Youth Basketball Regulations Cont'd

This is a continuation of the list of youth basketball regulations and guidelines introduced previously. 

In Part 1, the following topics were covered:

  • Age requirements
  • Arrival time
  • Basketball size
  • Basket height
  • Bench
  • Clock
  • Conduct
  • Court size
  • Defense
  • Fouls
  • Free throws
  • Game length
  • Gender
youth basketball regulations

Youth Basketball Regulations
Now, let's continue with the following topics:


Jump balls

Lane violations

Number of games




Number of players

Playing time



Pre-game warmup



Switching ends

Three-point line






Half-time lasts anywhere from 5-10 minutes. Players typically have time to grab a drink, meet with their coach on the sideline, and maybe shoot around for a few minutes.

Youth Basketball Regulations
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. 

Lane violations

A lane violation will be called if an offensive player remains in the lane longer than 3 seconds without the ball. 

Youth Basketball Regulations
Number of games

Seasons usually consist of 8-10 games with one game per week. Sometimes, there is a tournament scheduled at the end of the season, but not always.


There aren't usually any youth basketball rules regulating the type of offense a team can run. It's recommended that offensive plays 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.

Isolation offense, spreading players out wide so the best player can go 1-on-1, is illegal. 

Youth Basketball Regulations

Sometimes, two officials call the game, but it's not unusual to only have one show up.  Youth basketball leagues don't usually hire regulation officials; instead, they depend on high school or college kids to help out.

Most of the time, the experience level of the official doesn't matter too much because the level of play is so low. The officials' main function is to keep the game organized and help the youngsters learn the basic rules.


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

  • 3 minutes for the 1st OT period.
  • If the game is still tied, a 2nd period of 2 minutes is played.
  • If the game remains tied, a 3rd period lasting 1 minute is played. 
  • If the score is tied at the end of 3 overtime periods, the game goes to sudden death; the first team to score wins the game.

Youth Basketball Regulations
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: Most leagues have strict youth basketball rules regarding substitutions to ensure that all players get equal playing time.

  • Usually, at the 4-minute mark of each quarter, the buzzer sounds, play stops, and substitutions are made.
  • In some leagues, random substitution is allowed, though it makes it more difficult to keep track of each player's minutes. 
  • 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.
  • In all substitutions, players must report to the scorer's table.

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.

If a player is ill or injured, he should not dress in uniform for the game and should not be put on the score sheet if he isn't going to play.

In some leagues, each player is guaranteed to play in at least 2 quarters. For a team with 10 players, each player could expect to play half a game, or about 16 minutes. But for a team with 12 players, not everyone will play 2 full quarters. If someone plays in 3 quarters one game, someone else is selected to play 3 quarters the next game.

Coaches are required to keep up with the number of quarters a player plays each game. They should come to a game with a written game plan of how they plan on allocating each player's minutes.

For other leagues, all players must play at least 20 minutes of each game. The only possible exceptions are:

  • If a player is late to a game, it may go against his playing time. Coaches must notify scorekeepers and the opposing coach of the player's late arrival and their intention of penalizing the player in playing time.
  • Violation of the 20-minute playing time rule could result in forfeiture of the game.
  • If a coach has 9 players present, she can decide where her 20 discretionary minutes can be spent. If she decides to give all of them to the best player, one player can play all 40 minutes, provided that all other players get their required 20 minutes.
  • If a team has 8 players, for example, they may decide to play their two top players all game. If they decide to give them a breather, they may do so, but they're not required to sit every player a mandatory 5 minutes. However, they are required to make sure that every single player receives 20 minutes of playing time. 
  • If a coach has sent a player to check in at the 5:00 mark and she does not get in until the 4:00 mark, this will not be considered a violation because the intent of the coach was to get the player in at the 5:00 mark, but he could not because play didn't stop to allow the player or players into the game.

Youth Basketball Regulations

Players can rotate to several different positions throughout the game. Rather than lock players into specific positions when they're just starting out, I 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.


There is no maximum number of practices a team can hold. However, as a general rule, practices should be limited to no more than a couple 1 1/2 hour practices a week. 

Youth Basketball Regulations
Pre-game warm-up

Teams are usually given a minimum of 10 minutes to warm up before a game. Youth league 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.


Coaches must have a roster with player's numbers. They're required to check in at the scorer's table at least 15 minutes before each game to fill out a score sheet. 

Youth Basketball Regulations

Coaches may designate one parent from their team as the stat keeper for that game. The official stats will be kept at the scorer's table by a scorekeeper provided by the league.

Switching ends

Teams 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.

Youth Basketball Regulations

Many youth basketball leagues don't use a 3-point line, but others use the high school 3-pt line for all age groups. 

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.

Youth Basketball Regulations

Each team may call two 30-second timeouts 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.


It is standard to have the Home team wear a light-colored jersey while the Visitors wear a dark-colored jersey. However, sometimes teams don't have uniforms, and players just wear scrimmage vests over their t-shirts.

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.

All players should wear as close to basic black shorts as possible.

Shirts must be tucked inside the shorts.

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

Youth Basketball Regulations

Officials are usually pretty loose with calling violations. 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.

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