Coaches at every level agree that fundamentals are important. However, not very many coaches devote practice time actually working on fundamentals, especially once players are beyond the beginning level of the game. In order to be effective in basketball coaching, coaches need to get back to basics and make sure their players work on fundamentals every practice.
Why are Fundamentals Important?
The essential elements of basketball - dribbling, shooting, basic offense and defense - are the fundamentals of the game. These skills are always covered in the first season of beginning basketball. Perhaps this is the reason many coaches associate the fundamentals with something only little kids need to work on. When they are addressed in practice beyond the beginning level, it is usually only in a brief, dismissive way that is not effective in improving players' technique.
This lack of focus on technique is evident at any level of basketball. The foul shot percentage at the professional level is between 63% and 78%. Many teams have players who are not able to effectively dribble the ball down the court. By spending time working on basic technique in practice, players will forget their bad habits and learn to become better players overall.
In order to coach offense fundamentals, coaches need to think beyond offensive plays. If players have practiced their fundamentals on the individual and team level, then their offense can react to the opposing team's defense, adjusting to the other players and the needs of the game. This flexibility is only possible if players are confident in their abilities and are able to communicate on the court.
A common assumption in basketball coaching is that zone defense is easier to learn and execute than person-to-person defense. Thinking fundamentally, however, it becomes clear that players need to be aware of proper one-on-one defense technique in order to be able to perform zone defense. Each player should understand the basics of covering or guarding an opposing team member. Once this ability is established, a team can utilize any type of defense strategy.
The Fundamentals Challenge
Many coaches are under the misconception that fundamentals are easy to learn, probably because they are so emphasized when teaching beginners. However, basketball fundamentals are actually quite challenging. Proper technique is difficult to learn, apply, and practice, especially after players have gotten used to incorrect methods. For this reason, the fundamentals should be revisited every season, at every practice.
In order to effectively coach the fundamentals, coaches might have to alter their training methods and approach to practice. However, this look back to the basics will be a huge leap forward in the skill levels of the players. No matter what else changes in the game, the fundamentals of basketball will always be the same.