Basketball Basics: Building the Correct Foundation
To excel at any sport, you gotta first understand and master the fundamentals. In tennis you learn to get your racket back early and brush up on the ball to create topspin. In golf, you might first learn the grip or the distance you stand from the ball. And for basketball, you might first learn the “triple threat” stance – the Basketball Basics.
I am a fundamental fanatic because I believe when all else fails, you can always go back to the fundamentals. In fact, I spend a lot of time in every practice teaching fundamentals. Passing to the left side using your left hand. The proper defensive stance. Start stepping using your right foot. Closing out with your hands up. Keeping your head from bobbing when you pivot. There are lots of fundamentals that must be learned and practiced and if you want to become a complete player, you must master them. There is nothing more important!
Hold on….. Scratch that. There are actually some things that are even more important than fundamentals. And they are the foundational elements that all great players must work towards. As a coach and a dad, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to teach my kids these characteristics and skills. And to simplify it, I turned them into a list of the 4 most essential foundations that every player should strive for. And here they are:
1. Playing the Game Often.
Simply just having the desire to play and enjoy the game is so important. The game must be fun. If it’s not, interest will be lost quickly. So make it fun by playing games, mixing up a variety of shooting and ball handling drills, and keep their spirits up by telling them how much they’re improving. The more they like it, the more they play. And the real benefit from lots of playing is the understanding of the game and its purpose. When you play a lot, you start to quickly pick up on what to do, where to go, where they are in relation to the goal, where their teammates are, how to get open, and what the next move needs to be. And all of this contributes to better decision making.
2. Balance and Footwork.
This may come with age and strength and coordination, but this is a building block for all athletes at all levels. They must have good, quick footwork. Where a player may lack in shooting, he can easily make up for it with good footwork. It’s not only extremely important on defense, but for a player to be effective on offense, he must know how to change speed and direction on a dime, cut at sharp angles, and jump and land with great coordination.
3. Mental Toughness.
This is another attribute that usually comes with age. But having a mental toughness is clearly advantageous on many levels. It can keep you from getting down. It can push you harder in close-game situations. It can make you do one more push-up than you thought possible. Quite frankly, it’s a good trait to have.
4. Playing away from the ball.
80% of the game, whether you’re on offense or defense, is played away from the ball. What to do while you’re away from the ball is one of the hardest concepts to grab. Do you relax? Do you head straight to the guy with the ball with your hands stretched out and yell “I’m open, I’m open, I’m open?” No, no, and no. Learning what to do when you’re “away from the ball” is so valuable, that once you learn it, you will be amazed at how many more times per game you get the ball.
These 4 foundational elements may take a lot of time to master, but they are the backbone of all successful basketball players. As you grow and continue to play basketball, you will develop and improve these skills. Simply participating in any type of athletics will force you to get better and become more aware of all four of these foundational items.
So whether you’re a parent, coach, or player, use this list as a focal point as you encourage the accomplishments of young basketball players. Though they may not “get it,” continue to tell them over and over that becoming a complete player has nothing to do with fancy passes or funky dunks, but has everything to do with mastering the 4 foundational skills listed above.