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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 offense.

Defensive rebound

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 properly.

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 list.

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.

Defensive Guards

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:

  1. Keep your eyes on your man.
  2. Get contact first then, look for the ball.
  3. Go hard on the man who attempts to roll off or spin around you.
  4. Box out.
  5. Always include guards when it come to defensive rebounding.
  6. 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 defense.

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.

Basketball Rebounding Drill diagram 1

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 the ball.

·    If a held-ball situation does not occur, the other player will jump for the rebound.

·    Occasionally have contests on the loudest grunt. 


Basketball Rebounding Drill diagram 2

Basketball Rebounding Drill diagram 3

Diagram 3 - Cut-Throat 21 Game

 The purpose of this drill encourages aggressiveness in defense, rebounding, and teaches shooting under pressure.


·    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 offensive position.

·    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 trailer drill

 The 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 drill continues.


Basketball Rebounding Drill diagram 4

Basketball Rebounding Drill diagram 5

Diagram 5 - Fast break, passing and defensive  trailer drill

 This drill was used mainly to teach defenders to hustle and apply continuous effort in defense against the fast-break.

·    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 self-evident.


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 next bound.

·    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.


Basketball Rebounding Drill diagram 6

Basketball Rebounding Drill diagram 7

Diagram 7 - Squat Jumps

 This drill helps develop tremendous leg strength. Remember to jump as high as possible on each jump. Perform the drill as follows:  

·    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 your feet.

·    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.


Basketball Rebounding Drill diagram 8

Basketball Rebounding Drill diagram 9

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 or friend.

·    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 wide.

·    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 this: 

·    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.


Basketball Rebounding Drill diagram 10

Basketball Rebounding Drill diagram 11

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.


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