Fundamentals are the building blocks that successful teams are built upon. Regardless of the sport, it all comes down to execution of the basics. In football it’s blocking and tackling; Baseball it’s hitting and fielding; Basketball it’s dribbling and shooting, and so on. How many times have you seen games won or lost by a breakdown in the fundamentals: missed tackles, missed lay-ups, fielding errors…? On the upside, there are few things in sports more satisfying than watching the execution of a fundamentally sound team–a perfect pick and roll in basketball or a simple give and go in soccer.
Consequently, coaches for youth sports should devote most of their practice time to teaching the fundamentals of the game. If the players can’t do the basics, they can’t compete. Unfortunately, some coaches spend countless hours going over plays and strategies when their players don’t possess the skills to properly execute them. It’s absurd. I remember coaching against a 6th grade girls basketball team that suffered from this affliction, lets call it Play-Paralysis. The team would come down, the coach would call out a play (they must of had 15-20 different plays), the point guard would cross half court and yell “go” and like clockwork everyone would run to a certain spot on the floor, some set picks while some cut toward the basket. The movements were very well rehearsed–everyone knew where to go. And then the point guard would dribble the ball off her foot, or she’d pass it out of bounds, or it would slip through the receivers hands. This was a classic example of a well intentioned coach focusing on the wrong things. You can’t compete if you can’t do the fundamentals. The team struggled the whole season.
If coaches don’t teach the fundamentals of the game, they are doing a huge disservice to the players and parents who have entrusted them with their development.
I strongly implore youth coaches to focus on the fundamentals. And for the players and parents–athletes will never out-grow practicing the fundamentals.
Finally–don’t practice until you get it right; practice until you can’t get it wrong!