Youth Basketball Guidelines

October 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Canadian Sport Features


The NBA and USA Basketball have partnered to develop guidelines designed to promote a positive and healthy youth basketball experience.


 Basketball is a great game that is played by millions of young people in the United States and around the world.   Playing basketball fosters the development of peer relationships, self-esteem, leadership qualities, and physical health.

However, an overemphasis on early competitive success has led to several well-recognized issues that exist across youth sports, including in youth basketball:

  • Pressure to begin high-intensity training at a young age
  • Early single-sport specialization
  • Frequent and multiple competitive event scheduling
  • Increased risk for injury, burnout, and disengagement from sports

The NBA and USA Basketball are committed to helping shape a youth basketball culture that prioritizes the health and well-being of young athletes – enhancing their enjoyment, participation, and development in the game.



 Overscheduling of competitive events, overuse injuries and burnout have become too common in youth basketball.  The tables below outline recommended and maximumamounts of youth basketball participation, as well as rest guidelines for young athletes, designed to promote a fun and healthy playing experience.
Age Game Length # of Games Per Week Practice Length # of Practices Per Week
Ages 7-8 20-28 min 1 30-60 min 1
Ages 9-11 24-32 min 1 to 2 45-75 min 2
Ages 12-14 28-32 min 2 60-90 min 2 to 4
Grades 9-12 32-36 min 2 to 3 90-120 min 3 to 4



Age # of Games Per Day # of Hrs. Per Week in Organized Basketball
Ages 7-8 1 3 hours
Ages 9-11 2* 5 hours
Ages 12-14 2* 10 hours**
Grades 9-12 2* 14 hours

The maximum participation guidelines outlined above and guidance on camps and academies below are intended to serve as limits on a young athlete’s participation in organized basketball. It is possible that participation in organized basketball within the maximum limits but in excess of the recommendations is also not advisable from a health and wellness standpoint; however, this issue requires further study.

*Youth basketball players, parents, and coaches should demonstrate caution in scheduling or participating in more than one game per day, especially on consecutive days. If young athletes participate in an event or tournament in which more than one game is played per day on consecutive days, players should have additional time off from sports activities following the event to allow for recovery.

**It is recommended that young athletes in these age ranges who are approaching the maximum hour limits not participate in another organized sport concurrently.

Age Min. # of Rest Days Per Week Max. Months Per Year in Organized Basketball Recommended Hours of Sleep Per Night
Ages 7-8 2 4 months 9-12 hours
Ages 9-11 2 5 months 9-12 hours
Ages 12-14 1 7 months 8-10 hours*
Grades 9-12 1 9-10 months 8-10 hours

*For 12 year olds, 9-12 hours of sleep is recommended.



Playing multiple sports helps kids make new friends and develop new skills.  Medical and scientific experts recommend early sports sampling and delaying single-sport specialization until mid to late adolescence.  Playing multiple sports should not be viewed as falling behind, but rather as building the foundation for future success.  Research shows that early sport specialization is NOT necessary to produce elite-level performance.


Sports sampling, which is characterized by participation in multiple sports during childhood, provides a young athlete the chance to find a sport that may ultimately fit him or her best.  There are several demonstrated benefits of sports sampling:

  • Prolonged engagement in sports
  • More enjoyable and positive early sports experiences
  • Healthy physical, psychological, and social development
  • Transfer of skills acquired from multiple sports to primary sport if specialization occurs

Current research does not support the view that early single-sport specialization is either necessary or sufficient to produce elite performance at advanced levels of competition. In fact, early single-sport specialization in basketball and other team sports may be detrimental to long-term elite performance.

Athletes that reach the highest level of achievement have been shown to be more likely to have played multiple sports at a young age compared to athletes that reach relatively lower levels of achievement. With respect to basketball and other similar ball sports, world-class athletes often delayed single-sport specialization until age 16 or later.


Based upon the scientific literature and the consensus of our Health and Wellness Working Group, the NBA and USA Basketball recommend the following for young athletes, parents and basketball organizations:

1. Promote personal engagement in youth basketball and other sports.

2. Youth sports should include both organized and informal, peer-led activities.

3. Youth should participate in a variety of sports.

4. Delay single-sport specialization in the sport of basketball until age 14 or older.

5. Ensure rest from organized basketball at least one day per week, and extended time away from organized basketball each year.

6. Limit high-density scheduling based on age-appropriate guidelines.

7. Further evaluation of basketball-specific neuromuscular injury prevention training program is warranted.

8. Parents and coaches should be educated regarding concepts of sport readiness and injury prevention.


The NBA and USA Basketball have adopted a Youth Basketball Player Segmentation Model designed to help ensure player safety, consistency and competitive fairness and balance for youth basketball players.

This player segmentation model, developed by an expert working group on Playing Standards, has a hybrid age/grade structure that employs strict age groupings through age 13, followed by a grade affiliation model once a player enters the ninth grade.  The following are key elements of the model:

Age-based segmentation through age 13

14U/8th grade transition year

Grade-based segmentation in grades 9 through 12


*To be eligible to compete in a listed grade division, a player must be enrolled in that grade as of Oct. 1 of the Playing Year AND can only be up to one Playing Year older than one’s grade indicates.  

**12th grader turning 20 prior to 9/1/17 is ineligible for 12th grade play and should consider post-high school play. 

Note: A player may “play up” a division but should adhere to the Participation Guidelines set forth by the Health and Wellness working group based on the player’s actual birth age. 


The NBA and USA Basketball working group on Playing Standards is developing age- and stage- appropriate playing guidelines – to include playing rules, equipment recommendations, and competition structure elements – for four age groupings:

  • 8 and under
  • 9-11 years old
  • 12-14 years old
  • Grades 9-12

These recommendations, which will be announced in 2017, are being designed to provide developmentally appropriate standards for youth basketball – allowing the game to evolve as kids grow and mature.


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