Focusing on fundamentals

Heard about an interesting conversation the other day. If I understand it correctly, one of the participants was saying that by the age of 16 it’s a waste of time to work on fundamentals. Either they have it by then or they will never get it.

That’s certainly an interesting perspective. I know a lot of college coaches would be shocked by that thought. Fundamentals are the foundation of the game, by definition, and they always need work. Problems with fundamentals are where errors come from.

Anyone who has read anything from legendary basketball coach John Wooden knows how he felt about fundamentals. When new players came to UCLA he would teach them how to put on their socks. Part of it was to instill a sense of discipline and control — this is how we do things around here. But part of it was also to help them minimize blisters.

Wooden took the same care with basketball fundamentals. He felt if his teams could pass, shoot, rebound and whatever else they do in basketball better than their opponents, they would win.

Softball is a complex game in a lot of ways, that’s for sure. But it’s also fairly simple. As the manager in Bull Durham says, you throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. The better you can execute these skills under pressure, the more chance you give your team of winning.

Spectacular plays are spectacular because they’re unusual. It’s great if you can make them. But they’re the exception. If you make those but don’t make the plays you ought to make, you will probably lose, because there are a lot more of the straightforward plays in the game.

Major League Baseball players start with fundamentals every spring, and continue to work on them throughout the year. When teams hit losing streaks, managers will decry the lack of fundamentals and place extra focus on them. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for youth players.

Knowing where to go with the ball is important. But you also have to be able to get it there. Without a continuous focus on fundamentals, it becomes a crapshoot.


About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on June 3, 2008, in Coaching, General Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Ken,Couldn’t agree more. It bugs me when players and coaches always want to practice “spectacular.” I would much rather have my player have the fundamentals down pact; be able to do them in their sleep so that when it really counts, it comes naturally. I’ve seen many situations where coaches are in so much of a rush to practice more “advanced skills” that the fundamentals get lost. Then, in the game, the routine plays are not routinelu made and the players never even had to make any of those “advanced” plays. You don’t necessarily have to practice only fundamentals in your practice, but when you do move on, don’t just throw fundamentals out the window and focus only on the result of the play. As a former player, I know going back to basics each season helped me out. I can’t imagine just skipping them, even if the player/team plays practically all year.


  2. Rich, my assistant coach, and I always talk about how if we had it to do over again at 10U, we’d make sure our players could catch and throw well before worrying about anything else. Probably not really true, but it’s close. Good fundamentals should never be underestimated. You don’t have to do them 24/7 — there still has to be an element of fun to practicing too — but if you put in the work it will serve you well.


  3. every fall at colleges through out the country asu ucla msu northwestern alabama fsu they all begin the season the same way with the fundementals of the game. simple throwing drills beginning with how to hold the ball. Tee drills footwork drills for fielding of course they progress quickly but if a batter hits a slump tee drills or other basics. during my years of coaching it has been my good fortune to come across the players ages 6-22 that are driven and excited to do the small things right and be their best, i wish they all could have that drive the excited twinkle in the eye and the smile of doing it right, that is worth more than the money it is seeing them learning to suceed.


  4. John,Well said. It really is the little things that make so much difference. No one’s fundamentals are ever perfect. You always need to work on them, either to build them or keep them sharp. One of our players was having a little error trouble last weekend. And of course one turned into several, to the point where this very serious player was very seriously frustrated. She had a crisis of confidence that could’ve really hurt her and the team. So what did we do? Took her back to basics. Had her work on seeing the ball into her glove, fielding out in front instead of at her feet, and other fundamentals. Darned if she didn’t turn it around quickly and have some gems of a game the last couple. You are right. Seeing her come out of the funk and regain that sparkle is the greatest feeling in the world. Fundamentals are not just for beginners. They’re for anyone who wants to achieve something great.


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    The artist is the opposite of the politically minded individual, the opposite of the reformer, the opposite of the idealist. The artist does not tinker with the universe, he recreates it out of his own experience and understanding of life. ~Henry Miller


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