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Youth Basketball Basics

A Basketball Primer for Parents


  • Traveling- Taking more than a step and a half without dribbling the ball, resulting in the ball being turned over to the other team.  In recognition of the lower skill level of younger players (K-2), referees are often given discretion on whether to call a violation; if he does, he will explain the violation to the player and the violation does not result in a turnover.

  • Carrying/palming- When a player dribbles the ball with his hand too far to the side or under the ball.
  • Double dribble- dribbling the ball with both hands on the ball at the same time or picking up the dribble and then dribbling again, resulting in a turnover. As with traveling violations, double dribbling violations are called at the discretion of the referees for games involving young players (K-2); if a violation is called, the referee will explain the violation to the player and no turnover will result.
  • Backcourt violation- Once the offense has brought the ball across the mid-court line, they cannot go back across the line while they have the ball. If they do, the ball is awarded to the other team on the sideline to pass inbounds.

  • Time restrictions- A player passing the ball inbounds has five seconds to pass the ball. If he does not, then the ball is given to the other team. Other time restrictions include the rule that a player cannot have the ball for more than five seconds when being closely guarded and, in some states and levels, shot-clock restrictions requiring a team to attempt a shot within a given time frame. 


  •  Center: Usually positioned nearest the basket and the tallest player on the team. Offensively, the center's goal is to get open for a pass and shoot towards the basket from close range. They are also in charge of blocking defenders to make space for teammates to attempt shots and grabbing rebounds of shots missed by their teammates (offensive rebounds).  Defensively, the center keeps opponents from shooting by blocking shots and passes. They also retrieve a lot of rebounds of missed shots by the other team.
  • Forward: Two players positioned closer to the basket than the guards but further away then the center.   A power forward is usually the bigger, stronger of the two forwards  positioned close to the basket in order to rebound and score from close range.  The small forward is usally a player taller than than the two guards but smaller than the power forward; he plays both inside (driving to the net for lay-ups or playing near the basket to grab rebounds) and outside (taking jump shots). Defensively, they try to prevent opponents (usually other forwards) from running to the goal and scoring or rebounding.
  • Guard: Usually the shortest and quickest players who are usually really good at dribbling fast, seeing the court, and passing.  Offensively, it is their job to set up plays and shoot from the outside or drive to the basket for lay-ups.  Defensively, guards are responsible for stealing passes and preventing opponents from running to the hoop and guarding the other team's guards when they are attempting outside shots.  The point guard is usually the player who runs the team on offense ("plays the point"); the shooting guard is generally the team's best long-range shooter, the one who takes jump shots from outside and most of the team's three-point attempts.