About Coach Matt Monroe

Matt Monroe - Head Sophomore Basketball Coach - St. Patrick High School (Chicago)

Drills: Snow Valley Cut Throat

The following is from Tom Kleinschmidt, Head Boys’ Basketball Coach, DePaul Prep (Chicago):

TK Snow Valley Cut Throat

1. Can be 1 on 1, 2 on 2, 3 on 3, 4 on 4, or 5 on 5
2. Can have an offensive segment and a defensive segments
3. Games are scored to three – taking a charge is an automatic winner
4. Penalty can be a "Frozen Rope" – a 30 second 1/2 push-up
5. Non-negotiables – "or out" (i.e. no dribble, catch to triple threat, hard basket cut, etc.)
6. All whistle driven (frequency and volume, whistle vs. voice)
7. Coaching done off the court

Drills: Pitino Lay-Ups

The following is from Jason Dycus, Head Girls’ Basketball Coach, Naperville North High School (IL):

Dycus Pitino Lay-Ups

• Everyone has a basketball
• Each player dribbles full court, using in/out moves or change of direction moves
• They finish at the rim through contact from the coach
• The drill should run in both directions down the court

Huskie Peak Performance

The following is from Jeff Powers, Head Boys’ Basketball Coach, Naperville North High School (IL):

Peak performers are mentally strong and are able to achieve a consistent performance because they: Retain a confident, positive outlook even when things are not going well. Take a look at the following statements and check off which ones you have mastered.

  • 1. Can deal with distractions by managing my thoughts.
  • 2. Can tolerate pain and discomfort.
  • 3. Remain persistent when the going gets tough.
  • 4. Have the resilience to bounce back from disappointments.

Ask yourself these questions – How many times have I not played well because:

  • 1. I was not mentally ready to play.
  • 2. I was not physically ready to play.
  • 3. I did not respond to pressure situations.
  • 4. I was not aggressive enough.
  • 5. I was not properly prepared in practice.
  • 6. I made wrong decisions at critical times.
  • 7. It was hard to keep my focus and confidence.
  • 8. My skill set wasn’t as good as my opponents.

If you answered yes to any of these questions you need to increase your mental toughness. A mentally tough athlete is likely to:

  • Perform consistently in a range of his potential regardless of situational factors.
  • Retain a confident, positive, optimistic outlook when things are not going well.
  • Deal with distractions in a productive way.
  • Remain persistent when the going gets tough.
  • Be able to rebound from a “big win” or “disappointing loss”.

Mental toughness is a combination of learned skills that will help you raise the level of your training and competitive performance.

These include:

Goal Setting
Thought Management Self–Confidence 

Here are some exercises that you can do to develop these skills in a productive way.

Goal Setting:

97% of successful athletes state they were successful because they used a formalized goal setting exercise. They felt that goals were a source of motivation, discipline and direction.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who am I? (strengths and weaknesses)
  • Where do I want to go?
  • What do I need to do to get there?
  • Am I willing to do what it takes to get there?

Write down your goals and the date you want to accomplish them. Your goals should be specific, measurable and attainable. Be sure to set daily goals as they instill discipline and a sense of urgency. Put your goals in a place that you will read them daily.

Thought Management:

You cannot perform to your potential unless you have the ability to stay calm and composed in pressure situations. Mentally strong athletes develop this ability by learning how to develop productive attitudes and train their self-talk. This enables them to remove distractions, to overcome mistakes and maintain their focus.

Exercise: Develop the skill of positive self- talk by using affirmations. Affirmations are the act of making a positive statement about yourself.  Affirmations should be made in the present tense. Here is an example:

  • I am playing aggressively and hard.
  • I am playing under control and smart.
  • I am playing with tremendous confidence.
  • I am a great shooter.
  • I am a lock down defender.

Think of the way you want to perform and develop affirmations to guide you in that direction. You must write them down and internalize them by reading them aloud at least 3 times each every day. Affirmations strengthen us mentally as weight training strengthens us physically. The  key is to consistently repeat your affirmations.

Self – Confidence

Self – confidence occurs when we have a steady diet of perceived success. A simple definition of successes is the “progressive realization of personal, pre-determined, worthwhile goals.”

Check off things that you are doing to increase your self confidence:

  • 1. Increase your physical strength
  • 2. Increase your endurance and fitness level.
  • 3. Improving on your weaknesses in your skill set.
  • 4. Set realistic goals
  • 5. Thinking positively and making an effort to create enthusiasm.
  • 6. Repeating positive affirmations.
  • 7. Increase self – discipline. ( Being on time, keeping your word, staying organized)
  • 8. Standing tall, making eye contact with others, strong firm handshake.

Winning Concentration

Concentration and focus are the keys to consistent performances because it determines your ability to handle pressure. Athletes that are able to focus on the present are those that are able to manage their thoughts.


Practice focusing in class and at practice by recognizing when you have a distracting thoughts then drag your mind back to the object of your focus.

At home, practice focusing on a thought, word or object. Keep your focus as long as you can. When you lose your focus, fight the distraction and bring it back to your focus. Gradually with practice you should be able to keep your focus longer. As you focus try to get more details finely in tune.

Visualization/Mental Rehearsal

Winners “see” what they want to have happen in their “mind’s eye”. They “see” themselves performing skills or playing the way they want to play. Winners are able to use a centering breath to calm their body and get focused. Your mind doesn’t know what is real and what is not real. Practice perfection in your mind’s eye.


In a quiet relaxed setting close your eyes, center your mind by breathing in through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Visualize a skill or action that you want to do and continually run it through your mind and see your-self being perfect and successful at that skill.

These are some of the exercises peak performers use to increase their mental strength and toughness in order to improve their play. As an athlete you are seeking personal excellence – not comparable excellence. You want to achieve your potential.

Mental strength is developed by following a program on a consistent basis. As we need to stress our physical muscles to get physically stronger, so too, we must stress our “mental muscles” to get mentally stronger. You do this by seeking challenges and putting yourself in adverse situations at practice. The true test of mental toughness occurs during adversity.

Drills: 3 on 3 Full Court Help and Recover

The following is from Andrew Weber, Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach, Rockford University:

3 on 3 Help the Helper FC Weber

• Must stay in the alleys
• Attack close-outs with a dribble
• Defense must get ball stopped
• Kick and attack – jump to the ball
• Force defense to help and recover
• Play full court

Annawan Defensive Philosophy

The following is from Jason Burkiewicz, Head Girls’ Basketball Coach, Annawan High School (IL):

Career – 112-15

  • All 15 losses are to top 10 ranked opponents in 1A, 2A, or 3A
  • 11 of the 15 losses are by 5 points or less

Defensive Philosophy

When I was a player in high school I did not take as much pride as I should of in my defense.  I was a three point specialist from the point guard position who focused primarily on offense while occasionally getting a hand in the passing lane or getting a steal out front.  However, after becoming a coach defense has quickly become my primary focus and it has become the identity of my coaching style.

My outlook on defense all started to change when I took my first job coaching freshman girls’ basketball at Princeton High School.  I had coached boys’ basketball before but had no experience when dealing with girls sports.  This was a school in which volleyball was the known sport for girls and basketball was just an afterthought.  I could see that our girls were athletic.  They could run, jump, accelerate, change direction quickly, and even shoot a little bit, but for the most part when you put a ball in their hands all of that ability seemed to disappear.  After teaching the basics I knew about basketball we started off the season 0-12 before going into Christmas break.  After seeing my first dose of girls’ basketball for a month and a half I noticed that even the good teams lost quite a bit of athleticism when they had to handle the ball at the same time.  Their eyes were down and their passes were not sharp when faced with pressure.  So over Christmas break I threw out everything else we were focusing on and I taught my girls a 1-2-1-1 full court press and a 2-2-1 full court press.  I figured we were going to use our athleticism when not in possession of the ball and our defense was going to create our primary source of offense.  Our first game after Christmas we played a 12-0 team in our conference and beat them having scored forty-five points.  Our full court pressure made the game very difficult on our opponent and after we would cover a passing lane and get a steal we would pass the ball ahead immediately to someone going to the basket for a lay-up.  This game shaped me and my ideals of girls’ basketball.  Today I am a four year varsity girls’ coach at Annawan High School with a record of 112-15 and I attribute a great part of it to our defensive philosophy.

After becoming a girls’ coach I soon realized that when you have a fast male basketball player and put a basketball in his hand, he is still pretty fast, but when you have a girl who is fast and put a basketball in her hand, on average she is quite a bit slower.  Therefore I determined that the best place my girls could showcase their athleticism and be aggressive was on defense.  I grew up playing in a man to man system.  I still teach man to man and we will play it because I strongly believe you need to know good man to man principles in order to play a zone effectively.  With that being said I have become a strong believer in aggressive, trapping zone defenses.  No matter who we play I always start off in either our 2-2-1 or 1-2-1-1 full court pressure.  These two presses are very similar in trapping style and rotations but I teach two because it can be confusing to opposing players just by making a subtle change in alignment.  We will also run a 1-2-2 three quarter court press.  By throwing different looks at the defense it causes our opposing coach to often times have to use timeouts to show a different way to attack our press.  Then I just simply change back to a different one.  It is my philosophy that I do not have to coach against our opponents coach but rather I have to outsmart our opponents’ players.  By allowing our team the option of changing looks it forces the opposing players to make adjustments because their coach cannot call a timeout every time we switch things up.  Also when pressing the girls can really free themselves up to use their speed and athleticism without having to control the basketball.  My girls in the past have told me how much they really enjoy playing this up-tempo style of basketball.  I find that it keeps them engaged in the game and even takes away from any sort of nervousness that may occur in a big game because of the constant movement that forces them to react more than think.  In fact, there have been games where we have had to pull the press off because our opponent was beating it consistently but toward the end of close games when nerves start to kick in we have gone back to it.  After making this move we almost always find that in this high pressured situation our opponent cannot handle the same press they did earlier in the game.

If we are not using our full court pressure that drops back into a man defense then we will be using our 1-3-1 half court trap.  This has been my go to defense the past couple of season for a couple reasons.  We have been able to form great traps because I have had multiple lanky girls with long arms that cause opponents to throw rainbow passes over the top.  After we steal these rainbow passes it allows us time to set up for a lay-up whereas our full court pressure sometimes still causes us to make contested lay-ups after steals.  The main reason I like this defense so much is because it forces our opponents to not be able to run whatever offense they practice all season long.  Against our 1-3-1 we know our opponent is going to show us a 2-1-2 look.  Because everybody tries to attack the 1-3-1 the same way it allows our players to recognize what teams are looking for and gives us a huge advantage when anticipating passes.

The last thing I want to mention in our defensive philosophy that is preached and taught every day in practice is, “No Middle.”  No matter what we are running defensively rather it is our man to man or any of our zone defenses we never want our opponent to be able to catch a pass or dribble penetrate to the middle of the floor.  I feel that too much damage can be done to a defense when the ball is in the middle of the floor particularly at the free throw line.  When a good guard can get to this position on the floor too many options become available.  They can shoot a nice short jump shot or help can come from either side of the floor allowing the guard to dump the ball off either direction for a lay-up.  Instead we want to ball to go baseline, behind the basket, where we can again set a trap.  Shooting from behind the basket is not a high percentage shot in my opinion so we want to overplay the hand that the offensive player would have to use to get to the middle of floor, making them go toward the baseline if they put the ball on the floor.  When I first teach this concept many fans, coaches, and players will remind me of the old basketball saying, “Never give up baseline.”  I respond with, “We don’t give up baseline, we force baseline!”  When it is part of your defensive concept it is easy to force a player down there and get a trap.  After our rotations there is only one place to pass the ball and it is away from the basket to a wing on ball side.  This has been very effective for us and this concept too takes our opponent away from what they want to accomplish offensively because through high pressure, we determine where the ball is going to go, not the offense.

Spurs Drill

The following is from Nick LoGalbo, Head Boys’ Basketball Coach, Lane Tech High School (Chicago):

Spurs Drill LOGALBO

• We are playing 4 on 4 on 4.
• The team waiting to come in is at half.
• The first team to 7 stops wins.
• You score with defensive stops. (This establishes defense as our core).
• If you score, you get to go to defense. ("All you did was score").
• On make or defensive stop ball is immediately passed to coach who outlets to team waiting for immediate attack.
• Defense must communicate! (Offense is in Cut-Throat but we can use different triggers to start just like Shell).
• We can get this into 5 on 5 on 5 and have outlet to half right away-no walking up (sprint back on defense)
• This also helps teach taking good shots (if they are taking bad shots the defense gets a stop and offensive players will get on each other that they need to take a better shot.
• If there is a foul he goes to line one shot missed is live, if he makes both his team goes on defense.
• Also, every offensive board is a point taken away from the defense.