Back to Basics Coaching

By January 17, 2014 2 Comments

In the ever-changing and demanding world of coaching, it is often difficult to lose sight of the things that are most important: fundamentals. There is pressure to win at every level of sport and sadly that pressure becomes too great. Coaches neglect fundamentals and focus solely on winning on the scoreboard. We need to go back to the basics.

The problem once athletes get to the high school level is that coaches tend to make assumptions. We assume that fundamental skills have been taught and mastered. As a result, we don’t spend enough time developing and mastering the fundamental skills that success requires. Great coaches know that success lies in the details. The best coaches in any sport at any level know that the team who makes the fewest mistakes wins the overwhelming majority of time. Because they understand this, great coaches always work on the fundamental details of the game. As a result their teams have a high winning percentage.

One of my favorite coachisms is, “You either coach it or allow it to happen.” We must be explicit in our skill development. The skill must be properly taught, demonstrated, and corrected. If details are not corrected then the player will not be able to progress and move onto the next level of mastery. Coach John Wooden once said: “Develop a love for details. They usually accompany success.” He couldn’t be more right. Not only do successful coaches, players, and teams pay attention to details, but they know they’re often the difference between winning and losing. As coaches we either teach and correct or we allow the mistakes to continue.

A coach should never say, “We need to get back to the fundamentals.” Why do you need to get back to them? Why did you ever stray from them? Fundamentals should always be a part of the practice plan. It doesn’t matter if it’s late in the season or a preseason practice. On my team, we put a heavy emphasis on fundamentals throughout our summer, preseason, and early season practices. As we get to January and on court time begins to lessen (in order to keep players fresh), but we still work offensive and defensive fundamentals daily. Always remember, more games are lost than are won. Don’t ever stray from fundamental skill development.

A key element in back to basic coaching is explaining why. I am a firm believer that an athlete must know why the certain skill is important. It’s not enough just to say “do this.” A coach must explain why the skill will help the player become better and how it will help them in a game. Without knowing why, mastery cannot take place.

The problem with youth sports today is that kids aren’t being taught fundamental skills. They simply are not being taught enough. Skill development often gets overlooked on club, select, and traveling teams. Too many coaches are too concerned with win-loss records and neglectfully overlook skill development. Kids are playing too many games. I argue that kids need to play fewer games and spend more time practicing. How much better is an athlete getting if they have three times the amount of games as practices? Great players are made in the gym when there are no fans or scoreboards.

I love football and basketball and want to see them grow. In order for that to happen we must produce better players. In order to produce better players, we as coaches must go back to teaching the basics. Wins will follow. Remember, we coach it or we allow it to happen!

What are some other elements you find critical to coaching, skill development, and the basics?

Thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!




Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Kyle Nelson says:


    I don’t coach the same sports as you, but I see the exact same problems. To take it a step further, I was a part of a club team that did things the right way. Focused entirely on player development and the experience of the athlete. When the summer can around, and there wasn’t as much winning going on as parents thought should be, people became disgruntled and completely forgot all of the great things we did in the Winter (and all of the great things they said about us). After the season, many of the players looked for greener pastures where they were getting nowhere near the player development, but probably won more because of better recruiting.

    People talk about fundamentals, but its much easier said than done!

    I have a similar blog to yours. It’s a baseball blog, but has a lot of coaching philosophy articles as well… http://www.cornerstonecoachingacademy.com/blog

  • kelmendorf says:

    Thanks for sharing Kyle, I will check your blog out! Keep up the great work!