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Becoming a Dominant Rebounder Requires More than Just Physical Ability

by: Patrick Chylinski
Basketball Success - Online tips and private coaching

Being a good (or great) rebounder, like most other parts of the game of basketball requires more than just physical ability. This is true of most other sports as well. An athlete that really excels at their sport and separates themselves from the competition demonstrates a combination of physical talent, mental skill, fierce determination, and a tireless drive to succeed.

Which of these areas is most important? That's debatable, and there's no real answer. Without at least a baseline level of physical talent, a player will be hard-pressed to really compete at a high level or excel on a consistent basis. On the other hand, having a superior level of physical ability without adequate resources in the other areas leaves us with one of those amazing athletes that can't seem to "live up to their potential", seems to continually fall short in the clutch, and never really becomes the great player their talent led us to believe they would become.


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So let's get to the question at hand: what makes a great rebounder? As we've touched on, there are many aspects to succeeding in this important area of the game.

Physical Skill

  • There's no question that strength, jumping ability, explosiveness, conditioning, and timing are extremely important.
  • Block-out technique is also vitally important.

    Mental Ability

  • This refers to the somewhat hard to define area of "the intangibles" and "knowledge of the game".
    • Things such as anticipating when a shot is going to go up.
    • Knowing, through experience and observation, where a rebound is likely to come off the rim.
    • Anticipating which direction the opposing player is likely to move in an effort to grab the rebound.
    • The ability to focus throughout a game (block out every time on the defensive end, go for the board every time on the offensive end).

    Determination and Drive

  • The competitive desire and drive to compete for every rebound.
  • The drive and desire to battle the opposing player and win out over them.

Having addressed some important areas on a more general level, let's now pick apart offensive and defensive rebounding in greater detail.

Offensive Rebounding Offensive rebounding, even more so than defensive rebounding, boils down to effort and the consistency with which you attack the boards. If you go hard after a couple of offensive rebounds a game, that's one thing. If you are in good enough shape, and have the mindset to go after every (or nearly every) rebound with quickness and aggressiveness, you'll really start to set yourself apart as a great rebounder.

Great offensive rebounders combine athletic talent, tactics, and technique, but their success is largely due to their desire to rebound the ball. So it's up to the individual player to make the decision to become a solid rebounder on the offensive end of the court.

Being a good (or great) offensive rebounder really boils down to a decision each time their team shoots the ball: are you going to go after this rebound with a vengeance, or be lazy and make a half-hearted effort (if any effort at all) to get the offensive board? Great rebounders make the first decision more often than not. Average and poor rebounders make the second decision more often than not.

Offensive rebounders need to make an initial effort to go after the rebound, but great rebounders also make more than one effort. Great offensive rebounders don't just go hard after the rebound once, or make one solid effort at getting in good position. Great players make multiple attempts at getting into good position to get the offensive board. Making one attempt to get around the defender is a good start. Making a second move (if the defender makes the effort to box out) is an even better effort and may be all it takes to be in good position to grab the board. Continuing on with a third or even fourth move is the mark of a great player.

Typically, a 2nd or 3rd strong and aggressive move to get into good position will be all anyone has time to make when a shot goes up. And it will often be all the time you need to get in good position, or at least put lots of pressure on the defensive player. Multiple efforts keep the defense honest: they know they've got their work cut out for them to keep the offensive player off the boards. That type of effort on the boards will tire the defense out over the course of a game, making things much easier for the offense over the course of a game.

Quickness is also hugely important when it comes to getting good offensive rebounding position. Since the defense is typically going to be between the offensive player and the basket when the shot goes up, the job of the offensive player is to get at least even with the defender (to get what might be considered equally good rebounding position), or better yet, get in front of the defender. The main way of accomplishing this is with a quick first step around the defender. If the defense moves to block out that initial move to the basket, countering with a spin move, or a quick step in the opposite direction is often enough to get by the opposing player. Regardless of what method is used, the key is to make these moves with speed and decisiveness. A very slow, weak, or methodical move will rarely work unless playing against a bad or lazy player, or if the defender happens to be off-balance or badly out of position.

Defensive Rebounding

Defensive rebounding, just like crashing the offensive boards, takes hard work. But since the defender typically starts out in better position than the offensive player, this aspect of the game is more about using solid block-out technique and doing it consistently.

What I mean by this is that if the player on defense has done a good job during the possession and is in good defensive position when the shot goes up, they should already be in a good position to block out the offensive player.

At that point, it's largely a matter of finding the offensive player and blocking out. There's nothing fancy to it, but it does take hard work. Defense isn't over until the opposing team scores, or the defense grabs the rebound, so rebounding is really a huge part of the being a good defensive player (and team).

The first move a defensive player must make when a shot goes up is to step in the direction the offensive player is moving and stop their forward progress. Once the initial progress is stopped, the defender must then turn and box out.

After blocking out, the defense has only done part of their job. Another part of rebounding is to go after the ball, with quickness and aggression. Once the defense sees that a shot has been missed, they must attack the ball. Go get it. The defensive player must release and get the rebound if it's anywhere close to them. If it's out of reach, the defender must hold the block out until one of their teammates secures the ball.

General Rebounding Strategies

Establish yourself early

Here is a great trick for establishing yourself on the boards early in the game: establish your dominance early. (This will also work for other areas of your game.)

The first 4 or 5 times down the court at the start of a game on defense, play as aggressively and confidently as possible. Every rebound that goes up, make an extremely strong, forceful block out, no matter how big and strong the opponent happens to be. Make the block out like you are the strongest, most aggressive player in the league. What this does is make a point to the opposition that they are in for a tough game.

If the opponent is a good player, this will be a signal that it'll be a tough game against a worthy opponent. If the opposing player is weak-willed, this level of effort may suck the aggressiveness and fight right out of them.

Be ready for physical play down low

Playing in the paint is tough work. So being prepared for a battle underneath the boards is a key to being a good rebounder. You will get elbowed, bumped around, and pushed. But this is just how it is when there are lots of players in close proximity to each other, all going hard after the boards.

Expect that it'll be tough inside and don't be surprised or intimidated by the physical nature of the game (it's up to the refs to keep the game from getting too rough). Your job is to always play strong, refuse to be intimidated, and always be in a good, solid athletic stance when blocking out, coming down with the rebound, or throwing an outlet pass.

Set high goals for yourself

Set high standards for yourself, and work to achieve those goals. If you go into a game hoping you'll get just a few rebounds, that's probably all you'll get. But if you set a goal of getting 6 or 8 defensive rebounds, and at least 3 offensive boards a game, you've created expectations for yourself that you'll work to achieve. Expect that you'll reach those numbers. Make yourself work to get in good position and go aggressively after the ball. Set yourself some stretch goals, then go out and make them happen.

Of course, some of the stats you put up will depend on how much playing time you get, what type of defense your coach has you playing, what position you play, etc. But setting high goals for yourself has a way of making you perform better than you would have otherwise.

Patrick Chylinski is a former college and professional basketball player. He is now a private success coach based in Los Angeles. His website: www.basketballsuccess.com has tips for basketball players on how to improve the mental and physical aspects of their game.

Contact Information:

Basketball Success
Patrick Chylinski

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