A friend recently informed me that his daughter planned to try out for the high school basketball team. He asked for my opinion on where he should begin in preparing her for the season. The word “FUNDAMENTALS!” immediately came into my mind. I advised him to focus on ball-handling. “If she can’t take care of the ball,” I responded, “she won’t get into the game. If she doesn’t get into the game, she’ll never fall in love with the sport. If she doesn’t fall in love with the sport, she’ll never find the passion for improving.” He then asked me for some drills to pass along to her and I proceeded to forget about it, until this morning.

As I thought back to my days as a coach, I remembered how most practices began with ball-handling drills. My belief was that a team which takes care of the ball will find themselves either on top or competing to win most of the time.

I remember hating “drills” as a kid growing up in north central Indiana. I just wanted to play the game….what was the deal with all these drills? It was just another way for adults to take the fun out of playing…

As an adult however, I came to appreciate that everything flowed outward from the fundamentals. It was the day-in and day-out practicing of fundamentals that allowed a player to learn how to pump-fake to get the defender up in the air, take a power dribble to the right, plant his left foot and reverse pivot while doing a cross-over dribble to the left hand, followed by two power dribbles to create space from the defender, plant both feet while squaring the shoulders to the basket, elevating into the air, extending the ball off the finger tips creating a gooseneck in the shooting wrist after the follow through on a shot, and watching the ball kiss off the backboard through the net as you call out “Bank!” Got it?

Hmmm… get all that just from practicing those stupid drills? Yeah! When you put it all together, it’s beautiful art…especially the trash talk at the end.

So back to this morning…

As the creative juices began to flow through my head, I typed up some dribbling and non-dribbling drills for my friend and the lessons began to come back into my mind:

• “Bend the knees, not the waist!”
• “Look up! Keep your eyes focused down court!”
• “Feel the ball on your fingertips, not in your palm…”
• “Weight on the balls of the feet, not the heels!”

As I wrapped up my “practice plan,” I was reminded once again that it is through mastering the fundamentals that a person becomes dangerous on the offensive side of the ball. We’re speaking metaphorically now in case you were wondering…

What I took away from this brief step back in time as a coach was this: I must take a hard look at the fundamentals in my own life. Am I taking care of the ball? Am I freaking out when my opponent puts on the full-court press or am I attacking the press to make the opponent pay? Am I looking to score, or am I afraid to shoot when the game is on the line?

What about you… What are the fundamentals in your own game? Are you taking care of the ball or getting sloppy and creating turnovers? Are you playing with an unshakable confidence because you’ve settled in your mind who you are? Are you playing to win, or are you playing not to lose? Does your opponent see doubt and fear in your eyes, or does he see fierce determination? Do you want the ball in the closing seconds of the game, or do you feel inadequate for that role?



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