have an amazing partnership opportunity RIGHT NOW for a league to join MOJO for Organizations in 2023.  This involves two seasons of the following:

  • MOJO Concierge – Automatic account creation and distribution of MOJO accounts for all community members, pre-loaded with unique rosters, game schedules, practice schedules, and age-specific training plans (development curriculum provided).
  • MOJO PRO Benefits – Admin panel for your organization’s slice of MOJO. Messaging tool, workout-builder, custom media uploads, analytics panel, and a schedule-building tool.

This IS all that I envisioned offering to leagues, first in 2016. Now, it is a reality and it’s amazing. I share it all day, every day and can’t believe it’s real. Simply put:

It’s only a matter of time until your league in on MOJO. Do you want to be first to the party and provide for your organization a scalable, lasting improvement to the league? Or do you want to rest on the status quo, choosing NOT to invest into those around which the league was created for – the kids!

If you want to work with me again, and provide for your league MOJO at scale – fill out the form and lets talk!  2023 Spring AND Fall seasons are covered by a one-time $1500 fee.  Two season launches of MOJO Concierge, as well as complete access to MOJO PRO Software benefits.

The second ask of you, if you are a league board member:  Please click here and fill out the form to join MOJO for Leagues (via personal video call with your boy DK 👊 )




Help, my kid is scared of the ball – 10 Tips for the parent of a young hitter

God is putting me right where I need to be.  And my boy is the vehicle for my own growth as far as parenting, coaching, and relational intelligence.  Without a doubt, I am CURRENTLY in the biggest coaching challenge I’ve ever experienced – my kid is scared of the ball.

This is probably the most common question asked when I conduct coaching clinics.  There are several different ways to be scared of the ball, but most common is what happens when a young ballplayer steps into the batter’s box as a hitter.  Most likely to cause this fear is the transition to kid-pitch, and the fact that young pitchers tend to be wild.  Kids hit kids and the ball hurts, that’s a reality.  Baseballs are hard and it’s a scary experience to dig in to hit when that sucker is flying at you.  Then, once hit, something triggers in most all kids that creates a poop-ton of fear.

What’s fascinating to me is to watch how different kids react to getting hit.  Some get pissed off and angry, some go completely limp and act as if they’ve just had a limb amputated, and most others land somewhere in between.  I’m preparing to write a book on this experience, as it’s been fascinating to stay present, (try) to stay calm, and remain patient.

#1 – Stay Calm

I’ve kicked myself literally EVERY game since this sh%$ started happening.  Reason, I stay calm and positive for the first 2-3 at-bats, and then after watching my kid roller-skate his way out the back of the batter’s box for the 10th time… I snap!  “Kobe, get back in the box!!!”  I smack the bench and can’t take it any more – don’t you WANT to get better!?!?  Then, I watch my deer-in-headlights son come walking back into the dugout after striking out, again, to face his peers and his dad with his head down.  He looks miserable and I immediately feel like such a jerk.  It breaks my heart and I want to share this simple note to you parents just starting this voyage:  Don’t.  Do.  That.

Take a deep breath and stay calm.  This isn’t going to be easy, and it isn’t going to be quick.

#2 – Be Patient

This isn’t a rational fear.  If you can remember your kid wailing at the sight of a flu-shot needle, this is no different.  Imagine stepping into a square box where you miiiight get a shot in the arm.  Ain’t no 8-year old that’s going to be thrilled to step into that box, unless he/she is inherently tough, truly loves baseball, or the Big Man has dropped mature wisdom on that little human that facing down fears is the action of a champion!!!!

If you get angry, your athlete will resent you.  You are on the same team and have to meet that ballplayer where he/she’s at.  Some will take one at-bat, others one-game, and still others will take nearly a full season.  Our collective goal is to play the long game and keep them playing the sport.  Give everyone the chance to play next season, learn to enjoy the challenge of hitting, and practice overcoming a fear.  THAT is the secret sauce we’re working towards. We can’t allow fear to win.  We can’t allow our athletes to quit. But at the same time, we can’t yell or otherwise force the action on our timeline.  This will likely take weeks or months, so seek out incremental wins… baby-steps in the right direction.

#3 – Teach the athlete how to get hit

This is undoubtedly the first practice tip in overcoming fear.  I think coaches should get in front of this by including the drill Scared of Getting Hit as part of the development curriculum when first entering kid-pitch NO MATTER WHAT.  Grab a bucket of wiffle balls and start pegging kids BEFORE they get het and/or scared of getting hit.  There IS a technique associated with taking a bean-ball… so teach it as a first step to hitting kid-pitching.

Keywords: Drop, Turn, Tuck

  • Drop the barrel to avoid a foul ball
  • Turn the body to expose the back and bum-bum, protecting the vital organs.
  • Tuck the chin to help the helmet and shoulder protect the face

See the DC Drill:  Scared of Getting Hit.  Run this drill as one of the first batting practice stations for those age-levels entering kid-pitch for the first time.

#4 – Stand in for bullpens

These next couple tips need to be tossed into the recipe for overcoming fear by a loving chef.  Only you know what will work, but I guarantee these can help.

Standing in for a bullpen means stepping into the batter’s box while a pitcher is practicing.  Hey kid:  You aren’t there to hit.  Rather, you’re there to (1) see pitches and (2) help a pitcher practice with a batter in the box.  What I do with my athletes is have them wear a helmet and a glove, and then stand waaaay back from the plate.  I allow them to be a couple feet back of the plate and simply keep their feet set and see pitches.  Gradually, they will inch closer to the plate as they grow comfortable, to a more “normal” position in the box.  Don’t be surprised if this takes loads of efforts, as this is a volume game… and know that your hitter is NOT going to want to do this.

Note:  Whether or not they want to stand-in for a bullpen is a great indicator of how long this is going to take!  My athlete isn’t interested in doing it.  It’s strange, there’s not a great incentive for my boy to get out of this funk.  On a related note, we have the added challenge that he really isn’t to baseball.  Quite possibly the most difficult variable to our situation specifically, is that Kobe is playing because I asked him to.  He doesn’t inherently DISLIKE baseball, but he doesn’t really LIKE it either.  So, you add a legit fear of getting hit… on top of our dynamic… and this is a dicey, difficult situation.

We’ve grabbed 15 pitches here… and 20 pitches there… any time I can “trick” Kobe into standing in while another kid is throwing a bullpen has definitely helped.  And I’ve had to be patient because HE DOESN’T WANT TO GET BETTER.  That much is fact in our case:  He isn’t motivated to get over this fear.  It’s not fun to be scared, and it’s definitely not fun to intentionally practice the thing that provides so much fear.  Wow, what a challenge!

Final note to this tip, hitters can eventually grab a bat and execute a stride/load with every pitch.  They are challenged to say a verbal yes or no on each pitch – would you swing or not?  This is really helpful for both pitcher and catcher, as everyone gets reps with a live opponent.  Hitters see live pitches, and pitchers pitch with a live human standing in the box!

#5 – Kid-pitch batting practice

We’ve had great success with putting an athlete behind the L-screen and asking that athlete to throw BP.  Remember what a batting practice pitcher’s job is?  TO GET LIT UP!  That’s right little chucker, toss those baseballs in there so my kid can crush them.  The subconscious victory of swinging at a baseball from another athlete is the win here.  And we need as many wins as possible.  Architect your batting practice so that one station involves kid-pitch BP, or schedule a side workout where this just happens to happen  😉

#6 – Swings, swings, and more swings

Mass repetitions matter.  The more baseballs your athlete swings at, the more confidence will build.  This is a volume-game folks.  The batting cages are safe, as machines aren’t wild and if the velocity ticks up, that’s an accelerator.  My own kid doesn’t back out from the machine, and he doesn’t back out when Dad throws him batting practice.  But you put that ball in a kid’s hand and he’s moonwalking like Michael Jackson.  Practice helps, any way you can get it.


The combination #’s 3-6 have been working… we’re making HUGE progress.  But I’m telling you this, we are still in the thick of things.  I pray every game that he doesn’t get hit.  I subconsciously want every opposing pitcher to throw 27 miles an hour.  I work hard to get as many swings as possible, and realize that this is really, really hard on everyone.

At Kobe’s last game, he got his first legit hit of the season (5 games in?).  It was a line-drive base hit in the 3/4 hole (between the first and second basemen).  Next, he struck out twice while backing out of the box and bending at the waist defensively as the ball crossed over the plate (literally no chance to hit it).  Then, in his fourth at-bat, he grounded out.  And you know what, THAT was a great, great game!  We made contact twice, he got a legit base hit, and scored a run.  I DID stay calm during those torturous two at-bats in the middle, realizing that this situation is far more difficult for my little dude than it is for me.

The other coaches have been fantastic with him, and thankfully the level of competition is mellow enough that he can blend in enough not to feel like an outsider.  And I realize that this team situation is different as I’m at most every practice, I’m in the dugout every game, I throw good BP, and generally have a heavy influence over practice activities to support a slow and organic increase in comfort.

More ideas…

#7 – Gear up

Whatever it takes folks, whatever it freakin’ takes.  I haven’t tried this route yet, but that’s only because I know my kid and he doesn’t give two poops about what he’s wearing or what he’s swinging – just isn’t something he worries about.  That said, I would quite literally buy any bat in the world if that would help him.

The helmet with a chin guard seems like a no-brainer – that HAS to make kids feel subconsciously safer!  My dear friend John Paul just tried the padded shirt and his boy didn’t like the feel of it.  And my opinion is that a bat is only as effective as the athlete feels like it is.  Sure, there are bats with more pop – but the placebo effect of swinging a new stick is what we’re searching for here.

  • Helmet with a chin guard (face protector)
  • Armored shirt (padded, protective shirt)
  • New Bat – Whatever it takes



#8 – Respond with a yes

As my dear friend and mentor Brian Johnson of Heroic says, “Respond to a bid.”  Anytime, anywhere, any way.  I’ve committed to answering my son’s baseball request with a YES.  “Hey Dad, wanna…”  That answer is yes.  Recently, it’s been a request to throw him wiffle balls as he swings a wiffle bat with one of those monstrous barrels.  I’ve subtly asked if he wants to use his real bat, and that answer has been no.  So, I’ve backed off and quietly celebrated the fact that he has asked TWICE to go hit!  He swings aggressively and hits most every ball.  Is it going to throw off his timing, or mess with his bat-speed – maybe.  But I think it’s way more important that he has fun hitting things that are flying at him.

In our case, remember that he really isn’t THAT into baseball.  And not surprisingly, he loves to pitch.  So, most of his requests are to go play catch or pitch.  As I’m trying to create any sort of positive connection with baseball, when he asks… I say yes.  By the way, I make sure to balance this with a YES for my daughter as well, and that my attention is equally divided between my kids.  You can be sure thought, that if my son asks to do anything with the sport, I’m going to find a way to respond with a yes.

#9 – Hire a pro

Yes, we’ve got to a private instructor and taken some lessons.  Any instruction is good instruction.  If my kid gets more technically skilled, I only imagine that can help.  Could I teach him?  Of course I could.  Does that work when my name is Dad?  Of course it doesn’t.  So, I pay a premium to have an instructor work with my boy.  Now, remember that my kid really isn’t into it.  So, we bribe him with games, candy, and slurpees… anything goes when trying to keep this experience as fun as possible for that little turd.  My buddy working with Kobe is so very good, and I’ve communicated all that is going on.  That said, we don’t talk about it during the lesson.  I shut my mouth and pick up balls, leaving the pro to do his (instructor) and me to do mine:  A loving and supportive dad.

#10 – Lean on your ‘village’

It takes a village to raise a ballplayer.  I’ve consulted old teammates, those parents with older kids, grandparents that coached ‘back in the day’, exhausted Google, picked the brains of other coaches at the local league fields, and laid my son down on the coach for mental sessions.  None of it has magically worked, but we are definitely making progress.  There is some combination of these 10 tips that will work for you.

And let’s keep a perspective on exactly why we’re here:


COURAGE is not the ABSENCE of fear.  Courage is the WILLINGNESS TO ACT IN THE PRESENCE of fear.


There you have it.  Good luck my friend 👊

~ DK

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