Fundamental: “something upon which other things rest and depend.”
“So when you talk about the fundamentals of athletics, you’re talking about things that absolutely have to be present, or be done, in order for progress to be made and success to occur in athletics.”
A quote from the manuscript I am currently working on, “Becoming a True Champion: Achieving Athletic Excellence From the Inside Out,” it represents the essence of what fundamentals in sports are all about. They are the beginnings from which one can build, and in their absence forward progress in any sport is either hampered or impossible to achieve.
To look at it another way, they are the base building blocks, or basic skills, that an athlete should acquire so that they can climb the ladder of improvement, gaining ever higher and higher levels of performance, mastery, and skill attainment. And they are very, very important.
However, when stepping back to look at a good number of athletes, teams, clubs, and athletic programs (at almost all levels), it does seem that their focus on the fundamentals is somewhat lacking. Not all show this tendency (especially the best athletes and programs), but there are enough that it makes one wonder whether importance is being placed in the right areas during training. You can even find this lack of concentration on fundamentals at some Division I college athletic programs, places where they should know better.
It seems the importance of “winning” has overwhelmed many into believing that that result is based upon some specific strategy or game plan that needs to be executed. That this takes precedence, during training, over the necessary development of proper fundamentals of the game and skills needed to play that game – at least well. The very things necessary to efficiently and effectively carry out the “game plan” that so many religiously hold in high regard.
What I would instead propose is that much more practice time, and focus, be spent on preparing athletes properly through concentrated strengthening of the fundamental skills necessary to play their sport. Essentially like building a house where the stronger you make the base (the house’s foundation), the more solid the structure on top. In relating this same thinking to sports, the stronger, more solid one’s fundamentals, the easier it is to execute skills “above” those fundamentals and the more likely an athlete can implement any strategy a coach employs.
It is in doing so that winning becomes, simply, an outcome of the proper preparation that athletes, and teams, put in. Not only can this, eventually, add more “W’s” to the win column (at least for those with long-term vision), but it establishes that solid base of support athletes need in order to reach their potential – their full potential. Skill acquisition becomes much easier to attain as this method of training literally opens up athletic possibilities that do not exist without it.
When applying this concept to a sport like soccer, make sure that players are able to handle the ball well with their body and both feet (trapping, passing, dribbling, etc.) by placing a high level of importance in fun drills that develop these skills. And do this as a priority over strategies and game plans that one might use to win a game. With regard to a sport like basketball, good ball handling is also critical as players need to dribble, pass, shoot (basic shooting) and move without the ball, in order to execute any strategy of that game proficiently. The sport of volleyball is no different as proper movement, overhand and underhand passing, serving, and digging all constitute basics (depending on level) important to efficient play in that game. In fact, there is not a sport that I am aware of that does not have some form of basic fundamentals that should take precedence in an athlete’s, and a team’s, training.
And as athletes and teams improve, combine these basics (aspects which they work on every day) with the “strategies of the game” you want them to learn. Every aspect of the “game” should be built, and trained, with the idea of consistently trying to improve on the fundamentals of whatever sport is being played.
It is an essential piece of the puzzle for proper skill acquisition; a piece increasing an athlete’s range of ultimate potential, and one that too many these days so often forget.