Wednesday, February 1, 2017

#65 Three Drills to Create Toughness

Mental toughness is spartanism with qualities of sacrifice, self-denial, dedication. It is fearlessness, and it is love. --Vince Lombardi

There is not a team that I have coached that I didn't love.  I don't have a former player who I don't look forward to our next conversation.  It makes my day every time one of them calls or writes. Although I am extremely proud of all my players, I have had very few kids over the years who came to our program who I would call naturally tough.  Toughness HAS to be taught.

So few kids are raised on farms anymore.  Even kids from the city with tough economic conditions aren't as tough as they used to be.  I can't tell you how many families I talk to who are struggling to pay next months rent, but the 15-year old in the family has an iPhone and a pair of Air Jordans.

Toughness has become how big of a bully we can be on Twitter.

For those of you who are in the same position I am where you are just trying to give those kids who have never been hungry; never been without; have never had to get on their knees and put a hard days work in, here are a couple of drills that I think will help.  I have split them into 3 categories:


Have your kids partner up with a teammate who is similar in age, size and strength.  Let them pick their "opponent".  It will be good for you to see what they think is a good match for them.

Have one player hold a ball with their hands to the sides.  Have the other player hold the ball with their hands at the top and the bottom.

Blow your whistle or say "GO".  This is basically tug-of-war with two people and a basketball.  Do a best out of 7, and see who comes away with the possession the majority of the time.  The losers have to do 25 push-ups.

Once you say go, they can use their bodies and arms in anyway, as long as they don't kick, throw elbows, bite, etc.  Let them learn through repetition how to use their leverage to win that ball.

They will hate this drill, but they will learn to crave it.  Take 2-minutes and do it daily for a couple weeks.  You will find that you will stop losing all those loose rebounds and jump balls.


This is a great drill that Coach Shiomi taught me a few years back.  I cannot remember what she called it, but to me, the drill reminds me of the movie "Unbroken" because of the resilience it takes to win the drill.

Put one player in the paint as a post defender.  Line-up the rest of your roster at the top of the key.  The first offensive player runs into the paint and receives a post entry from a coach.  The play is then live 1 v 1.  The offensive player only gets 2 dribbles, but the play goes on until the offense scores or the defender gets a rebound or a steal or forces a turnover.

Once there is a score or a stop, the next offensive player dives to the post.  The defensive player stay on until they get 3 stops in a row.  The coach picks a new defender if there are 3 stops before the 10 minutes runs out.

CAUTION:  Start with your weakest kids on defense.  There will be tears.  There will be sympathy.  Don't let your offensive players take it easy on the exhausted kid who has had to play defense 10 times in a row.  Let that kid find their will and might and resilience.  They will get the job done if you let them.  I have done this drill numerous time for 10 minutes and only one player got to play defense the whole time.  They will be the saddest person in the gym, but they will NEVER let themselves be put in that position again.


Yes, another one of my favorite movies.  300 vs. 100,000.  Seems impossible.

This is a simple 3 v 3 half-court drills.  However, much like "Unbroken", the first 3 defenders must get 3 stops in a row.  If they foul, the count goes back to zero (same for Unbroken).  Make sure your offense attacks.  Once the defense gets a stop or the offense gets the score, the person closest to the ball must pass it out to the next offensive player at half court IMMEDIATELY, and those next three players IMMEDIATELY ATTACK the 3 defenders.  The offense can screen, cut, dribble, post, shoot however they want, but they must attack.

Once the 3 defenders get a stop, the coach picks 3 other defenders and you go again.  Coach Brase made us to do this at Coe the practice before every game, and I have used it ever since [I think Coach actually called the drill "Warrior"].  It is a great drill to build toughness, but it also builds teamwork.  The 3 defenders must work together or they will play defense for the full 10 minutes and be exhausted at the end.

Good luck with the last few weeks of the season!  I hope these three drills can help give you an edge your teams have been missing.  As always, please call with questions.

Coach Matt Rogers
Twitter:  @madcoachdiary
Phone:  (312) 610-6045

Matt Rogers is a 20-year high school and college coach veteran.  He has led two teams to the NCAA National Tournament and one team to a High School State Championship.  His teams hold numerous school and one NCAA record. He has mentored and coached players at every level while serving as an athletics administrator at the high school and NCAA levels. He has helped numerous players continue their careers at the professional level. He currently is the Head National Scout/Recruiting Specialist for NCSA - Next College Student Athlete where he has helped thousands of young men and women from around the world achieve their dreams of playing at the college level.  Coach presently lives in the Denver, CO area with his wife of 19 years and his two children. 

To request Coach Rogers to speak at your school or event, you can reach him through any of his contact information above.