Why Every Basketball Coach Should Look at Rebounding Percentage Instead of Totals

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Tracking and using statistics properly, will give your team's rebounding a huge boost!

PROVEN FACT: Simply showing the right statistics and metrics to your players will boost their performance.

In the business world, this phenomenon is called Pearson's Law:

"When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates."

This concept has been proven many times in the business world and in basketball too. In addition, as a coach, you need to know your rebounding statistics so you can work smarter, identify weaknesses, and figure out what's working and what's not working.

Almost Everyone Looks at the WRONG Rebounding Stats

Just as importantly, you need to review and emphasize the RIGHT statistics. Most coaches, players, and fans look at Number of Rebounds and Rebounding Margin.

However, those two statistics are very misleading.

As an example, let's say your team shoots 30% from the field and your opponent shoots 60% from the field. Your team had 20 offensive rebounds and your opponent only had 14 offensive rebounds.

Based on those statistics it seems that you out rebounded your opponent and your team did a good job on the offensive glass. But that's NOT the case!

The other team actually did a better job of offensive rebounding. Your opponent didn't have very many opportunities because they shot such a high percentage. But your team had twice as many offensive rebounding opportunities because you shot such a low percentage.

So in reality, the Rebounding Margin statistic has very little value. That's why we prefer rebounding statistics that are based on the percentage of opportunities.

The TEAM Rebounding Statistics You Should Be Using

Here are the rebounding statistics that you should use and emphasize:

  • Defensive Rebounding Percentage (DRB%)
  • Offensive Rebounding Percentage (ORB%)

These stats are based on opportunities and they give you a true indication of your rebounding performance.

To figure your Defensive Rebounding Percentage, just divide your team's defensive rebounds by the sum of your defensive rebounds, plus your opponent's offensive rebounds:

DRB% = DefReb / (DefReb + OppOffReb)

Now, to see which team did a better job defensive rebounding, you just compare your team's defensive rebounding percentage to your opponents. If your team has a higher percentage, you did a better job on the defensive boards.

To figure your Offensive Rebounding Percentage, just divide your team's offensive rebounds by the sum of your offensive rebounds, plus your opponent's defensive rebounds:

ORB% = OffReb / (OffReb + OppDefReb)

Your Team Goals and How to Use these Stats

DRB% and ORB% are the two most important rebounding stats for you to emphasize and watch.

For every game you play, your goal should be to have a higher offensive and defensive rebounding percentage than your opponent. Those goals should drive your entire plan to develop a great rebounding team.

The purpose of your practice plans and all your rebounding drills should be to improve those two percentages.

We suggest that you set some specific team goals. Your exact goal depends on your situations and has to be realistic for your team and their abilities. But as an example, your goals could be to have a 5% higher offensive and defensive rebounding percentage than every team you play.

If you accomplish that, you know that you have a good rebounding team and you're winning the war on the boards.

Another goal could be to simply improve your rebounding percentage. To do that, you'll need a "baseline". So, if you've been at 68% defensive rebounding percentage on average, then your goal could be to move up to 72% in the next three weeks.

Don't be afraid to set goals. They will help you get better.

Focus on short-term goals. We've all been there before: you set a goal, you work at it for a week or two, you lose interest because you don't see any results right away, and then you give up!

If you want to be able to actually REACH your goals, the trick is to set out to achieve them in a relatively short period of time. Rather than trying to increase the number of rebounds that you get over the course of the season, aim to up the number of boards that you get in a single game.

Game by game, you'll be able to realize your accomplishment AND by the end of the season you'll inevitably have increased your overall rebounding stats.

Have more than one goal. Having just one goal can make you feel like it's 'all or nothing'. If you set MORE THAN ONE short-term goal, you allow yourself to celebrate a sense of accomplishment, even if you don't reach all of them.

Reference Point

As a reference point, the average Defensive Rebounding Percentage in the NBA is 73%. The average Offensive Rebounding Percentage for the NBA is 27%.

I recently coached a freshman team that averaged 39.6% for their Offensive Rebounding Percentage and 68.8% for the Defensive Rebounding Percentage during the last two months of their season. They out-rebounded the competition by an average of 8.4%. At the beginning of the season the numbers were much lower. In fact we they were out-rebounded by .3% the first 7 games of the season. They made big improvements as the season progressed.

This knowledge will give you an idea of what other teams do, so you can set reasonable goals for your own team.

Review the Stats with Your Players

After every game, you should post your rebounding percentages in a prominent place where your players will see them. The percentages should be bold at the very top of the list. Unimportant things, like the actual number of rebounds should be much less obvious and harder to find. Your stat sheet should be short, to the point, and include the important stuff only!

You need to make it very clear which stats are important to you and make it easy for your players to see.

In addition, you should review these key statistics with your players verbally. Don't bother with unimportant stuff like the number of points players score or the number of rebounds they got. Just go over the important things like rebounding percentages. Talk about what happened.

If they did a good job, be sure to compliment them!!

If they did a poor job, just state the results of what happened. If you already set goals and expectations for your players before the game, they will already know they came up short. They will be disappointed and that will be enough incentive to improve. If there was something specific to learn from that game, you should talk about it now. Otherwise, move on and figure out how to meet the goal next time.

Individual Rebounding Statistics

When tracking individual rebounding statistics, you have the same problem. The actual Number of Rebounds that a player gets isn't all that important.

For example, let's say Bobby was in the game for 10 minutes. He got 6 rebounds. Jimmy was in the game for 11 minutes. He got 4 rebounds. At first glance, it seems like Bobby did a better job on the boards. They played just about the same # of minutes, but Bobby got 2 more rebounds.

However, this might not be completely true. When Bobby was in the game, both teams shot poorly and there were a total of 22 rebounding opportunities. When Jimmy was in the game, there were only 9 rebounding opportunities because hardly anyone missed a shot when he was in the game.

In reality, Jimmy did a better job on the boards because he got a higher percentage of rebounds.

If you're going to track individual statistics, you could focus on Percentage of Available Rebounds (REB%).

To calculate this statistic, you just add up all the missed shots that didn't go out of bounds or result in a foul. Then, you simply see what percentage of those shots a particular player captured, ignoring rebounds from foul shots (which are usually easy "gimmies" for the inside defender).

Unfortunately few coaches have the resources to collect these individual statistics. It takes several people to collect all this information. But even if you don't have the resources, it's good for you to at least understand what these individual statistics really mean.

Another Way to Track Individual Rebounding

Since Player REB% only shows the end result, you only see part of the picture. The following stats might provide you with more insight. In addition, they will allow you to hold players accountable and improve your team's overall rebounding performance.

I suggest you track two things at the individual level:

  • Percentage of Offensive Rebounding Attempts (ORA%)
  • Percentage of Box Outs / Checks (BX%)

To calculate ORA%, you count the number of opportunities a player had to go to the offensive glass. Then you count the number of times a player actually made a substantial attempt to get offensive rebounding position. Then you divide the numbers and you have ORA%.

You can use video tape to get the stats. You'll just have to pause and rewind to collect the stats. You could put one of your assistants in charge of collecting these numbers after every game.

What is a "substantial attempt to get offensive rebounding position"?

It's up to you on how you want to define that. But I like to measure the number of times our players actually established position (either besides the opponent or in front of the opponent). The thing you don't want is your player to stay behind the defensive block out.

Along the same lines, you can track BX%. It's calculated the same way. You track the # of opportunities the player had to box out. Then figure out the percentage of time they actually did.

This might seem tedious but this can be very powerful information.

You might find that your star player only checks 25% of the time where everyone else does is around 70% of the time. Simply showing the numbers to your star player will probably double their performance and improve their rebounding.

Many times it's the peer pressure that causes certain players to step up. In any case, having the proper statistics allows you to hold everyone accountable, which improves overall performance.

When you think about it, there are other things you can track. For example, you might want to track the number of times players box out and then fetch/attack the ball. You want players quickly boxing and then attacking the ball. So that's a measurement you might want to consider.

Related Pages & Helpful Resources

Breatkhrough Stats App - Track Stats on Your iPad or iPhone
Basketball Statistics - Using Stats
Tracking Your Defensive Statistics And Performance

What do you think? What are your experiences? Do you have any thoughts, ideas, and suggestions?


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Alex Sialenia says:
11/3/2016 at 7:38:19 PM

I decided to learn how to use the statistics - and here such a cool article. It's very useful! Thank you!


Howard says:
12/30/2013 at 12:53:16 AM

I really loved the read. I am doing a data analysis on this topic and it gave me a great overview on things I need to be cautious for. Thanks again.


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