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Youth Basketball Rules & Guidelines

Youth basketball rules differ from official regulations used in high, college, and pro leagues. Unlike the more advanced leagues, there isn't a governing body that writes standardized youth rules. Typically, each league establishes its own rules and regulations to suit the gender, age, and ability levels of their players.

The main goal of youth leagues is teaching basic fundamental skills to beginners. The emphasis is not on winning, but on learning. As you look through the rules, you'll see this philosophy reflected.

The main goal of youth leagues is teaching basic fundamental skills to beginners. The emphasis is not on winning, but on learning. As you look through the rules, you'll see this philosophy reflected.

Arrival time for games

No games will ever start more than 10 minutes early. Players are strongly recommended to arrive for games at least 15 minutes before game time.

Basketball size

We use a 27.5 (standard youth size) basketball. 

Basket height

Ages 4/5 (8 feet), ages 6/7 (9 feet), ages 8 & up (10 feet) 


The game clock runs continuously and only stops in the following situations:

  • During timeouts

  • During the last minute of the game on all dead ball situations 

    • Only if the score is within 10 points​


Each team may call one 30-second timeout per half. Unused timeouts cannot be carried over to the next half.

There is one time out per overtime quarter. Timeouts left over from regulation do not carry over to overtime.


Officials are usually pretty loose with calling violation. If they blew their whistle every time a beginner traveled or double dribbled, the game would be stopped constantly.

If the infraction is blatant or a player keeps repeating the same mistake, the official stops play and explains to the player what he's doing wrong.


Here are some general rules of conduct typical across leagues:

  • Players, coaches, parents and spectators are expected to show respect for one another. 

  • Keep all cheering in a positive manner and show good sportsmanship. 

  • Berating, fighting, foul language, and swearing is not allowed. 

  • Unsportsmanlike conduct of any kind is not tolerated whether during the game or afterward in the parking lot, etc.

  • Violation of these rules for a player or coach results in a technical foul and possible suspension from the league with no refund.

  • Abusive behavior from fans and parents on a particular team's sideline results in a bench technical which is charged to the coach. 

  • Any spectator or parent using foul language or determined to be acting inappropriately by officials or game administrators may be ejected. 

  • Multiple game suspensions could be imposed by the league administrator, depending on the severity of the situation and offense.

Court size

The court is split into two courts and run sideways. 

Three pointers

There are no three pointers when running on the sideway courts. 


No pressing!!! Players may pick up from half court. Man to man defense is played so that players can learn the basic skills of individual and team defense.

Stealing the ball is allowed once it passes half-court.

After a made shot, a turnover, or a rebound, teams have to drop back to half-court and allow the ball to be dribbled down without pressure. Once the ball crosses half-court, the defense can guard the ball.


Officials want to avoid injury to young kids, and they discourage rough play by blowing their whistles at the smallest physical contact. Even though basketball is considered a contact sport, young players are not big enough, strong enough, or mature enough to handle the kind of contact that occurs at higher competitive levels. 

No player will foul out. However, excessive fouling after being warned will not be tolerated and result in being benched. 

Free throws

The free throw distance for young players (ages 6/7) is flexible. Coaches should have players shoot from the maximum distance at which they can shoot a free throw with good form. 

Ages 8 & up will shoot from the free throw line marked on the court. 

Game length

Four 10-minute quarters. Each quarter is 10 minutes in length with 1 minute between quarters. There's a 5-minute half-time period after the 2nd quarter.

To speed up the game, the game clock runs continuously and only stops at the end of each quarter and during timeouts. 


Under 11 years of age, it's not uncommon for teams to be co-ed (boys and girls together on one team).

After about the age of 10, leagues are usually separated into boy's and girl's divisions.

Sometimes, there aren't enough girls that sign up to field a girls division, so boys and girls are mixed together.


Half-time lasts anywhere for 5 minutes. Players typically have time to grab a drink, meet with their coach on the sideline, and maybe shoot around for a few minutes.

Jump balls/Alternate possession

The game begins with a jump ball, but after the opening tip, the alternating possession rule goes into effect.

  • Any time there is a tied up ball, teams alternate throwing the ball in-bounds.

  • At the start of each quarter, the team due for the next possession begins with the ball. 

  • If the game goes into overtime, a center court jump ball will start the period. The team that fails to get the jump ball will get the next jump ball. 

Number of games

Seasons usually consist of 6-8 games with one game per week. Sometimes, there is a tournament scheduled at the end of the season, but not always.


Offensive plays must be kept very simple and focus on the basics of passing, catching, and moving without the ball.

There are really two common offensive set-ups for youth basketball players:

  1. One player is designated as the point guard to bring the ball down the court, with two players out on the wings, and two players inside the key as post players.

  2. Two guards play out top to help each other bring the ball down, two wings stay out wide, and one post works the middle.


One official call the game, but it's not unusual to have two call one game.   


In the event of overtime (OT), the duration will be:

  • 3 minutes for the OT period.

  • If the game is still tied, the game goes to sudden death; the first team to score wins the game.

Number of players (minimum)

A team may start with 4 players. If a team has less than 4 players, a game may be declared a forfeit at the time the game is scheduled to begin.

Playing time

Substitutions: We have strict rules regarding substitutions to ensure that all players get equal playing time.

  • Usually, at the 5-minute mark of each quarter, the buzzer sounds, play stops, and substitutions are made.

  • It's easier, but not required, to keep track if substitutions are made at the quarter and/or the 5:00 mark of the quarter.

  • Obviously, the exact amount of time each player is on the floor varies due to a number of factors, like the number of players on the team and injuries that occur.

Coaches are required to keep up with the number of quarters a player plays each game. 


Players can rotate to several different positions throughout the game. Rather than lock players into specific positions when they're just starting out, we like to give them a chance to experience playing at different spots.

The focus at this level is teaching the basic fundamentals of dribbling, passing, shooting, rebounding, and defending. These skills are needed by every player no matter what position they play.

Pre-game warm-up

Teams are usually given a minimum of 10 minutes to warm up before a game. Games are often scheduled back-to-back, so there may not be any additional time to shoot around.

Players are not able to take the floor until the previous game is finished and both teams have cleared the floor. If there are no other games going on, teams are able to take the floor as early as they'd like.


Only the final score and team record is recorded. 

Switching Baskets

Ages 6/7 will not switch baskets at the end of the half.


Ages 8 & up will switch ends of the court at half-time. They remain on the same bench, but they shoot at the opposite goal for the second half.

Tie break

Rules for breaking a tie to determine league champion: 

  • Head-to-head competition

  • Point difference in head-to-head competition if more than one game is played between the two tied teams

If more than two teams are tied with the same record, the following will happen: 

  • If one team has beaten the other two or more teams, they win the conference. 

  • If each team has beaten only one of the two or more other teams that are tied, point differential for all eight games played will be used. The maximum point differential for a single game will be 15 points. Therefore, there is no advantage to blowing a team out.

  • In the event of a tie in point differential, the next tiebreaker will be a coin toss.


It is standard to have the Home team wear a light-colored jersey while the Visitors wear a dark-colored jersey. 

  • All players must wear their official uniform during the game.

  • Any player not wearing their official shirts provided by the league will be called for a technical foul.

  • If a player chooses to wear an undershirt, it must match the team's basic color, or the default color may always be a black cut off shirt or a black T-shirt.

  • Shirts must be tucked inside the shorts.

  • No player is allowed to wear jewelry of any type during the game.

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