How do I Play?


You’re interested in basketball – fantastic! Well here is the place to come when you’re starting out and want to know a bit about the game itself; basic rules, what you need to get started and where the best places to go are.

Basic Rules

Below are some basic rules for you to get your head around.

It’s important you don’t get bogged down in the detail of rules if you’re new to basketball...yes of course there are rules to every sport but if you want to get involved there are loads of ways to do that where you will pick the rules up as you go. Go to our what to do to get involved page to check out how you can start playing once you’ve checked out the below.

The game is traditionally a team sport and the aim is to score more points than the opposing team by getting a ball in the opposing hoop. This can be done by throwing the ball from any part of the court, with either one, or both of your hands.

The great thing about basketball is, although it’s a team sport when competing, you can practice on your own, with one friend or a whole bunch of people. All you need is a ball and a hoop and you’re ready. Search for court facilities using the search function on this page.

A full size hoop is 10ft tall, and for children under 12 years old, there is an adjusted height of 8'6" ft tall, or 2.6m.

Shots from open play count as two points, unless they are released from outside the 'three point arc' (the semi circle!) which means they are worth three.

You can have up to 12 players on a team, but only five are allowed on court at any time in a traditional game.

There is also a 3on3 version of the game if you want to grab a bunch of your friends and head down to your local court to play. The principle is the same – just with less people! This is getting really popular as a form of basketball because it’s easy and simple.

There are usually four quarters of 10 minutes that make up a whole game.

If your team has the ball, you must try a shot at the hoop in 24 seconds. If you don’t, then the ball must be given to the other side and the clock starts again for them to get down the other end of the court and shoot themselves.

All players can go everywhere on court, so the positions can become quite flexible. Below is a grid with an outline of positions. It’s unlikely you’ll get one of each in one each team though, so don’t worry if you can’t fill a spot – you can all do everything!

Point Guard The PG will be the main ball-handler on the team and will mainly be responsible for deciding and orchestrating the offensive movements on any given play. They will not necessarily score lots of points.
Shooting Guard The SG is mainly on court to score points. They are likely to shoot the ball a lot (hence the name). They will also help with ball-handling duties.
Small Forward The SF is likely to be able to fulfil most roles on court, whether that be scoring, creating for others, rebounding or defending.
Power Forward The PF will generally play close to the basket on offense and defence. They will use their size and strength to create opportunities for themselves and their team-mates and prevent the opposition from doing the same.
Centre The C will play almost exclusively close to the basket. They will the main protector of the rim at the defensive end.