Thursday, September 26, 2013

Don't Forget the Fundamentals

   Here's another excerpt from my new book, The Young Athlete's Guide to Playing Sports. This short topic is from chapter 2, Learning How to Play, and discusses the importance of keeping your fundamental skills intact as you advance.

Don't Forget the Fundamentals

As you get older and your skills improve, your game will become more complete. You will become bigger, faster, and stronger. You’ll perform at a higher level and execute more complex skills. But as your game expands, it’s important that you don’t lose sight of your fundamental skills.

In your haste to add more skills, don’t lose the ones you already have! Regularly return to and practice the essential, basic skills of your sport to keep the foundation of your game strong.
During each practice (at the beginning or end) spend several minutes executing your essential shots or other skills, concentrating on your form. Do this in a way that you are not challenged by the physical characteristics of the skill such as speed, quickness or strength. Execute the skill with a comfortable, even tempo. Move closer to the goal if you’re shooting or throwing a ball. As you flow through each element of the skill, feel whether your movements match your mental picture of the respective element that belongs to the perfect shot or other skill. Repeat this multiple times until you have executed the skill with perfect form—then move back to your normal distance (if you’re shooting or throwing) and bring up the skill’s execution speed to its typical level.

For example, in basketball, take a few minutes practicing your shooting motion three to five feet in front of the basketball hoop.

Focus on a perfect grip and arm setup (form an “L” and pretend you’re carrying a pizza above your head). Place your non-shooting hand to your side or behind your back. Use your legs to push the “L” upward into a smooth release that generates backspin and a high arc. Follow-through with your hand extended over and into the basket.

In tennis, you might start your practice by hitting easy groundstrokes with your partner from the service line, concentrating on good form (emphasizing a fluid motion with topspin). Every sport has its essential skills that you can practice in this manner.

Whenever you feel your form deteriorating while practicing a normal shot or skill, stop and perform the actions described above. Your goal in practice is to develop repeatable skill movements, ones that incorporate the form that will most consistently give you the best result. Do not reinforce bad form by poor practice habits! With few exceptions, you’re as good as your practice.

Copyright © 2013 Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved

If you enjoyed this article, you may like my book: The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the Best Youth Sports Experience for Your Child

($8.95; Kindle: $2.99)

Copyright 2009-2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads; All Rights Reserved


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