For boys and girls in middle school, basketball promotes teamwork and sportsmanship in addition to athletic competition. Although rules vary slightly by league, middle school players all follow the basics of the game. The general rules governing middle school basketball create a fast-moving game for spectators and an energetic sport for participants.
Basic Basketball Rules
In basketball, players on teams of five compete to achieve the most points at the end of the designated time. Teams score points by throwing the basketball into the team's respective metal hoop, located at each end of the court. To achieve this, players move the ball to their team's end of the court by dribbling or passing the ball to other players. The ball can be passed with one or both hands, but once both hands touch the ball, the same player cannot dribble it again. Players cannot walk with the ball and cannot kick it.
Players score two points for baskets made inside the designated three-point line, and three points for shots made when the player is standing outside that line. Free throws score one point. A player takes a free throw shot when she has the ball as an offensive player and then is the victim of a foul, such as an elbowing from a defensive player.
To properly play defense when players from the other team possess the ball, a player stays near a corresponding offensive player, but does not impede her movement or physically push or harm her in any way. When a player takes a shot, players may not block the ball if it has already started to descend into the goal.
If the ball rolls out of boundary lines marked around the perimeter of the court after a player has touched it or had possession of it, or if a player steps out of bounds, the opposing team chooses a player to throw the ball in to another player on that team, and gains possession of the ball.
Middle School Rule Differences
In middle school basketball, students usually play a shortened game. For instance, in the National Basketball Association, players challenge each other over the course of four 12-minute quarters, with a 15-minute halftime. Middle school players, in contrast, play quarters that last seven or eight minutes long.
Each basketball league or association governs its own league's play. In some districts, middle school players follow high school rules and others follow rules for youth play. In youth play, according to the International Basketball Federation, goals are lowered for youth teams, the courts are smaller and the balls themselves are smaller than professional regulation balls.
In general, the rules of middle school basketball work to make the game less frustrating to the players. For instance, some middle school leagues ban zone defense. Zone defense is a technique of having multiple defensive players guarding multiple offensive players at the same time. In middle school basketball where zone defense is banned, each player guards only one other player, which is called man-to-man defense.
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