Everything Kids

The NBA Has Released the First-Ever Set of Youth Basketball Participation Guidelines

These guidelines should help answer parents' concerns about early competitiveness and the pressure for early specialization in the sport.

boys basketball team Shutterstock
Last year, my son took a spill while running down the court during a basketball playoff game. My husband and I pretty much stopped breathing until we saw him pop back up and start jogging towards his teammates. Close call, I remember thinking.

It wasn't until after the game that he admitted his foot was actually killing him. In fact, he could barely put any weight on it. We got him home and iced it for about an hour, and when the pain didn't subside, we hightailed it to the ER for an X-ray. Turns out, he'd played the whole fourth quarter with a broken ankle.

He was 9 years old at the time.

The pressure on kids when it comes to youth sports has increased drastically over the last few decades, with more and more kids focusing on a single sport from a very young age. Which means not only several nights a week spent at practice, but weekends spent shuttling from league game to showcase to travel tournament to clinic. It's no wonder that, according to a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the kids who specialize face a higher risk of injury from training, as well as increased potential for stress and burnout.

Now the NBA is hoping to change all that by partnering with USA Basketball to develop the first-ever set of youth guidelines aimed at improving the way kids, parents, and coaches experience the game, with a specific emphasis on promoting player health and wellness.

"There's been a lot of concern about early competitiveness and pressure on parents for early specialization," John DiFiori, M.D., NBA director of sports medicine and UCLA team physician, told Parents.com. "The NBA wanted to be proactive in addressing these issues at the youth level."

To that end, it has established recommended participation and rest guidelines for organized basketball with the help of a team of coaches, administrators, medical experts, and former players—including Shane Battier and Bruce Bowen. These new guidelines have been endorsed by organizations such as AAU, YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and the NCAA, and by brands like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour, who plan to promote them at the grassroots level.

Here's how it all breaks down:

PARTICIPATION GUIDELINES

  • Ages 7-8: 1 game (20-28 minutes) and 1 practice (30-60 minutes) per week
  • Ages 9-11: 1-2 games (24-32 minutes) and 2 practices (40-75 minutes) per week
  • Ages 12-14: 2 games (28-32 minutes) and 2-4 practices (60-90 minutes) per week
  • Grades 9-12: 2-3 games (32-36 minutes) and 3-4 practices (90-120 minutes) per week

REST GUIDELINES

  • Ages 7-8: 2 rest days per week minimum; 4 months per year playing organized basketball; 9-12 hours of sleep per night
  • Ages 9-11: 2 rest days per week minimum; 5 months per year playing organized basketball; 9-12 hours of sleep per night
  • Ages 12-14: 1 rest day per week minimum; 7 months per year playing organized basketball; 8-10 hours of sleep per night (9-12 hours for 12 year olds)
  • Grades 9-12: 1 rest day per week minimum; 9-10 months per year playing organized basketball; 8-10 hours of sleep per night

That's a lot of Zzz's! My son is now 11, and I can't remember the last time he got that much sleep in one night! But as Dr. DiFiori put it: "More rest equals less injury," so I guess I should probably get on board. After all, teamwork makes the dream work, baby!

Along with the guidelines, the NBA is also advising parents to delay single-sport specialization for their kids until age 14 or older. "Playing sports at a young age is extremely beneficial when it comes to learning about leadership and camaraderie," Dr. DiFiori told us. "We want to support those aspirations, but do it in healthy way, where it's not all about competitiveness. Going after your dream is great, but parents need to keep in mind that when it comes to young kids, it's all about balance."

For more details, visit www.youthguidelines.com.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld