The importance of fundamentals

Screen shot 2011-08-18 at 10.10.12 AMI recently watch a football game where both teams were evenly match but the more experienced team (the average player had played more games at this level) appeared to be sticking to the fundamentals even when the pressure was on. The less experienced team took the lead in the last 10 minutes and it looked like they were going to win. I couldn’t help noticing how calm the experienced players appeared considering they were about to lose one of the most important games of the year. In the final minutes they scored, took the lead and won the game. They may have very well lost but it would have been mostly due to a lack of time  or opportunity rather then error or poor judgement. Their experience taught them to stick to the fundamentals as it is almost always the best option.

Refining the skills is what matters

Over the years I have read hundreds of books and articles on teaching and coaching and one of the most repetitive messages is ‘Stick to the fundamentals’. In saying that it’s important to point out that the more experienced team did not win the game in the final minutes just because they stuck to the fundamentals. Sticking to fundamentals is a long term strategy. When we stick to anything long enough we get good at it. Fundamentals are just that. Fundamental skills needed in the activity at hand. Anything else is optional. Experienced players know that each game is just a chance to refine these fundamental skills. One game over a whole season is relatively unimportant. In fact when we are too focused on winning the game we lose sight of the bigger picture. When we stick to the fundamentals we refine those fundamental skills over weeks months and years and our overall game improves. Eventually we get so good that mistakes are rare and that is when the magic appears.

All songs are based on the fundamental skills

Every skill whether it be playing a football game or playing guitar is based on fundamentals. With guitar for example correctly  picking, strumming,  fingering chords, playing scales etc are fundamentals. A footballer might develop their kicking to improve their accuracy when on the field whereas a guitarist will develop her/his picking to get a better result when playing a song even if they have never played the song before. When you stray from the fundamentals you lose the foundation of great guitar playing. Your playing becomes unstable and therefore unreliable. When the pressure is on let’s say for an important performance and you are nervous sticking to the fundamentals and focusing on the bigger long term picture will help you to do your best at the time and to avoid placing too much importance on any one performance. Devote time each day to develop the fundamental skills and when it comes time to perform treat it as another practice session.

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