Many young basketball players dream of playing like LeBron James, dunking the basketball, throwing alley-oops, swooshing 3-pointers and winning the game on a last-second shot. The problem is, with a short stature and a limited skill set, children can't live out those dreams on a 10-foot basketball rim. In fact, many children younger than 10 lack the strength required to propel a regulation-sized basketball to a rim that's so high. This inability can cause frustration and disinterest in the sport and rob a child of hours of fun on the basketball court.
The best way to give a child confidence that they will one day soar through the air like professional ball players is to adjust the rim and size of the basketball according to his or her age and height. These adjustments will not only make the game more fun, but also allow a child to work on shooting and dribbling techniques
According to the American Sport Education Program, rim heights should be adjusted according to a child's age. ASEP's recommendations for each age group are as follows:
- 6-foot rims for children ages 5 to 7
- 8-foot rims for children ages 8 to 10
- 9-foot rims for 11 year-olds
- 10-foot rims for children 12 and older
These rim heights will not only make it easier for a child to score a basket, but also assist in a child's basketball development. Whether a rim is six or 10-feet high, a child must still show proper shooting form to make a basket.
If a child were to use a 10-foot rim, shooting form is likely to unravel since the child is simply throwing the basketball as hard as he or she can. This is similar to a half-court heave an adult might attempt. Fun, yes, but proper shooting mechanics go out the window. Also, seeing the ball go through the hoop, which is likelier to happen on a shorter rim, adds confidence and makes the game more fun, no matter your age.
As a side note, dunking is fun but not necessary. In fact, lowering the basketball rim for the purpose of dunking leads to more jammed and broken fingers from getting entangled in the net and rim. And lowering the rim to such heights could affect a child's shooting development. For these reasons, ASEP's recommendations for each age range are above the heights most children can conceivably reach. But, that doesn't mean you can't lower the rim in your driveway for a fun dunk contest.
Dribbling and a child's general "handle" of the basketball is the most important skill a young basketball player can master. While a larger basketball might be easier to dribble—giving a child more surface area to contact—a smaller ball teaches greater control. Also, a smaller, lighter basketball is easier for a child to shoot and pass.
Like rim height, it's recommended that basketball sizes gradually increase as a child gets older.
- Mini international basketball: 22- to 22.5-inch circumference recommended for children 5 to 8 years old
- Junior international basketball: 27.25- to 27.75-inch circumference recommended for children 8 to 12 years old
- Intermediate size girls' youth basketball: 27.75- to 28.5-inch circumference recommended for girls between 12 and 14 years old
- Women's new international basketball: 28.5- to 29-inch circumference recommended for girls older than 14
- Regulation basketball: 29.5- to 30-inch circumference. Professional, college and high school men's basketball programs use this size ball
The above heights and measurements are just recommendations and are in no way a sure path to mastering basketball. If a child is technically sufficient and is outgrowing the shorter rim in either size or ability, don't be afraid to hand over a larger basketball and raise the rim. But for larger youth games where participants range in skill level, just remember that scoring is what makes the game fun.
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