I’d like to start a youth basketball petition.

Kids shouldn’t play 5 on 5 until they are at least 12 years old. Furthermore, 5 on 5 full-court basketball for kids under the age of 12 should be a felony for whoever is taking those parents’ money

Maybe felony is an exaggeration, but it isn’t an exaggeration that playing 5 on 5 basketball for young kids hurts them and therefore hurts the game.

10 reasons why

Here are 10 reasons why. I’m sure there are others. In no particular order,

  1. Players younger than 12 can’t shoot a 15-foot shot effectively much less a 3 point shot. (Yet, some of them chuck it up there anyway after 3 double dribbles and 15 steps.)
  2. Players younger than 12 struggle to have the strength to make a pass from the top of the key to the wing, much less a skip pass or anything else. (Forget having the mental development to be able to protect the ball and evaluate eight other players while they are being defended. Most players at this age aren’t able to make a good pass to a teammate who probably isn’t able to get open either.)
  3. When you have 10 players on the court and they don’t have the strength to use half of the half court, it doesn’t leave a lot of space for players to get open or shoot. (Especially when the other team is playing zone, which is what many coaches do to try to “win.” C’mon, seriously?)
  4. Playing zone doesn’t really teach kids how to play defense. It’s hard to play zone when you’re playing 3 on 3. I mean you can, but playing man to man teaches things that playing zone does not.
  5. I don’t care what level of player you’re coaching. If you put 10 highly skilled players in the lane and said play basketball, everyone would struggle. It doesn’t do unskilled kids any good to play a game that is so dependent on spacing if there is no space. No player under the age of 12 is truly “skilled”. Maybe they are skilled for their age, but even then they have a lot more to learn.
  6. Because everyone is playing in such a small space when you’re playing 5 on 5, the biggest or most aggressive player always gets the ball. In a lot of situations, the bigger kids are the more aggressive ones. The other kids end up just running back and forth, or even worse, standing and watching as opposed to actually playing the game. We can teach them how to play in transition when they actually get big enough to pass the ball up the court.
  7. The more time they spending running up and down the court, the less time there is to dribble, pass, shoot, foul, rebound or do anything else that’s actually a part of playing basketball which means players miss out on opportunities to get better. Of course, being able to run up and down is part of the game, but again, they can learn how to do that when they are older.
  8. When all kids do is run, they get tired more quickly and get the wrong idea of what basketball is about. So they end up not liking it because they never actually get to play it.  All they end up doing is running.
  9. They are too young to learn all of the concepts needed to play 5 on 5 effectively. Teaching them plays is a waste of time. It’s difficult to get college teams to run plays effectively and they practice multiple hours per day 6 days a week. How much do we really expect to accomplish in one hour once or twice a week when they don’t even have the skills to not travel much less set a screen or do anything else more involved.
  10. 5 on 5 is hard enough to officiate with good players.  Force them to play 3 on 3. Now coaches can be officials and can actually help kids learn the rules instead of letting them get away with everything just so they aren’t blowing the whistle every 5 seconds.

Don’t get me wrong

Is running important in basketball?  Of course, it is. But we don’t need 14 to 17-year-old kids having overuse injuries. That topic is well documented. It doesn’t mean kids won’t have overuse injuries anyway, but 3 on 3 half-court basketball is a lot easier on the body than 5 on 5 full-court basketball.

Let’s move on. Passing and catching is an adventure. The saying goes that in high school basketball if your team makes more than 3 passes, they are probably going to turn it over. Have you ever watched a game of basketball with kids under the age of 12? They are lucky to complete one pass in a possession without a turnover. They are still learning how to pass not to mention catch, pivot, get open or anything else.


Let’s outlaw 5 on 5 basketball for anyone under the age of 12. No one really cares that your team won a championship in the 10U National tournament. John Calipari doesn’t care that your kid was the best 7-year old in your church league.

If we’re serious about improving the game and teaching the game, we need to be concerned about what is best for the players who are playing it. Playing 5 on 5 for kids under the age of 12 is not good for them physically and it doesn’t help them really learn how to play the game.

If you’re with me, let me know and leave a comment.

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