Heard about an interesting conversation the other day. If I understand it correctly, one of the participants was saying that by the age of 16 it's a waste of time to work on fundamentals. Either they have it by then or they will never get it.
That's certainly an interesting perspective. I know a lot of college coaches would be shocked by that thought. Fundamentals are the foundation of the game, by definition, and they always need work. Problems with fundamentals are where errors come from.
Anyone who has read anything from legendary basketball coach John Wooden knows how he felt about fundamentals. When new players came to UCLA he would teach them how to put on their socks. Part of it was to instill a sense of discipline and control -- this is how we do things around here. But part of it was also to help them minimize blisters.
Wooden took the same care with basketball fundamentals. He felt if his teams could pass, shoot, rebound and whatever else they do in basketball better than their opponents, they would win.
Softball is a complex game in a lot of ways, that's for sure. But it's also fairly simple. As the manager in Bull Durham says, you throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. The better you can execute these skills under pressure, the more chance you give your team of winning.
Spectacular plays are spectacular because they're unusual. It's great if you can make them. But they're the exception. If you make those but don't make the plays you ought to make, you will probably lose, because there are a lot more of the straightforward plays in the game.
Major League Baseball players start with fundamentals every spring, and continue to work on them throughout the year. When teams hit losing streaks, managers will decry the lack of fundamentals and place extra focus on them. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for youth players.
Knowing where to go with the ball is important. But you also have to be able to get it there. Without a continuous focus on fundamentals, it becomes a crapshoot.