How to coach, teach and use defensive basketball rebounding drills
The team that controls boards usually wins the basketball game.
This is no secret and has been self-evident since the game was
invented. Rebounding is so important, the technique must not be
treated lightly. The team that is able to limit the opposition
to one shot per possession, while getting second, third and
fourth attempts for themselves, will consistently win ballgames.
There are two aspects to rebounding, offensive and defensive
rebounding; therefore, they must be treated separately. On the
defensive end, the goal is to limit the opponent to a single
attempt at the basket.
At the offensive end the idea is to keep possession of the ball
for continued efforts at scoring by tip-in or reset of the
If we follow today’s general defensive strategy of playing tight
on the ball-side and loose on the side opposite, the players on
the ball-side of the court, usually a post player and a forward,
should be close enough to their men to make contact whenever a
shot is taken. For these two players to lose contact at this
moment is a huge mistake. These two defenders should not be
watching the flight of the ball, but block-out first, then look
for the ball.
They should keep contact by moving with him and maintaining good
rebounding position. Putting your body on him hard should always
place you in a good position to block him off the board. More
simply stated, you should be able to pivot, take a wide stance
with your arms and elbows high, preventing your opponent from
gaining the favorable rebounding position.
Block out for rebounding
The block out after a shot is a defensive fundamental. It is my
opinion that few high school or college players consistently
execute this fundamental. That's too bad because it is a
fundamental skill professional teams look for in college
prospects and college coaches look for in high school prospects.
We talk a lot about blocking out a lot, but rarely execute it
You don't just block out the shooter, the block must be
performed by every defensive player on the floor. Every
offensive player must find his path blocked to the goal.
The block out can be performed in several ways. Some coaches
teach a cross step after determining which route the offensive
player is going to take. Other coaches teach a reverse pivot
near the goal. I maintain constant contact near the goal, using
the cross step to be more effective. The idea is to beat them to
the goal while maintaining body contact. Some coaches break
defensive play down in fewer categories. Others make a longer
Playing the man without the ball and playing the cutter might be
considered two separate fundamentals. Some coaches may, or may
not, consider the defensive break a fundamental. The important
thing is to break defensive play into fundamentals and teach
them separately the way you teach your offensive fundamentals.
Forward opposite the ball
Because he is playing his man loose, the forward
opposite the ball has a more difficult time of blocking his
assignment off the board. As soon as a shot is taken, he should
open up his stance to enable him to see both his man and the
ball. If his opponent goes right, the forward should reverse
pivot back on left (baseline) foot and swing the other leg back
far enough to bring himself into proper rebounding position.
In my opinion, guards should have a responsibility in defensive
rebounding, too. They must take care of their assignment, using
boxing out techniques, to prevent them from going to the boards.
Today, too many teams are more interested in getting their
guards in position for the outlet pass that starts their fast
break. From my own observations, I see most teams sending, at
least one guard, to their offensive boards; therefore, I feel it
more important for our defensive guards to keep their men out,
or go in with them for that precious rebound. Chances are that
that outlet pass will never be thrown, anyway.
In summation, since referees
allow much more contact than usual when it comes to rebounding
action, we stress strength and aggressiveness. This is not
enough, however, because boxing out technique is vastly
important if you expect to gain possession of many defensive
rebounds. In review, let’s remember the following procedure:
- Keep your eyes on your
- Get contact first then,
look for the ball.
- Go hard on the man who
attempts to roll off or spin around you.
- Box out.
- Always include guards
when it come to defensive rebounding.
- Always get possession of
the ball before starting your offense.
Basketball Defensive Rebounding Drills
A lot of great shooters fail to
appreciate the value of defensive rebounds but will bust their
butts for a tip-in. When this happens, such player has not been
properly schooled or mentally conditioned. Always stress to your
players the value of every rebound.
Today, the game is being played by
bigger and stronger players. After watching Gonzaga defeat Bruce
Pearl’s Tennessee team, there are few weak players. From what I
saw, it takes real courage to get under the basket with flying
elbows and knees. Unlike football, basketball players have no
protective covering. The only way you can teach youngsters
rebounding courage and skill is by daily use of rebounding
drills. Players do not amazingly become rebounders by
stirring half-time talks. Men are separated from the boys in
your daily practice sessions. Here are a few drills that should
help the basketball coach accomplish this objective. Many of
these drills are interchangeable as either stressing offense or
In observing these drills on the
practice floor, do be too hasty to change a player’s successful
style to a stereotyped conception of what constitutes a proper
form or style of play. Exceptions to the rule should not be
taught; however, when such exceptions are being successfully
demonstrated by a player and prove to be more successful for him
than the accepted form, let him use them. Do you remember when
the one-handed jump shot was an exception to the rule? I do.
Team Rebounding Drill and Fast break Outlet pass drill
The coach starts the drill with the basketball. Three
offensive inside players (1, 2 and 3) move without the
ball. The action proceeds as follows:
The coach either takes a
shot or passes to an offensive player who takes a shot.
Defensive players (X)
are in defensive guarding positions, but allow a shot to
be taken. Defensive players then block-out, while
offensive players use head and shoulder fakes and
roll-offs to gain inside rebounding positions.
The two defensive guards
box-out their men, then move to their points for the
outlet pass, while the offensive guards either try to
prevent the outlet pass, or move down court to defend
against the break.
The inside offensive
players fight for the offensive rebound, but become
defenders if they lose the rebound
If the defense rebounds
and outlets the ball, this initiates a three-on-two fast
break with the offside rebounder joining the attack.
Play this as a game,
with the offensive tip-in counting two points and a
fast-break basket counting one point.
I like to use this drill to teach blocking out,
rebounding, and executing a fast- break without
dribbling; however, other values are self-evident.
Diagram 2 - Team Rebounding Wall Drill
Here is a good rebounding drill that gives the entire
team a good jumping workout in a short period of time.
Spread the entire team,
in pairs, along a wall.
Each pair gets a ball.
One player tosses the
ball up and the other player jumps, spread-eagles, grabs
the ball, grunts loudly, and comes down with the ball
chested and elbows out wide.
The player who tossed
the ball up tries to tie up the rebounder for held ball.
If a held-ball situation
happens, the same player jumps again until he is
successful in coming down and retaining possession of
If a held-ball situation
does not occur, the other player will jump for the
contests on the loudest grunt.
Diagram 3 - Cut-Throat 21 Game
purpose of this drill encourages aggressiveness in
defense, rebounding, and teaches shooting under
One offensive player is
matched against two defenders.
Game starts with
offensive player 1 in possession of the ball.
When 1 gets off a shot,
all three players fight for the rebound.
If 1 scores a field
goal, he shoots free throws.
On a missed free throw,
all three players go for the rebound.
If a shooter makes three
free throws in a row, he starts at the original
The player who recovers
a missed shot, becomes the offensive player.
Count two points for ALL
field goals and one point for free throw.
First player to reach 21
points wins the game.
Diagram 4 – Fast break, reverse pivot, and passing to
purpose of this two-on-two-drill is used in teaching the
reverse pivot while driving to the basket and
dishing-off to a player trailing the play.
The offensive player
with the ball dribble-drives down-court.
While being defended by
X, the dribbler jump-stops and passes the basketball a
player trailing the play.
Should X drop off in
anticipation of the pass, the dribbler may shoot.
All players go for the
rebound. If X gets the rebound, he outlet-passes to the
same side of the floor the rebound occurred.
Players rotate lines as
Diagram 5 - Fast break, passing and defensive trailer
This drill was used mainly to teach defenders to hustle
and apply continuous effort in defense against the
Two offensive player
advance down the floor, passing the basketball back
forth in their combined effort to get X1 to commit to
one side or the other.
The drill starts with
the command, "Go!"
The player at the X
position is a defensive trailer must wait to the count
of 2 after the go command. He tries to catch up and help
stop a score.
Like all drills, other values of this drill are
Diagram 6 - Full court leg bounds drill
This drill helps develop strong muscles in the upper
legs which gives you the explosive power needed to leap
quickly and continuously. The drill goes like this:
Stand at an end line
with your legs together.
With your arms at your
sides, bend your knees until you are in a half-squat.
Jump out as far and as
high as you can, thrusting out your arms and
straightening your body.
When you land, end in
the same crouched position and take off again with your
Continue these bounds
until you reach the far end line.
Each player shoots two
free throws, then they all bound back.
Start by doing this once, then gradually increase the
number until you can do it five times each session.
Keep free throw statistics for each player and post on
dressing room bulletin board.
Diagram 7 - Squat Jumps
drill helps develop tremendous leg strength. Remember to
jump as high as possible on each jump. Perform the drill
Stand with your feet
shoulder's width apart.
Put your hands behind
your head, lacing the fingers of your hands together.
Drop to a half-squat
position and then explode upward as high as possible.
Keep your hands behind your head.
When you land, begin the
squat-and-jump process all over again. Continue until
you have completed 25 jumps. This constitutes 1 set.
Do 3 sets and each
player shoots two free throws between sets.
Keep free throw shooting statistics for each player and
post on dressing room bulletin board.
Diagram 8 - String jumping station
This drill will help develop quickness, endurance, and
power in the legs. Perform this exercise as follows:
Place two chairs about
four feet apart. Tie a string between them, about 12 to
18 inches off the floor.
Stand sideways on one
side of the string with your feet together.
Hold your arms at your
sides and flex the knees until you are in a half-squat.
Explode up and over the
string using your legs and arms for power.
Land on the balls of
Repeat the motion and
jump back over to the other side.
Do this continuously for one minute, keeping track of
how many jumps you performed. Record on sheet that is
posted on bulletin board in dressing room.
Diagram 9 - Back to the basket station drill
This drill helps develop power and quickness. You will
need a teammate or friend to help you with this drill.
Do it this way:
Have your teammate or
friend to stand about 6 or 8 feet from the backboard.
You stand with your back
to the backboard about 2 feet closer than your teammate
Have your teammate or
friend throw the ball up underhanded.
When you hear the ball
hit, pivot and face the backboard. Spot the ball as
quickly as possible.
Jump up for the rebound.
Bring the ball down to your chest, with your elbows out
Spring up with the ball
and put it in the hoop.
As a station, repeat for one minute, or if as a summer
workout assignment, repeat 10 times. This constitutes 1
set. Shoot free throws for one-minute between sets. Do 3
sets per session if a workout assignment.
Diagram 10 - Continuous tap-ins station
This is a good exercise to develop jumping ability,
timing, and fingertip control of the ball. Two players
are needed to perform this drill. The drill goes like
Start by facing the
backboard, one player on the right side, the other on
the left of the rim.
The first player begins
by tossing the ball over the rim to the opposite side of
the backboard and then runs to that side.
The second player then
jumps up and taps the ball over to the other side of the
backboard and then quickly runs over to that side.
Repeat this drill as
many times as you can do it in one minute.
Diagram 11 - Lateral movement rebound station drill
This is an excellent drill to improve lateral movement,
an important, yet, often neglected aspect of rebounding.
Do it like this:
With a basketball in
your hand, stand four feet away from the backboard. Face
the direction of the baseline with one foot inside the
lane and the other, outside.
Toss the ball over your
head to the opposite side of the backboard.
Quickly move and catch
the ball, with arms extended, before it hits the ground.
Step back, once again
keeping one foot in the lane and one foot out, and toss
the ball back up again. Repeat this for one minute.