Do you have a shorter team that seems to get out-rebounded all the time by bigger opponents? Fear not, there is hope. Short doesn’t have to mean no rebounds. In basketball, size does matter, but it’s not the only thing that matters. How a coach trains his team physically and mentally can make a big difference between a good rebounding squad and one that gets hammered on the boards. Never let your lack of size be an excuse for poor rebounding, because it isn’t.
Rebounding is often a “numbers” game. A shorter team needs to always have all five players hit the defensive boards on every opponent’s shot attempt. No one can be allowed to cherry pick, stand and watch, or otherwise not become involved in obtaining possession. By having everyone rebound, your short team will have a 5 vs 3 (or better) advantage in the battle for rebounds on opponents’ shot attempts. That’s because 2 or more opponents usually retreat to protect against your transition offense.
While it is important to block out opponents attempting to crash the offensive boards, it is even more important to stress that players all pursue the ball. “Get the ball” is the goal, not just boxing out. The best rebounders are those who relentlessly pursue the ball, not those who block out the best. Both can be important, but if it comes down to a choice, “get the ball” is more important.
A shorter team is usually quicker than a taller team; thus, they have the quickness to “go get the ball” much better than bigger, slower opponents. Take advantage of quickness with relentless effort. Your quickness can make you a good offensive rebounding team too, especially when shooting a lot of 3’s.
Teach players the 70% Rule, which says: “A shot missed from the side will bounce over the rim and to the opposite side 70% of the time. A shot from in front of the basket will bounce back toward the shooter 70% of the time.” Have offensive rebounders use this knowledge to gain the “best” position and gather more offensive rebounds. Have the guards use this knowledge to get defensive rebounds when their opponent does not crash the boards and heads back on transition defense.
Boxing out is important on free throws attempted by opponents. This is where a shorter team is most vulnerable and can give up some easy points. Practice this situation often and make sure the players know how important it is to “assume the shot is missed and to get a body on someone.”
Suggestions for Improving Your Short Team’s Rebounding
- Discuss with the players openly their shortcomings and why you think it could be a major problem next season.
- Ask them to make suggestions that will help overcome this problem. Take note of their suggestions and wisely use those that you feel will really help.
- Include some sort of rebounding drill in every team practice or informal workout in spring, summer and fall.
- Continue to drill rebounding in some form during every practice in season. A fundamental drill with no opposition for 2 minutes and a competitive drill with opposition for 5 minutes are what I favor daily.
- Have a manager or assistant keep track of rebounds during practices and summer league games. Announce the totals at the end of each practice and summer game. Praise those who have big totals or improved totals.
- Reward good rebounders with a promotion to the starting unit in practice and/or games. Keep the competition alive and watch the improvement of your team.
- During the regular season, post rebound totals in the locker room for all to see. Include single game totals and season’s totals.
- Celebrate top rebounding efforts by announcing them to the team and the media.
- Reward your Top Rebounder at your end of season banquet.
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