Basketball League Rules

Game Format

These rules do NOT apply to Level 4. Except where the following rules apply, play is governed by the National Federation of State High School Associations’ (NFHS) Rules Book (www.nfhs.org).

  • Referees lead both teams in prayer at center court before every game. This sets the tone and focus for the game.
  • A coin flip or other impartial method determines which team receives possession first. In jump ball situations, possessions will alternate. This promotes fairness for both teams while adhering to the NFHS rule for jump ball situations.
  • Clock format:  Running clock throughout the game, stopping only for pre-determined substitutions at the end of each segment and halftime.
  • At the end of each segment, the team that receives the ball next is based upon the direction of the possession arrow. This avoids the offensive team that may have possession in the next segment from stalling at the end of a period.
  • All coaches will adhere to the substitution system as detailed in Guide X.  The substitution system allows for equal playing time for all players.
  • There are no timeouts. This allows more playing time and keeps the games on time.
  • Teams switch goals at halftime. This rule is in compliance with NFHS Rules. It also evens any advantage that may occur because of the court.
  • Any game ending in a tie should remain in a tie. No overtimes are played so games stay on schedule.
  • Standings add unneeded pressure to the game and therefore will not be maintained.

Rules of Play

These rules do NOT apply to Level 4. Except where the following rules apply, play is governed by the National Federation of State High School Associations’ (NFHS) Rules Book (www.nfhs.org).

Defense

  • Man-to-man defense will be played at all times. Zone defenses are not allowed in Upward Basketball. In a man-to-man defense, players are only guarding the opponent that closely matches their ability and height. This allows for a more competitive system for every player on the court while creating an equal opportunity for each player.
  • Defensive players must stay within arm’s reach of the player they are guarding. 
  • Isolation plays will not be a part of Upward Basketball because they take away the opportunity for improvement for all players and contradict the spirit of the rules. This prevents defenders from sagging or crowding an area of the court to gain a defensive advantage.
  • Double-teaming is not allowed. However, help defense is strongly encouraged in the following instances:
    • Lane Area: If a defender is in the lane and the player he or she is guarding is within arm’s reach, the defender is allowed to provide help defense. Since many goals are scored in the lane, it provides the defense more opportunity to properly defend this area.
    • Picks and Screens: Defensive switching is allowed on offensive picks or screens. The non-screened defender can help his or her teammate by temporarily switching until the teammate recovers to defend their offensive player. This is commonly referred to as ”help and recover.” This prevents the offense from continually setting screens to gain an advantage.
    • Fast Breaks: When an offensive player has beaten their defender, another defensive player may help. Upon stopping the fast break, defenders should return to guarding their assigned players. This rule is meant to prevent the defenders from helplessly watching the offensive player score without being able to help.
  • At the beginning of each segment, players will line up at half court and “match up” with whom they are guarding. This act is performed to promote equal player match-ups. Equal match-ups combined with man-to-man defense create five competitive pairings on the court.
  • Full court presses are not allowed. Defensive players may not guard their opponents in the backcourt. This will allow for more play to occur in the front court and create an equal opportunity for each child to participate both on offense and defense.
  • Due to the shortness of the court, backcourt violations will not be called. If playing on a regulation-size court (84 feet) as opposed to cross-court, backcourt violations should be called.
  • A player committing two fouls in one segment must sit out the remainder of that segment. The next player in the rotation comes in as the substitute and is rewarded some extra game time. This does not change the normal rotation as the fouled-out player does not re-enter the game until he or she is scheduled to do so. This rule allows the offending player time to regroup during the remainder of the segment while realizing that there is a consequence for the violation.

Offense

  • The offense must purposefully attack the defense in every situation – no stalling. After a warning from the referee, a violation will be called resulting in a turnover. This will prevent a team with the lead from running the clock out by staying in the backcourt.
  • Non-shooting fouls will result in the ball being in-bounded from either the baseline or sideline. All shooting fouls will result in free throws. By not administering “bonus” situation free throws, all players on the court can contribute to consistent game action.
  • No score will be given for a basket in the wrong goal. It will be treated as a turnover. This will prevent further embarrassing a player for making this mistake.

The Levels of Upward Basketball

Upward Sports uses a four-level age appropriate format to develop the basketball skills of each young athlete. Each level of Upward Basketball is tailored to meet athletes where they are in their playing ability, allowing them to improve their physical ability and build athletic foundations. The game format and rules of Upward Basketball are designed to promote healthy competition and sportsmanship while also teaching the objectives of game play. Below are the four levels with their recommended age divisions.  Keep in mind that, as league director, you have the freedom to adjust the age recommendations that best suits your league:

  • Level 1 - (Recommended for K5) - Level 1 rules are designed to allow young athletes the opportunity to learn the game of basketball at the most basic level.  Children at this age are still learning foundational hand-eye coordination skills and generally can only handle one building block at a time.  Because of this, rules have been designed to help each player improve throughout the season and equip them for success as they progress to Level 2.
  • Level 2 - (Recommended for 1st-2nd Grade) - Players at this age are learning to perform more than one skill at a time on the court.  They still possess a “Me” mentality and are not accustomed to the concept of team (i.e. passing the ball, offensive movement, etc.). Although they are still developing foundational hand-eye coordination, they are able to accomplish some basic basketball skills (dribbling with one hand, not moving feet during a shot, the distinction between offense and defense, etc.) Because of this, rules have been designed to allow athletes to compete in a format that coordinates with their level of mental and physical capacities.  
  • Level 3 – (Recommended for 3rd-4th Grade) – Players at this age are able to pick up some of the more advanced concepts of the game and are growing into a more mature level of hand-eye coordination. They are able to understand the concept of teamwork. They realize that they can be successful as an athlete by helping their teammates in game situations. It is important to keep score at this level because life lessons can be taught through the concept of winning and losing. Because of this, rules have been designed to allow athletes to compete in a format that coordinates with their level of mental and physical capacities as they prepare for middle school basketball.
  • Level 4 – (Recommended for 5th-8th Grade) – Players at this age exhibit a mature level of hand-eye coordination and understanding of the game.  As individual skills continue to grow, athletes embrace team aspects of the game. They also possess a strong desire to compete and determine how they stack up against the competition. Because of this, Level 4 rules follow a traditional middle school rules format

Level 1 (K5) Modifications

Rule

Explanation/Comments

Goal Height

7 feet

Ball Size

25”

Games consist of six, 4-minute segments and an 8 minute halftime. One minute is allotted for substitutions between segments. 

This keeps games to approximately a 45-minute time frame. It also allows each player to be in the game for shorter segments than older age divisions.

Score is not kept.

The focus of this age is to learn fundamentals, not winning and losing.

3-second violation is not called.

Referees should advise players of this potential violation but not penalize.

Coaches are allowed on the floor with players.

The focus is for coaches to instruct and encourage players at all times.

Stealing the ball from the dribbler is not allowed.

To encourage the offensive player to dribble with correct form without the pressure of having the ball stolen.

Stealing the ball off a pass is not allowed.

To encourage the offensive player to pass with correct form without the pressure of having the ball stolen.

Violation is not called for having two hands on the ball while dribbling.

Due to limited hand-eye coordination, this allows a player to establish correct dribbling form through rhythm and pressure on the ball.

Violation for double dribbling is called but does not result in a turnover.

Players should learn the concept of double dribble but should be allowed the opportunity to correct it without penalty.

Violation for traveling is called but does not result in a turnover.

Players should learn the concept of traveling but should be allowed the opportunity to correct it without penalty.

Violation for traveling is not called when a player shuffles feet when trying to set up for a shot.

Because this age group is single skill focused, players will tend to shuffle their feet when focusing on setting up for a shot. This is corrected as the player develops in skill as he gets older.

Fast breaks are not allowed in any transition situation.

This promotes a controlled game. Players at this age learn better when the pace is controlled.

Shooting fouls do not result in free throw attempts.

A player who gets fouled while shooting gets to retry his/her shot from the spot of the foul without being defended.  Ball is live after shot is attempted. This allows a player to attempt a shot that he was trying to take prior to the foul from the same spot.

Level 2 (1st-2nd Grade) Modifications

Rule

Explanation/Comments

Goal Height

8 feet

Ball Size

25”

Games consist of six, 6-minute segments and an 8 minute halftime. One minute is allotted for substitutions between segments.

This keeps games to approximately an hour time frame.  

Score is not kept.

Young athletes at this age should not focus on the score but rather the developmental skills being taught.

3-second violation is not called.

Young athletes at this age should focus on offensive basics (dribbling, passing, shooting, and rebounding).

Coaches are allowed to walk the sidelines to encourage and instruct players.

The focus is for coaches to instruct and encourage players at all times.

Free throws are awarded on all shooting fouls.

Two shots are attempted by the fouled player at the 10’ line.  Coaches may quickly come onto the court to line up remaining players in proper free throw positions.  After the second shot, the ball will be inbounded by the opposing team regardless of shot result.

Stealing the ball off a dribble or pass is allowed.

Players at this age should be taught and held to these basic basketball rules.

Double dribble violation is called in all circumstances.

Traveling violation is called in all circumstances.

Fast breaks are allowed in any transition situation.

Level 3 (3rd-4th Grade) Modifications

Rule

Explanation/Comments

Goal Height

9 feet

Ball Size

28.5”

Games consist of six, 6-minute segments and an 8 minute halftime. One minute is allotted for substitutions between segments. 

This keeps games to approximately an hour time frame.  

Score is kept.

Young athletes at this age should learn how to handle winning and losing after competition.  This translates into life lessons.

3-second violation is called and results in a turnover.

At this age, young athletes should understand the concept of offensive movement by not allowing a player to stay in the lane more than 3 seconds.

Coaches allowed to walk the sidelines to encourage and instruct players.

The focus is for coaches to instruct and encourage players at all times.

Clock runs continuously with special rules in effect with fewer than two minutes remaining in the game:

  • Non-shooting fouls result in the offensive team getting one point and the ball.
  • Shooting fouls result in the offensive team scoring two points. The opposing team then takes possession.
  • Players fouled in the act of shooting and making the basket are credited with the basket plus one point. The opposing team then takes possession.

Because the clock does not stop, this rule keeps the game moving without wasting the running game clock on lining up for free throw attempts.

Free throws are awarded on all shooting fouls.

Two shots are attempted by the fouled player at the 12’ line. Remaining players assume proper free throw positioning. Ball is live if second shot is missed.

Stealing the ball off a dribble or pass is allowed.

Players at this age should be taught and held to these basic basketball rules.

Double dribble violation is called in all circumstances.

Traveling violation is called in all circumstances.

Fast breaks are allowed in any transition situation.

Level 4 Rules (5th-8th Grade)

The following rules are exclusive to Level 4.  They follow a more traditional middle school format and game play. Except where the following rules apply, play is governed by the National Federation of State High School Associations’ (NFHS) Rules Book (www.nfhs.org).

Game Format

  • Referees lead both teams in prayer at center court before every game. This sets the tone and focus for the game.
  • Games are 4 quarters, each of which are 6 minutes in length.
  • The clock stops at each whistle (violations, fouls, out of bounds play, timeouts, etc.)
  • Overtimes are 2 minutes in length (regulation clock.)
  • Teams are allowed one (1) 30-second timeout per half (1 per team per half.)
  • All games are played on full-sized regulation court (no cross-court play.)
  • Goal height: 10 feet
  • Ball size: 28.5 (girls), 29.5 (boys)

Rules for Play

  • A jump ball is used to start the game and the overtime period.
  • Zone and man defenses are allowed (both should be used throughout the season.)
  • Press defense is allowed in the backcourt at all times except if a team has a 15 point advantage.
  • All players are allowed five (5) fouls each game.  Players do not foul out in a segment (with 2 fouls.) but can foul out of the game with five.  After the seventh team foul in the half, bonus free throws are awarded (1 and 1.)
  • Three point shots are allowed and encouraged.  Courts must feature a three point line.
  • Teams are not required to use the substitution system as detailed in Guide X.  Playing time requirements for this division are:
    • Each young athlete plays a minimum of ¼ of each game.
    • Each young athlete must play in both halves of each game.