Baseball Magazine

The Good News About Fear

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard

The good news about fearFear is one of the basic features of our hard-wiring that has allowed human beings to last as long as we have.  Fear and all the physiological responses to it – increased heart rate, quick shallow breathing, the adrenaline dump, an increase in body temperature, etc. – are all warning signs to us that something is not right.  A healthy sense of fear keeps us from getting too close to the cliff.  It also keeps us from reaching for that snake under the rock.  

Although every human experiences fear in multiple situations, there are only two fears that are hard-wired into our brains at birth – the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises.  You’ll see both in newborns who obviously did not have time to learn these fears.  When you lift an infant into the air or tilt them over, their arms will naturally move to grab something and/or extend as if to brace their fall.  This physical responce is called the moro reflex. Clap your hands real loud near an infant and they too will flail their arms as if to ward off the nearby threat that was responsible for the sound.  That reflex to loud sounds is called the acoustic startle reflex.

Fear is a necessary mechanism that helps keep all of us alive.  We would not avoid danger if it never kicked into gear.  On the other hand, if not managed properly, fear can consume us and prevent our goals from being reached.  We’ve all seen the talented player who “kills it” in practice but looks like a deer in headlights when the pressure enters during games.

Managing fear properly is essential for success in any walk of life.  We never want to eliminate it completely but we don’t want it to get in the way of our dreams either.  It’s a frustrating balance that is never truly mastered.

But there is good news too.  If we only have two hard-wired fears at birth then this means every other fear is a product of our environment and therefore “learned” through experience, observation, and/or the teaching of others.  That should be great news to baseball players who wish their fears did not get in the way so much.  If almost all fear is “learned” then it stands to reason that just about every fear can be “unlearned.”  Therefore, players do not have to be a slave to their fear.  They can be taught how to identify their fears and then apply techniques to control, manage, or even eliminate some of their fear.

This off-season, players should work on their athleticism and all the mechanical parts of their game but they should not neglect the mental training (including fear management!) that will ultimately determine their success.

Stay tuned to Baseball By The Yard over the off-season for a lot more info on this subject!

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