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Basketball Rules. How to play Youth Basketball

Cartoon image of a finger spinning a basketball

Basketball rules and regulations differ slightly depending on the level. Professional rules differ a bit from college rules and college rules differ a bit from high school and youth. The rules also differ slightly in the USA from international rules.

In this article we will be discussing the rules of youth basketball.


Basketball is a wonderful game played by millions of youth both in the US and around the globe.

At what age can you play Youth Basketball?

Youth basketball generally goes from ages 5 to 13. Personally I would recommend you not start your child playing on an actual coached team until they are around 7 or 8. I just feel 5 and 6 year old are not ready to comprehend and may become discouraged and not want to continue. I think if you want your child to start the basics of basketball that early it should be more of a one on one of just learning things like how to dribble, how to pass etc.

Leagues are usually organized by age group, and normally the ages are within two years apart meaning the team may consist of children from ages 5 to 7 or 7 to 9 etc. but this can vary depending on the amount of children available in those age groups. This is another reason I suggest not starting your child at 5 or 6.

Regulation balls and basket height.

Youth balls come in three sized 4, 5, and 6. The basic height for youth hoop is 10ft but usually gets lowered to 8 or 8.5 ft, for the younger ones.

Just a few basics to start.

If your child is between ages 5 to 11 they do not start the game with a jump shot as most games start. Instead, they do a coin toss and the team that wins the toss throws the ball in at half court.

This age group also does not have three (3) pointers. Why you might ask. Well taking away three pointers and jump ball takes away some pressures on this age group and allows them to build confidence and it also encourages them to shoot from an age appropriate range. Once they reach the 12year and up range then the jump ball and three pointers are put back in the game. This age group has a better grasp on the basics of the game and has a little more strength. I personally think this is a great way to play. I mean I know when I was 5, 6, or 7 I defiantly could not have made a 3 pointer. I was barely able to make them in middle school.

This age group also can only have a one on one “Player to Player” Defense as well . Then at 12 and up they start zone defense.

There is also no double teaming in this age group nor can they steal from a dribbler.

There is also no shot clock until 12 and up.

Again you may ask why all of these items are removed from the youth age well honestly these are just league guidelines and of course they can vary. If you have a child in this age group that is more advanced in the games and their abilities they can probably be put into a different age group or you may find a team of more advanced players in a younger age group. Pretty much these guidelines are in place so the children of the younger age groups can enjoy the game and learn the basics without feeling too much pressure. You have to remember they learn as they grow and grow as they learn.

About the game.

Okay now that we have gone over some basic rules and guidelines for youth basketball lets now discuss the object of the game.

Basketball is played with two teams. Each team has five (5) players on the court at a time. The player positions are.

  • Power Forward
  • Small ForwardImage showing the player positions on a basketball court
  • Point Guard
  • Shooting Guard
  • Center

The object of the game is to outscore the other team by making baskets and preventing them from doing the same. At the beginning of the game each team is given their hoop. They will make points in that hoop until the second half then they switch.

The game starts at the middle of the court. In youth a coin is tossed to determine who gets the ball first. Ages 12 and up do jump ball. This is where the basketball is tossed in the air by the referee and a player from each team jumps and swats the ball.

Getting the ball to your basket.

Okay now to get the ball to your basket you can dribble it while running up the court or you can pass the ball from player to player. But do not double dribble that is an illegal action. “We will discuss that more in our illegal plays and fouls”

You want to get the ball to your hoop and get it in to score. But the other team can block you and steal the ball or they can also steal the ball as it is going up court. In youth from 7 to 11 the ball can not be stolen from a dribbler.

Once you make a basket the other team gets the ball. A player from the other team has a limited time to get the ball back on the court to one of his players.

How are points scored.

A basket is worth two (2) points and a free throw is worth one (1) point.Basketball going through a hoop

There is also a three (3) point score but not in youth ages 5 to 11.

Illegal plays and fouls

  • Holding- When a player uses their hands to grab an opponent, and prevents them from moving.
  • Hand check – When a player continually uses their hands on an opposing player.
  • Illegal hand “Reaching in” – Similar to holding. Typically, called if you are touching the shooters arm or hand through their release.
  • Tripping – Using your feet or leg to throw off your opponent’s balance.
  • Elbowing – Swinging your elbow and hitting another player.
  • Technical foul – When another player or coach uses unsportsman like behavior.
  • Flagrant foul – Acting out violently in a way that can cause serious injury. May be intentional or unintentional.


  • Traveling – When a player takes more than two steps between dribbles or without dribbling the ball.
  • Palming – Dribbling the ball too far to the side or underneath.
  • Double dribble – When a player picks up the ball to establish their position then restarts to dribble or dribbles with both hands on the ball.
  • Back Court – When a player brings the ball over the half- court line then goes back over.
  • Kicking – When a player kicks the ball.

Some of these fouls and violations may be overlooked in youth Basketball especially in the younger age groups.

Traveling for instance may be overlooked

Double dribble may be overlooked

and Back courting may be overlooked

It really depends on the age, the Referee and the Coaches as to rather or not they want these calls made. I mean these kids are just learning the basic right.

Words and definitions.

  1. Dribbling – Advancing the ball up the court with one hand.
  2. Passing – Moving the ball around the court by throwing it to your teammates.
  3. Shooting – Putting the ball in the hoop.
  4. Rebounding – Getting the ball from a missed shot.
  5. Defending – Keeping the other team from scoring.

Most Important.

Always remember these kids are just learning and will make mistakes. Basketball as well as any other sport is meant to be fun, so be encouraging not only to your child but his teammates as well. Always be respectful to the coach, the opposing team and all spectators. Never use foul language or violent behavior.

These are just some basics to know before getting started. Remember that the rules and regulations vary from age group as well as from league to league and organization. Check with each to find out what the rules are when enrolling your child in the team.

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