Check Your Hoop Height

Too many kids are honing their skills with the wrong sizes and expectations

Keren Gudeman

| 3 min read

Picture this: A 7-year-old hits the trail on a full-sized adult mountain bike. Or, a 5-year-old toes the starting line of a 26-mile marathon. 

Inappropriate, right? Silly even. 

Well, in basketball, 10-foot rims are the international standard. And for most of us growing up — or even just a couple years ago — this was just how it was. We’d chuck the ball in the air with all of our might, hoping to hit… something

Even though we now know more about the physical and psychological development of youth players, well-meaning coaches and youth basketball programs don’t always take the time to match the rim height to the size of their players. 

Fortunately, in 2018, the NBA and USA Basketball came together to establish clear guidelines for youth basketball, which provide age-appropriate and easy-to-follow criteria. These guidelines cover what needs to adjust to the size of growing kids — including hoop height.

Hoop heights to shoot for

Kids have smaller hands, smaller bodies,” says Jeremiah Boswell, a consultant for youth development with the NBA. “So, adjusting the height of the basket will help their mechanics and form.” 

Use the following NBA-approved criteria to adjust the height of your baskets: 

  • 8-foot rims for ages 7 to 8.
  • 9-foot rims for ages 9 to 11.
  • 10-foot rims for ages 12 and up.

These days, more rims are adjustable and can be lowered from the standard 10-foot height. If you can’t adjust the hoop height on the court, there are portable hoops of appropriate size. 

And if neither of those solutions work, it’s time to get creative. Boswell says coaches can use a trash can instead of a hoop, or turn a too-tough shooting game into a passing game.

Beyond hoop height 

Hoop height is about more than just body size. It’s also about making the game more fun for developing players, and to help them feel more successful as they grow and learn. 

“Think about scoring 6 points versus 20 points,” says Boswell. “It is just more fun to shoot at a basket that is the appropriate height.” 

And keep in mind, shooting at an 8-foot basket, or finding creative ways to practice with a taller basket, is easier if the basketball is also the proper fit. (More on basketball sizes here.)

By adjusting both the rim height and ball size, you’ll go a long way to making the game more accessible for youth players. 

How do you know when to change the game? 

As with any recommendations, the NBA youth guidelines serve as a rule of thumb. Generally, the age ranges they use can help you decide when — and how — to adjust the equipment, rules and even strategy. 

But do go ahead and adjust the game based on your players’ abilities. As Boswell suggests, if you see that something is too easy for your players, raise the bar! Right-size the game for developing players and everyone wins.

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