USA Basketball and NBA announce age-appropriate rules and standards for youth basketball competitions

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., and NEW YORK – USA Basketball and the National Basketball Association (NBA) today announced a set of rules and standards for youth basketball competitions to enhance the development and playing experience for young athletes by helping them learn the fundamentals of the game and achieve greater on-court success.

Two years ago, the NBA and USA Basketball established three expert working groups focused on: Health and Wellness, Playing Standards, and Curriculum and Instruction. The rules and standards announced today are the second set of guidelines to be released, following the initial NBA and USA Basketball Youth Guidelines announced in October 2016, which promote health and wellness by encouraging multi-sport participation and establishing age-appropriate limits on the number of games that youth should play.

The new rules and standards detail age- and stage-appropriate recommendations across four key areas – equipment and court specifications, game structure, playing tactics and rules – and were designed to help young players learn the fundamentals of the sport, build skills and achieve early success, and provide enhanced long-term development opportunities.

 Aligned with the previously announced Youth Basketball Player Segmentation Model, the guidelines are specific to four age segments: ages 7-8, ages 9-11, ages 12-14 and grades nine-12.

Highlights from the rules and standards include the recommended use of:

  • Smaller basketballs for ages 7-8 (size 5, 27.5” circumference) and ages 9-11 (size 6, 28.5” circumference).

Using a smaller ball that is more proportional to the size of children’s hands allows for better ball control, leading to enhanced skill development.

  • An eight-foot basket for ages 7-8 and a nine-foot basket for ages 9-11, when possible.

Lowering the basket height for younger players assists with developing proper shooting form and increases the opportunity for shooting success. 

  • No zone defenses for ages 7-8 and ages 9-11.

Removing zone defenses from play among younger age segments encourages movement and physical activity, and promotes the development of individual defensive skills related to guarding a player both on and off the ball. 

  • Equal playing time throughout the game for ages 7-8 and throughout the first three periods for ages 9-11 (coach’s discretion after the third period).

Equal playing time ensures young children have an opportunity to experience the game. While equal and fair playing time is encouraged throughout all levels of play, it should only be required throughout the entire game for the youngest age segments.

  • No 3-point field goal scoring for ages 7-8 and ages 9-11.

Eliminating 3-point field goals for the younger age segments encourages players to shoot from within a developmentally-appropriate distance.  

  • A 24-second shot clock for ninth-12th grade and a 30-second shot clock for ages 12-14, when possible.

The 30-second shot clock for the 12-14 age segment, along with the 24-second shot clock for the ninth-12th grade segment, allows for more possessions for each team, better game flow and additional decision-making opportunities for players.

For all recommendations relating to players in the ninth-12th grade level, the NBA and USA Basketball have adopted FIBA (International Basketball Federation) rules. These internationally recognized rules promote player development, better game flow and a positive playing experience for youth basketball’s oldest age segment. Where a specific standard or rule is not indicated, the recommendation is to follow official FIBA rules.

The complete guidelines can be found at:


Executive Quotes: 

USA Basketball Chairman and Jr. NBA Leadership Council Chairman Retired General Martin E. Dempsey

“As the chairman of both USA Basketball and the Jr. NBA Leadership Council, as well as a parent whose kids grew up playing and loving the game of basketball, I’m proud that the NBA and USA Basketball are working together to develop and share these important guidelines. The new guidelines include age-specific rules and standards that will ensure a balanced and positive basketball experience for youth of all ages.”

USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley

“These standards are meant to help coaches and administrators incorporate best practices into their teams and programs according to grade level. The experience for the participant is the most important thing, and we want to make sure children have the opportunity to play basketball in a fun and safe environment that encourages proper development. Regardless of whether a program or team can adopt some or all of the recommendations today, or this year, or in the next few years, USA Basketball and the NBA are committed to encouraging the use of these standards in youth programs throughout the country.”

NBA President, Social Responsibility & Player Programs Kathy Behrens

“The second set of Youth Guidelines is another step in the right direction toward standardizing how to properly teach youth players the fundamentals of the game, while also encouraging age-appropriate best practices that will enhance skill development and enjoyment of the sport. The NBA and USA Basketball are committed to establishing an appropriate structure and development pathway that will continue to improve the way children, parents and coaches experience the game.”

More information about these guidelines can also be found at, and


About USA Basketball

Based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and chaired by retired Gen. Martin Dempsey, USA Basketball is a nonprofit organization and the national governing body for basketball in the United States. As the recognized governing body for basketball in the U.S. by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Basketball is responsible for the selection, training and fielding of USA national teams that compete in FIBA-sponsored five-on-five and 3×3 international competitions, as well as for some national competitions and for the development of youth basketball.

The USA Basketball Youth Development division is tasked with the development of youth basketball initiatives that address player development, coach education and safety, while promoting, growing, and elevating the game. USA Basketball is committed to providing youth throughout the country safe, fun and developmentally appropriate environments in which they can enjoy the game. Current USA Basketball youth initiatives include coach licensing and education; organization accreditation; coach academies; regional camps; youth clinics; open court programs; Women in the Game conferences; and the U.S. Open Basketball Championships.

Connect with USA Basketball at and on Facebook (USABasketball and USABYouth), Twitter (@usabasketball, @USABYouth, @USAB3x3), Instagram (@USABasketball) and YouTube (therealusabasketball).


About the Jr. NBA

The Jr. NBA presented by Under Armour is the league’s youth basketball participation program that provides a fun environment for kids to learn the fundamentals and values of the game.  The Jr. NBA is focused on helping grow and improve the youth basketball experience for players, coaches and parents, and offers a free curriculum covering all levels of the game that includes 48 practice plans and more than 250 instructional videos featuring NBA and WNBA players.  The Jr. NBA World Championship, a first-of-its kind global youth basketball tournament for the top 14U boys and girls teams from around the world, will take place in August 2018.

In partnership with USA Basketball, the NBA developed the first set of youth basketball guidelines in October 2016, with an emphasis on player health and wellness.  Through a network of affiliated youth basketball organizations and programs such as the Jr. NBA Skills Challenge presented by Verizon and 3v3 Leagues presented by Shock Doctor, the Jr. NBA program has reached more than five million youth ages 6-14 in the U.S. and Canada since launching its expanded efforts in October 2015.  The Jr. NBA partnership network is comprised of youth basketball programs of all NBA, WNBA and NBA G League teams as well as elementary and middle schools, military bases and longstanding community partners.  For more information and to register for the Jr. NBA, visit or download the Jr. NBA app.