Needham Youth Basketball League is an instructional league designed to promote sportsmanship and appropriate competitiveness. Each coach’s goals are A) to realize an improvement in individual skill level and understanding of team play for ALL Players, and B) ensure a positive experience for ALL players (not just those on one’s team). The program strives to achieve parity throughout the league, both in team records and playing time. Coaches should be sensitive to the lessons of winning and losing that the players will experience, but the concern for winning and losing should come only after learning and fun have been achieved. Before reviewing the list of general rules of High School Basketball that apply, please read and understand the following league-specific exceptions and guidelines in the pages that follow:

Spirit of the League

Following on the goals noted above, our league has many league-specific rules that are carefully crafted and intended to help players of all abilities to develop their skills in a fair and balanced approach.

While it’s OK for coaches to note our league-specific rules during practices, the focus in practices should be basketball fundamentals.

During games, it’s important for coaches and referees to be aware that the players are generally not aware of the nuances of our league’s rules against double-teaming, zone defenses, isolation, etc.

It’s reasonable to expect that our league-specific rules are unintentionally violated during games. If league-specific rules are violated by a player:

  1. A referee should try to encourage the player to stop the violation while the game keeps playing (e.g. shout "watch the double team", "watch the zone", etc.)
  2. Any time a team gains an advantage unfairly, the opposing team should be awarded the ball.
  3. If the player continues to violate a given rule, a ref should ask that player’s coaches to explain the rule to the player during the next break.
  4. A ref should only call a technical foul on a specific player if it’s blatantly obvious that either A) the player is violating the rules purposefully/intentionally or B) the player’s behavior is unacceptable.

Teams and their coaches are expected to respect the goals of our league-specific rules and not strategize to take advantage of these rules (e.g. ‘game the system’). If a team is found to be intentionally using strategies/techniques that aim to take advantage of the league-specific rules, that team’s coach(es) will be subject to immediate review and potential ejection from not only the game, but the entire program.

  1. Violations might include strategies/techniques for players to intentionally double-team illegally, play zone (play ‘center field’ in the lane), stall excessively, isolate repeatedly, commit fouls repeatedly on specific players, wait to see an opponent’s line-up before sending your own team on the floor, etc.
  2. Such strategies/techniques belie the league’s goals and violate the ‘Spirit of our League’, and they will not be tolerated.
  3. Upon observing such violations, a ref should stop the game/clock and quietly review his/her observations with the team’s coach. If the pattern persists, a technical foul should be called with each additional violation.

Also, we are all setting an example for everyone involved, and the example being set should be positive. Thus, there is ZERO tolerance for any barking/chirping/complaining/etc. of any kind from any coaches, spectators, and players. Any such violations and/or inappropriate misbehavior are subject to an immediate technical foul and/or ejection.

All technical fouls and/or potential violations of the ‘Spirit of the League’ should be reported to the league’s Director immediately for further review/action.

Coaches and Referees

Game referees are assigned by the league’s Director.

  1. During the regular season, an assigned ref that cannot cover a ref assignment has the responsibility of finding a replacement to fulfill his/her assignment.
  2. During the post-season tournament, an assigned ref that can’t ref an assigned game must alert the league’s Director so an appropriate replacement can be identified.

Each referee should have his/her own whistle (hint: keep it in your car)


Blank scoresheets will be provided. Ideally, an assistant coach on each team should diligently track scoring, shifts, etc. and consult the opposing coach as needed.

Find someone to run the scoreboard ASAP upon arrival - - don’t wait until the game is ready to start.

Snow storms: an email will be sent to coaches as soon as it’s known whether the gym is available. The gym doesn’t always follow Needham school closings - - it just depends on whether the parking lot is clear.


The winning coach of each game must report the score onto the website within 24 hours. If they are unable to do so, email the score to the league’s Director.

Any issues or concerns should be addressed with the league’s Director as they arise.

Game Time

Start games on time! If you don’t keep games moving, later games will be affected.

Each game has four, 10-minute quarters.

The clock should always have running time EXCEPT:

  1. At the 5:00 mark of each quarter, stop the clock for substitutions (see ‘Substitutions’)
  2. Timeouts: 3 per team per game, but no more than 2 per half (a team can’t carry 3 to the 2nd half)
  3. A 1-minute break between quarters and a 3-minute break at halftime (unless running late)
  4. All whistles during the last two minutes of a game or overtime
  5. During free throws
  6. Junior Girls League only: Hold the clock when a team has the ball in the backcourt during the last 30 seconds of the 4th quarter and OT. Start the clock when the ball is possessed in the offensive half-court
  7. On injuries and/or at the referee’s discretion

Line-ups, Substitutions and Playing time

5 players are necessary to start a game. If a team does not have 5 players after a 5-minute grace period, that team forfeits the game.

Coaches should be prepping their line-ups for the entire game BEFORE arriving at the gym, so make sure parents are giving you 24-48 hours advance notice of any expected absences.

There are controlled substitutions at the beginning of each quarter, at the 5:00 mark of each quarter, at the beginning of each overtime period, and at the half-way mark of each overtime period.

At each line-up change, referees should quickly line teams up so each player can identify their defensive assignment. Teams can opt not to mirror each other in their defensive assignments if desired.

At the 5:00 mark of each quarter (or the half-way mark of each overtime period) the clock should stop but play should continue until the next “dead ball” or “defensive rebound”.

  1. The team that has possession of the ball when the referee stops play for the mid-quarter subs will retain possession after the substitution (the possession arrow should not be changed here).
  2. To keep games moving, this substitution period is neither a time for coaching strategy nor a time of rest. Have your players ready to line up. If this time is abused, a warning should be issued and a technical foul may be assessed as appropriate.
  3. If the stoppage at the 5:00 mark occurs in a foul shot situation, the ref will keep both teams on the floor and proceed with the free throws to determine who will get the ball when play resumes. If the defense gets the rebound of the last free throw, the referee should then stop play and administer substitutions. If the offense gets the rebound, keep the clock stopped at 5:00 and continue until a change of possession.

If a player cannot finish his/her shift, the opposing team’s coaches will select the replacement player.

A player is disqualified on a player’s 5th foul or 2nd behavior-related technical foul of the game.

Playing time requirements: Generally, there should be equal playing time for all following the chart below (use the provided game grid to track both teams):

# of Players - # of 5-minute shifts for each player per game

10 players- 4 shifts each

9 players- 4 play 5 shifts, 5 play 4 shifts

8 players- 5 shifts each

7 players- 5 play 6 shifts, 2 play 5 shifts

6 players- 4 play 7 shifts, 2 play 6 shifts

5 players- 8 shifts each

  1. No player should play 2 more or less shifts than any other player on a team. Violation of this rule is subject to forfeit with the exception of the sub-bullets noted immediately below.
  2. If a player arrives late or is expected to leave early, that player should play at least half of the full shifts that remain during the time they are present, and not play 2 more or less shifts than any other player on the team during the time the player is at the game.
  3. If a team is comfortably in control of a game (e.g. up 20+ points in the 2nd half), coaches should disregard the ‘equal time’ rules and instead play their players that would benefit most from extra playing time. Better players should only be re-inserted if the gap in score narrows significantly.

A player should not sit out more than 2 shifts in a row unless unable to participate (e.g. if injured)

Ideally, the scorekeeper tracks the line-ups for each shift to ensure rules are followed, but coaches are expected to adhere to the guidelines regardless.

Players that must come out of a game but then are able to return (due to injury or other reasons), use best efforts to balance time according to the above guidelines.

Overtime: shift counts re-set to zero for all players with each new overtime period.


‘Man-to-man’ defense only (no zone defense allowed)

Switching is allowed (e.g. on picks)

Zone Defense:

  1. Each player must defend a player, not an area (zone defense is not allowed).
  2. While a defender should play man-to-man defense, a ‘cushion’ is allowed as appropriate. For example, if a defender’s assigned opponent is a non-threatening range from the basket (e.g. outside or at the 3-point line; with or without the ball), the defender may allow the opponent a ‘cushion’ of 5 feet (i.e. one body length) from either the assigned opponent or the 3-point line (whichever is closer to the defender). That said, a defender should not be allowed to play ‘centerfield’ and/or ‘camp out’ in the lane (i.e. play zone). Proper application of the body-length distance should eliminate any zone defense (unless of course help is needed if a defender has been beaten).
  3. Offensive indifference: A defensive player is not obligated to guard their ‘primary defensive assignment’ if the opposing player has clearly established and maintained an ‘out of the way’ and/or non-participatory position (i.e. near midcourt or outside the 3-point line) - - it is only under this circumstance that a defensive player can defend a zone and/or another player rather than their defensive assignment. If the defensive assignment re-establishes his/her presence inside the 3-point line with obvious intent to participate in the play, the defensive player must then return to guarding the defensive assignment. This doesn’t give a team or even a player a license/right to play a consistent zone defense. It just gives a team an alternative option if there are any offensive players on the floor that are clearly not involved in an offensive set (either by their own choice or otherwise) and have no apparent intent on being involved.

Reverse ANY turnovers or unfair advantages caused by improper defense/double-teams or zone defenses. See “Spirit of the League’ for further details on approach.

See below for league-specific rules on double-team, full-court press, 3-point line, etc.

3 Point Shots

BOYS JUNIOR DIVISION: 3-pointers are allowed throughout the game.

GIRLS JUNIOR DIVISION: 3-pointers are allowed throughout the game.

BOYS SENIOR DIVISION: 3-pointers are allowed throughout the game.

GIRLS SENIOR DIVISION: 3-pointers are allowed throughout the game.

Double Teaming


Double-teaming is allowed anywhere in the front-court throughout the game.

Only the player with the ball may be double teamed.

Triple-teaming or more is not allowed.


No double-teaming is allowed, with the following exceptions:

  1. Outside the lane, a defender can double-team the offensive player with the ball only if said defender can still reach out and touch their primary defensive assignment. Basically, when the ball is outside the lane, it’s illegal to double-team a player if the double-teaming defender is more than their ‘wingspan distance’ away from their dedicated defensive assignment - - as soon as a player can’t reach out and touch their own defensive assignment, the double-team is illegal and should be called if the defensive team has gained any advantage whatsoever.
  2. Double or triple-teaming the ball in the lane is allowed, regardless of wingspan distance.
  3. If a defender has been beaten, a teammate may come off their defensive assignment to help - - help defense is encouraged and is a fundamental part of basketball (so long as an illegal double-team does not result from the help).
  4. Coaches with large leads should use discretion on legal double teaming as lead grows (i.e. decrease pressure if/when margin is comfortably wide)
  5. Double-teaming a player not in possession of the ball is not allowed.

General Defense


Quarters 1-3:

  1. No defense in the backcourt is allowed.
  2. No defense is allowed until the ball is dribbled on/over or passed across the mid-court line into the front court (a defender may not reach across the line). Once the ball penetrates the line (think vertical plane here, as in the goal line in football; a defender can intercept a ball passed from the back-court into the front-court), defense is allowed anywhere in the front court for the balance of that possession.
  3. The offense must cross mid-court before a 10-second count. (no intentional stalling should not be tolerated, as this is not in the spirit of the rules).

4th Quarter & Overtime:

  1. The defense may defend the entire court (i.e. full court press is allowed).
  2. A team that is ahead by 10 or more points is not allowed to play defense in the back court.


Quarters 1-3:

  1. No defense is allowed until the ball is dribbled on/over or passed across the 3-point line in the front court (no reaching across the line; think vertical plane here, as in the goal line in football; a defender can intercept a ball passed from outside the line to inside the line).
  2. Once the ball penetrates the line, defense is allowed anywhere in the front court for the balance of that possession except when the offense must inbound the ball in the offensive zone - - in this case, the defense must stay behind the line until the ball penetrates the 3-point line again (even if ball is inbounded from the offensive baseline).

4th Quarter & Overtime:

  1. The offense must cross mid-court before a 10-second count.
  2. No defense is allowed until the ball is dribbled on/over or passed across the mid-court line into the front court (a defender may not reach across the line).
  3. Once the ball penetrates the line (think vertical plane here, as in the goal line in football; a defender can intercept a ball passed from the back-court into the front-court), defense is allowed anywhere in the front court for the balance of that possession.
  4. The defense may defend the entire defensive half-court (no need to wait behind the 3-point line; coaches with large leads should use discretion on decreasing the level of pressure as a lead grows).
  5. If a defensive player crosses the mid-court line, the game should continue unless the defensive team gained an advantage (e.g. steals the ball or forces a turnover). If so, award the offensive team side out in the backcourt.
  6. With less than 30 seconds remaining, the clock should be stopped while the ball is in the back-court. The clock should start once the ball is touched by the offensive team in the offensive half-court (the rule to cross the mid-court line within 10 seconds still applies; if a game’s outcome is not in doubt, the clock can run).

Held Balls/Possession Arrow

A jump ball will be held at the start of the game and at the start of each overtime period.

At each ‘held ball’ and at the beginning of the 2nd, 3rd , and 4th periods, award possession to a team on an alternating basis (e.g. the basic ‘possession arrow’ concept; refs should track by looking at the team benches and alternating placement of a coin or other object in a left or right pocket).

Refs should use discretion, but be quick to blow the whistle on a held ball for safety reasons.

Traveling and Double Dribble

Call these violations consistently, as the players need to learn.

The only reason to use discretion is if the traveling is due to floor conditions or in the case of a novice player (see below ‘Other Rules & Guidelines’)


Teach your teams to set proper picks that are stationary, with arms and elbows in a safe position.

Referees should call fouls on moving picks, or picks where arms/elbows are positioned incorrectly.

  1. A player setting a pick can ‘cross their heart’ for protection (arms crossed like an ‘X’, hands firmly placed on their own shoulders), but again, elbows must not be raised.
  2. A foul for a moving pick should NOT be called UNLESS there is contact made with a defender.

Other Fouls and Free Throws

Basically, it’s a foul if a player gains an advantage (no matter how slight) by initiating physical contact on an opponent - - MAKE THE CALL!! The players need to learn.

Foul shots should be taken from the standard free throw line. Call a violation if the shooter steps over the line on the shot.

On the last free throw by a player per trip to the line, players may move from their respective places upon the ball’s release by the shooter. Call a lane violation on the first player whose foot touches the floor in the lane too early (if the violation is on defense and the shooter makes the shot, don’t call the violation and allow the shot to count).

All technical fouls result in 2 shots for the opposing team plus possession (2 technical fouls against any one person, if behavior-related, is grounds for an immediate ejection).


  1. On the 7th-9th team foul of either half: the opposing team shoots ‘1 & 1’ (the shooter is awarded a second free throw if first is made; each missed shot is a live ball).
  2. On the 10th (and any subsequent) team fouls of either half, the opposing team shoots 2 free throws (the 2nd shot is live if missed).


If tied at end of regulation time, a 5-minute overtime should be played

Use a jump ball to start OT • Each OT will have 2 shifts of 2:30 each (stop the clock at 2:30, and wait for next stoppage in play).

Equal playing time starts fresh with each OT period that has multiple shifts (all players are at zero time). •

Each team gets one timeout per overtime period.

Running time for the first three minutes (except free throws); stopped time on whistles in the last two minutes.

4th quarter defense rules apply (see GENERAL DEFENSE above).

With less than 30 seconds remaining, the clock should be stopped while the ball is in the back-court. The clock should start once the ball is touched by the offensive team in the offensive half-court (the rule to cross the mid-court line within 10 seconds still applies; if a game’s outcome is not in doubt, the clock can run).

Use as many OT periods as needed, BUT be conscious of the schedule. If a game is running excessively long, shave the period to 2 or 3 minutes with no shift change. If multiple one-shift OT periods are played, no player should sit for more than one OT period at a time (unless a team has more than 10 players).


Referees should not tolerate ANY complaining from coaches or players during the game (zero tolerance - - this league emphasizes sportsmanship, and coaches are setting examples for the players).

Referees should stop play, and give the player or coach an IMMEDIATE warning (record it in the book, and alert your league’s Director after the game).

If complaints persist, the ref should call a technical foul (2-shots and the ball), and again for any subsequent violations (it’s their fault, not yours - - MAKE THE CALL!).

Coaches needing clarification with referees can discuss quietly/discreetly during breaks, but coaches should know the rules before doing so.

Other Rules and Guidelines

Remember, this is a developmental/instructional league: while calls relating to infractions above should be made, use discretion (especially early in the season) on a player that is clearly struggling with a rule (i.e. traveling or double-dribble - - blow the whistle, teach, and positively encourage the player(s), etc.). That said, tolerance for violations should be lessened as the season progresses and then eliminated altogether for the year-end playoff tournament. See ‘Spirit of the League’ above for approach.

Be authoritative and audible when making your call as a referee. Make sure both teams and the scorer’s table hear who committed a foul by identifying team and number clearly and audibly.

See ‘Abridged Rules of High School Basketball’ on the pages that follow for rules not described above.

NYBL Rules and Abridged Rules of High School Basketball

Confirm Delete
Click the delete icon again to confirm. Click escape to cancel.