Does this sound familiar? I’m sure you have heard a coach saying "Box Out" to his or her players during a game at one point or another. It is one of the most frustrating things for a coach when a player misses a box out and the other team gets a 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th opportunity to score. You play great defense for 30 seconds and then give your opponent another shot.
When I watch basketball games I am never surprised when a fundamental aspect of the game causes a team to lose. It is always the little things or maybe something we take for granted that ends up making a big difference in a game. Typically, free throw shooting and layups are at the top of every coaches list in no particular order. No doubt both are important in every game. For us, defense is at the top of that list, but right up there is also boxing out and rebounding.
The impact of a missed box out
Missed Box Out Example #1
Michigan 2013 NCAA Championship Game
Last year, I wrote about the importance of rebounding (see Rebounding: The Difference Maker) and discussed the impact it has on a game. A follow up post was written after the National Championship Game (see Difference Maker follow up post) when Louisville out rebounded Michigan 31-26 in the game. The biggest rebound of the game came from Chane Behanan when he hit a layup around a swarm of Michigan players. It ended up being a crucial basket at a big moment in the game. It was his 3rd consecutive rebound, which got me thinking. Did anyone attempt to box him out?
Missed Box Out Example #2
Arizona St. University 2014 NCAA Tournament
This year, Texas player Cameron Ridley grabbed a rebound and hit a layup at the buzzer to defeat Arizona St. in the NCAA Tournament. They showed the replay 10 times and I honestly felt for the player that missed his box out. It was blatant and not at a good moment in the game. Obviously, there were other moments in the game where ASU could’ve played better, but it always seems to stand out in the final minutes.
Click on the YouTube clip and watch closely as #13 does not box out----> Texas Buzzer Beater
This also got me thinking
If rebounding is such an important aspect of the game, then why isn’t more focus placed on the fundamental skill of boxing out? Why have I discussed rebounding without delving deeper in the art of boxing out? Most of the time there is a direct correlation between the team with the rebounding advantage and the victorious team in the game. We know that nobody likes losing so boxing out has to be a priority that is held in the highest regard with other fundamental skills like layups and free throw shooting. In many cases, you have to box out to get a rebound (at least on the defensive end). I know there are times when you may out jump someone, but if you rely on that, then your team is probably not going to win the rebound battle. Especially, at the end of the game (see Texas Buzzer Beater)
Five suggestions to improve boxing out
I know what you are thinking right now….. “I do box out drills every day in practice” or “I spend around 20 minutes every day doing box out drills” so this won’t happen to me. Well, it can and it will happen to you and me too if we don't stress it ALL THE TIME!
I once read that certain college coaches never have to say “box out” during a game. They practice it constantly and try to incorporate it into every aspect of practice. These coaches never have to say it during a game, because they have drilled it into their players during practice. Based on this I started to really focus on this aspect of the game during every drill, live scrimmages, and even during our one on one full court drills. Do we still have box out drills? Yes, of course. I think you have to in order to teach kids proper technique, but it should not stop there!
Here are five suggestions:
1. It can’t just be once in a while! Monitor boxing out during every drill, including 1 on 1 drills, shooting drills, and definitely during live scrimmages. I am constantly talking about boxing out and will not hesitate to stop practice if someone misses an assignment. At times, this may mean sprinting or other consequences to ensure they understand the importance of boxing out.
2. Practice it! Create drills that reenact game situations for players to practice boxing out. For example, we practice free throw shooting and boxing out in practice during our live scrimmages. It can’t hurt.
3. Emphasize it! Make it a point of emphasis before every game. We always have it up on our white board and we even count missed box outs during the game. If a player is missing box out opportunities during a game, then they won’t be on the court very long.
4. Make it important! Boxing out is also part of our hustle points, which elevates its importance even more. Just a thought.
5. Consequences! What are the consequences if a player doesn’t box out? Do you keep track of it during games? I would recommend you do both.
As I said earlier, everyone is bound to miss a box out once in a while, but we as coaches have to do our best to make sure players understand the importance of boxing out to prevent this from happening in a crucial spot. If we don’t, then that one missed box out could be in a pivotal moment of game. Naturally, I don’t want to lose, but I also don’t want to see one of my players make a mistake in that situation. That’s why it is my job to instill the importance of boxing out in them prior to that situation.
“Hard work beats talent, if talent fails to work hard”