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Youth Basketball: When To Start, What The Rules Are, and How To Stay Safe

Even little tykes can learn the basics!

By JulieD


Children can start learning the very basics of basketball from kindergarten to third grade. However, 5-6 year olds still are not ready to play on a team. During this time period parents and teachers can teach them to throw, bounce, and catch the ball. Parents can buy a kiddie hoop so that they can practice throwing the ball into the net; at this age, they are too small to actually dribble the ball and have more fun throwing it anyway. Teaching them the basics of this sport at a young age will help them to develop strong hand-eye coordination for the future, whether it is in this sport or another! Be sure to have your 5 or 6 year old use a smaller basketball, like the ones now being marketed by Spalding under its Rookie Gear label.

Children ages 7 to 9 can start learning the rules and practice dribbling the ball. At this age, children are now ready to join a youth team and start practicing more. At this young level, games are usually played without keeping score because sportsmanship and team play is the most important aspect to learn at this level.

Children that are in the 4th to 6th grades are ready to play the game more competitively and hone the skills that they have learned or are in the process of learning. If your child is serious about the game at this age, it is certainly okay to send them to a basketball clinic so that they can practice and learn new skills. Different from hockey or figure skating, basketball is a sport that kids can pick up even during their high school career as long as they are able to run, have good agility and quickness, and  good hand-eye coordination.

Basic Youth Rules

  • The size of the basketball is generally 29 inches around; however, this size is modified for younger players and girls. For a great, smaller basketball, click here.

  • The hoop is sized at 18 inches and positioned 10 feet above the ground (8 feet for really young players).

  • The size of the court varies depending on the age level; generally, at the youth level, the court is 74 inches long bye 42 inches wide.

  • The length of the game depends on what level of competition your child is playing at; youth leagues usually play two twenty minute halves with a running clock. Junior high and the varsity levels usually play four quarters, each being eight minutes long.

Staying Safe

Some of the most common basketball injuries are ankle sprains, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, hand injuries, and knee cartilage injuries. In order to prevent injuries, make sure your children follow these steps:

  • Warm-up! Warming-up is probably the most talked about thing to do in order to prevent injuries; however, it is also usually the least followed. No matter how many times you have heard the importance of warming-up, it  cannot be stressed enough how true this really is. Not only do warm-ups stretch the muscles, increase the flow of blood around your body making your muscles more warm and flexible, but it also helps to prepare players mentally as well as physically.

  • Protection. The proper protective equipment is important in avoiding injuries in basketball. Elbow and knee pads should be worn to prevent injury; some players even wear padded shorts.

  • Rest. Most people don't realize just how important rest is for the athletic body. According to sportsinjuryclinic.net, "Physiological changes within the cardiovascular, respiratory, and muscular systems in our bodies occur when we are at rest." If players do not rest, overuse injuries are more likely to occur.

One more important thing in preventing injuries is to make sure your child is properly hydrated and getting the proper nutrition to refuel and rebuild muscles.