Case Study From the Big Leagues: Even The Pros Need Help Mastering The Basics (And So Do You)

If an athlete can perform at the highest levels, they must have the basics of their movement patterns down to a science, right? Surprisingly, many times they don’t.

In the clip below you’ll watch Bobby Dickerson (who has an incredible baseball name) from the Orioles coaching some of his Major League players on the absolute fundamentals of footwork, body movement and head position. And guess what? Most of these pros are doing the basics wrong. I’m talking about how to catch a ball. In fact, in most cases, they don’t even know what the basics are. They were never taught.

I don’t know a lot about baseball, but this video is a sublime example of three universal lessons from the gym that we could all benefit from learning and applying to our broader lives. 

First, we often assume that highly talented players/people have all the fundamentals down pat. This can lead to putting them on a pedestal and trying to mimic what they do. While they might have a certain technique, style, or character that’s worth emulating, they also probably have bad habits and make some basic mistakes. There’s a good chance that they may never have been shown the optimal way to do something when they were coming up through the ranks. This applies to many great lifters who you can watch on YouTube and to the fittest person in your gym who you might look up to. We’re all fallible and have things to improve. So if you’re going to emulate something you see from a standout performer, make sure they’re actually doing it right.

Second, watch the learning curve in real time. Even the most talented players make mistakes when picking up a new skill - no matter how simple it is. They need to start small and work through progressions to gradually put all the moving pieces together. They’re just the same as anyone else with a skill they want to learn. You’ll watch them do just that in the video.

Third, no matter who you are, mastering the fundamentals (i.e. getting to the point where the skills become a completely automatic reaction) takes high quality, regular practice of very simple drills. This isn’t sexy stuff. It might not even be very fun. It’s the basics. There’s only one way to become proficient at them and that’s putting in the time to do countless high-quality reps. Then you’ll need to keep working to maintain those good habits. Otherwise it’s easy for the bad old ones to creep back in.

Just as with anything, when you gain virtuoso level ability on the basics, your performance and consistency will high-jump to a new level. Everything becomes easier.

Check out the video. I think you’ll appreciate just how simple yet masterful this coaching is, even for highest level pros in the world. It’s not easy to point out the simplest flaws in a high level athlete and to get them to buy into taking a few steps backward to fix them. As a fellow coach I admire Dickerson’s approach here.