Fundamentals in sports are a major element of a successful team at any level. It is not just about executing the fundamentals some of the time or most of the time, but it is about practicing these fundamentals perfectly so often that they become part of a player’s game. Fundamentals should become so ingrained within players that they become an unknown habit of their game.
A team could have a great offensive scheme, but if players have not mastered the fundamentals such as good passing, ball handling, or moving effectively with and without the ball, their offense will not be successful. Likewise a team cannot be defensively sound unless all players know the basics and know how to execute them. Fundamentals are not a part of the game—they are the game.
As a coach, I feel practicing the fundamentals is something that sometimes gets overlooked beyond the middle school level. Even at high levels of competition, it is important to practice, reinforce, and maintain the basics of the sport. Fundamentals are not just something that should be reviewed at the beginning of each season, but must be stressed and diligently practiced daily.
Correctly practicing fundamentals each practice is key in my program. Practicing correct repetition of a skill helps create muscle memory. The development of muscle memory is what allows players to execute correctly at key times without having to think about what they need to do. Almost without fail, if a player must move their concentration from the flow of the game to a basic concept of the game they will make a critical mistake.
Just going through the motions when practicing fundamentals is not conducive to teaching the fundamentals; in fact, it is actually counterproductive as players will pick up more bad habits than good. Successful teaching of fundamental skills is about making sure the motions are executed to perfection each and every day.
Being fundamentally sound takes hard work, dedication, and lots of practice. The more players practice fundamentals correctly, the more likely these movements will become instinctive.
Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said, “with intensive, intelligent, and repetitive work, we can all do the basics, better.”
Originally published in the March 2011 issue of Ozark Preps Illustrated.