Developmentally Appropriate Basketball Modifications

Kindergarten-Second Grade

  • Use a play group style of organization for this group
  • Use balls that are 28.5 cm in circumference or smaller
  • Baskets should not be higher than 6′
  • Limit practices/games to one session per week total
  • Sessions should not last longer than one hour
  • Limit the season to 6 weeks
  • The majority of the focus should be on dribbling; most other instruction will
  • be too advanced
  • If “games” are desired, limit play to 3 v 3; use the subs as sideline players to
  • inbound balls (1)

Third-Fifth Grade

  • Games should be no more than 30 stopped minutes; play no more than one
  • game per week
  • Limit practice to 60 minutes per week
  • Game and practice can be combined to one 90-minute weekly session
  • Baskets should be 8′ high for 3rd and 4th grades; 9′ high for 5th grade
  • Use smaller balls
  • Limit roster to 8 players
  • During games play 3 v 3 so that every player gets many touches of the ball
  • Limit the season to 12 weeks
  • Let the kids keep the scorebook
  • Do not have playoffs or keep league standings (1)

Sixth-Eighth Grade

  • Limit roster to 10 players max; 8 is ideal
  • Play 5 v 5 basketball with all players getting equal playing time at all positions
  • The basket should be 10′ high for the first time
  • 6th graders should be practicing twice a week for 90 minutes max
  • 7th and 8th graders can practice three times a week
  • Do not use complicated plays
  • Use man-to-man defense
  • Limit the ration of practice to games to 2:1
  • Limit the season to 12 games
  • Playoffs are OK but all teams should be involved (1)

Organized basketball should begin only in 3rd grade or later (1)

Example of an Alternative Basketball Program

A great example of an alternative basketball league can be found in Woburn, Massachusetts. The name of the league is the Ninth and Tenth Grade Intermediate League. What is special about this league is the lack of adults that are involved. The freshmen and sophomore players who are involved act as coach, captain and everything in between. The only adults involved, besides the league director, are the paid officials. The league director reported not only positive feedback from the sophomores who were trying to convince him to let them continue playing as juniors, but also from the officials who enjoyed the silence from the sidelines and stands (1).


(1) Bigelow, B., Moroney, T. & Hall, L. (2001). Just Let the Kids Play: How to Stop Other Adults from Ruining Your Child’s Fun and Success in Youth Sports. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc.

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