Are you teaching fundamental skills to your athletes?

Most coaches were brought up believing that the key to success in any sport is fundamentals.  We as coaches must teach fundamental skills, whether it be blocking and tackling in football, fielding and pitching in baseball or take downs in wrestling.  When things begin to get complicated with equipment, hiring quality assistants, dealing with parents, creating a team budget, knowing First Aid and CPR(and getting your yearly certification!), having a system for offense and defense, etc.., etc…., etc…., we always are reminded that if you really want to be successful you must be able to teach your kids the basic skills.  You will always have a chance to win if your kids know and can do the basics.
At Team Jordan last week, I was reminded again of this basic concept.  Put in a basic system and rep the basic skills over and over and over.  Be deliberate, drill, drill, drill(and drill some more), wrestle live to have the kids put into practice what they have learned, go over common mistakes in basic technique and drill, drill and drill.  Make it tough, push them, give them a sense of pride in their accomplishments….but most importantly give them a chance to be successful.  And the only way to give them that chance is by skill training.
I think skill training in our culture today is a forgotten art.  For sure it’s a forgotten art in sports.  So many coaches want to call the plays and be important on the sidelines these days.  The humble position coach that teaches technique tirelessly day after day, going unnoticed in the newspaper write-ups is becoming less and less common;  but that was the coach I always wanted to be, the coach most of us wanted to be I think.  At Michigan State, when I played, the o-line coach was a man named Buck Nystrom and he was that type of guy.  The players loved him!  He was relentless, berating the o-line, teaching them, hugging them, correcting them…all for the sake of perfect technical o-line play.
But I think skill training is a forgotten art in all aspects of a young man’s life.  Think about it, what are our boys really good at when they graduate from high school?  Playing video games?  Hanging out?  Texting?  Listening to their I-pods?  And even if they are skilled in the sport you have taught them, will that earn them a living to raise a family on?  I doubt it….at least the percentages are not in their favor.  
There was a time when young people served as apprentices.  They learned a trade, a craft, a skill from a master.  The work was hard, obedience was a priority.  Heck, the apprentice often lived with the master for three, four, five or more years!  But after the service was complete, the youngster (young men and women alike served as apprentices) had a viable skill he could call his own, a skill he could use to make money and support himself and family.  For whatever reason this system fell to the wayside, probably because of the Industrial Revolution when master craftsman were no longer needed.
Skill training needs to be a rediscovered art. (maybe not to the extreme of having these “apprentices” living in your house.  I don’t know if my wife would go for that!)  And you as a coach need to be the master teacher.  Sure you have to teach your fundamental sports skills but there is so much more you must impart.  What skills are you teaching to ensure your athletes will be successful in life?  Do your kids know HOW to work hard?  Do your kids know HOW to control themselves in the face of temptation?  Do your kids know HOW to sacrifice their own desires for the good of a loved one?  Do your kids know HOW  to shake hands?  Do your kids know HOW to look somebody in the eye when talking to them?  Do your kids KNOW not to interrupt somebody in the middle of a conversation?  Do your kids know HOW to set goals, work a plan, and problem solve when their plans go awry?  Do your kids know HOW to talk to girls, HOW to treat girls with respect?  Do your kids know HOW to talk to God, HOW to pray, HOW to believe in something bigger than them?  If the answer is no, you better get to work coaches.  Because knowing how to block is great for winning a football game, knowing how to field a ground ball is great for winning the regional baseball championship, knowing how to hit a head inside single-drive up to your feet-finish with a dump is great for winning a state championship….. but none of these will really arm you to fight the really big fights of your adult life.
In, Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell, Navy SEAL Luttrell survives an incredible confrontation with the enemy in Afghanistan, in my opinion, because of two basic reasons.  First, his training that he received to become a Navy Seal in the first place, trained him to deal with anything and everything.  He was taught how to survive, through incredibly brutal training at the hands of his “coaches”.  He had skills.  Secondly, God came to Luttrell’s aid.  But Luttrell had to have the humility and faith to believe that God loved him and would help him.  Luttrell also had to have the humility and faith to ask God to help him in the first place.  I don’t know where he got this “training”, probably from a host of people throughout his life.  Still, he had the basic skill of faith.  In any event, I hope that when my athletes are dealing with the enemies of life long after wrestling, they will have faith that they will overcome, not only because the skills I taught them but also because of the knowledge that God will always be there for them and will never  abandon them.   May you have the same grace.
Sincerely,
Coach Willertz-Winton Woods Wrestling- “WILL SKILL DRILL"