There's a different breed of basketball player out there these days. Too often I see talented players who care more about how their crossover buckled the knees of their defender than using it to change direction and get to the cup.
The point is simple, it's winning. That's all anything is about, and if you're teaching something else you're doing yourself and your players a disservice. It's not to say that fair play and fun aren't important, but they are but secondary to the purpose of the game of basketball. Teach the game, keep it pure.
You play to win the game, anything else is unacceptable.
Therefore, when dealing with younger basketball players who are just learning the game, teaching them how to win first precedes fundamentals in my opinion.
Let me explain...
Winning is habitual and a state of mind
Before you teach fundamentals, you must first teach the player how to incorporate the fundamentals into his game. In order to do that, players these days must be taught what goes into being a winner, a winner's disposition.
What are winners? Winners are consistent, they are creatures of good habit, they opportunistic, they are resourceful, they are timely, reliable and cooperative. And it is only through their mastery of the fundamentals of first the art of winning and then the game of basketball (or whatever their craft is) that they can attain these attributes. It should be evident that this concept extends far past the painted lines of a basketball court. These are life skills for success.
In the art of winning, everything is a competition
A good coach makes his players understand that before they pick up the basketball they must be prepared to not only work hard, but to challenge themselves and their teammates to the point where it's a competition as to who can work the hardest. It is then important for players to understand that through teamwork and pushing one another, the individual can elevate the play of the team and a team working together can elevate the play of the individual so that both succeed in the common goal of winning.
Anyone not up to the level of competition must fall in the pecking order and be held accountable by first himself, then his teammates and then the coach. Each player must understand that the second he steps on the court they are competing for everything and in everything. That means you don't run, you sprint, you don't get down on the floor for a loose ball, you dive, it's maximum effort, 100 percent of the time if you want to be a winner.
Because the game requires constant competition, the stronger athlete always has an advantage. As such, players must be taught the value of continually strengthening and improving their bodies on a daily basis. As such, a basketball player must continuously train his body and know his body's capabilities completely. This philosophy must also be applied to individual basketball skills, practice, practice, practice! Then practice some more.
Again the concept of daily improvement extends past the realm of sports.
Each day is an opportunity to be physically stronger, mentally sharper and just flat out better than you were the day before. Players must understand that this is the only way to ensure that winning can become habitual.
And as you become stronger and better it means you must only work harder, for not only are you strengthening yourself so that you CAN work harder, but you must assume that others are doing the same, and as such you must out-work them, again, everything is a competition, nothing can be taken for granted or left to chance if winning is to be habitual.
Additionally, as a side note, I have seen it useful in many instances when players are encouraged to play other sports to understand the concept of winning in various games. Too many times I've seen a play that could have been made if the player had played baseball, soccer or another sport that would have given him the required skill/mind set to have made the play. While a failure to make a play that required a different skill/mind set may not be worthy of blame, the failure nonetheless could cost you the game, and quite simply, losing isn't winning.
Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals.
With that in mind, the next step is to outline the fundamentals of good basketball, beginning with footwork, athletic posture, balance and other fundamentals of body positioning.
Next the actual basket-ball skills come into play. First shooting, then ball handling, passing, screening, rebounding, boxing out etc.
Too often coaches fast forward and miss the basic principles of sport and competition. Youth are supposed to learn more than X's and O's from playing sports, that's what is so great about team sports. It is more important for young players to master these concepts than it is for them to be able to run flex to perfection.
As a Coach, you have built a solid foundation if you are able to instill these values into your players as a common way of doing things with anything less being completely unacceptable. If you waiver, so will your players, and ultimately, it may not be the case that you don't win, but it will be the case that you will lose to a team that has hung their hats on a winning philosophy.