Rebounding – A Matter of Emphasis

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Basketball coaches all over are looking for ways to improve and trying to find ways to sure up the things we believe we are weak in. One are that I hear about over and over again is rebounding. There is not a week that goes by when someone doesn't ask me, "How can I improve my teams rebounding?"

As coaches, we try to solve everything by drills. We are constantly looking for new ways to drill this skill or that skill. Drills are great for teaching and in some cases reinforcing. However, in the case of rebounding, past the initial and minimal technique involved, drills may not do the trick.

One reason for this is the fact that rebounding is an intensely physical skill. The more you drill it in a competitive situation, the better the chance someone might get injured. I am not sure that I have the definitive answer on how to get your team to be a better rebounding team but I do know how to make it worse, hurt your better rebounders so they don't play.


Jim Calhoun, the Hall-of –Fame coach at the University of Connecticut once told me two things that have been very important to me in regard to evaluating my teams and my coaching.

The first thing he said was, "You can only be good at two or three things. You can't be good at everything." That taught me that, to be successful, I have to do a great job at prioritizing what I am going to emphasize with my team. It also helps me evaluate myself as a coach. I can't be an expert in all aspects of the game.

The second thing he said was, "When you walk into someone else' practice, you should be able to figure out what is important to the coach and the team in the first 15 minutes.

Let's carry that to rebounding. If you want to be a better rebounding team, you have to make it an emphasis. Don't just talk about it, treat it as if it is more important than anything else that you do. Carry the message through every minute of every practice and every game.

One of the "Laws of Learning" is "primacy." The "Law of Primacy" says that whatever is most important is taught first. If you want rebounding to be an emphasis, teach it first and do your rebounding work early in practice. It doesn't have to be for a long time, but it does have to be consistent and the message has to be carried through all aspects of your practice.

Coach Calhoun's UConn teams are known for their tenacity on the glass. You only have to watch the first 10 minutes of practice to understand why.


Rebounding is one area of basketball that some players are innately good at. No practice, no skill, just great timing, a nose for the ball and great hands. One way to become a better rebounding team is to get more of those. Okay, that's too easy.

Basketball is unique, compared to other sports in that a player's skill cannot be viewed in a vacuum. What I mean by that is in baseball, a good glove, no hit player can be hidden or protected in the lineup. In football, linemen don't have to carry or catch the ball. In basketball, all players must play offense and defense. At some point, all players have to handle the ball and shoot. Some are better at it than others. As a coach you have to choose what your priorities are and live by those. Personnel-wise, if you want to be a better rebounding team you might have to sacrifice is another area. Your better rebounders might not be good scorers or ballhandlers. What you give to one area, you might have to take from another area.

You cannot fool the players and you can't fool the game. If you want your team to be a better rebounding team, you must coach as if you want to be a better rebounding team. Practices have to emphasize rebounding and players have to earn their way on the court by getting the ball off the glass. Without those two aspects, all the drilling and talk will not get you to where you want to be.

Don Kelbick

Coach Don Kelbick has had 27 years of coaching experience, 25 at the college level including 14 years as a head coach and 10 years as a Division I assistant including stops at Hofstra University, Marist College, Keene State College, and Florida International University. In 2 years as a high school coach, his teams produced 6 Division I players and was ranked #1 in Florida 28 out of a possible 34 weeks. In addition to coaching he has scouted for NBA teams, including the Knicks and the Hawks, and served as a general manager in the USBL.