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Coaching Youth Basketball 101


In a league with 20 minutes halves, teams often substitute every 5 minutes. Below are 3 different substitution patterns to use with a 12-player team with eight periods.

For a recreation league, there usually are some guidelines for playing time. At a young age it is best to give equal playing time to all players whenever possible. Ideally a team will have no more than 10 players, this would allow each player to play at least half the game.

But what do you do if you have 12 players?

With 12 players in a basketball rotation, the rotation system becomes a little more complicated. When coaching youth sports, whenever possible develop a system that is fair and easy for you to remember. With 12 players, 4 players will be on the court for 4 periods and the rest 0f the players will play three periods.

3 options:

  1. Assign numbers 1 – 12 rotation
  2. Assign positions
  3. Free Substitutions

1. Assign numbers 1 – 12 rotation: With this rotation, it is simple. Each player is assigned a number. The 1st 5 numbers play the 1st period and with each period, the next 5 players take the court.

* This system can be used for any number of players on a team.

period 1    1, 2, 3, 4, 5

period 2    6, 7, 8, 9, 10

period 3    11, 12, 1, 2, 3

period 4    4, 5, 6, 7, 8

period 5    9, 10, 11, 12, 1

period 6    2, 3, 4, 5, 6

period 7    7, 8, 9, 10, 11

period 8    12, 1, 2, 3, 4

Pros: Simple, no thinking. Playing time is equal. (If you want you could start the next game exactly where you left off or you could start over.)

Cons: Assigning players numbers should take a little time if done correctly to make sure the teams are balanced and there are not 5 guards or 5 forwards on the court at the same time.

2. Assign positions: Assign positions to the players and always have a point guard on the floor. This is one method that allows a coach to simplify the game by having one player focus on a specific position. For a 3rd or 4th grade recreation league, it is best to limit your team to 3 positions.

Players with little knowledge of the game can focus on one position and not be overwhelmed.

Point guards: Best dribblers and passers

Wings: Good dribblers and shooters. Perimeter players

Forwards: Taller players, less coordinated. Post players.


  1. #14        PG       4 periods

  2. #30        PG      4 periods

  3. #45        W1     4 periods

  4. #55       W2    3 periods

  5. #51        W3    3 periods

  6. #35       W4    3 periods

  7. #40       W5    3 periods

  8. #50        F1    4 periods

  9. #31        F2    3 periods

  10. #44        F3    3 periods

  11. #33        F4     3 periods

  12. #51        F5      3 periods

3. Free Substitution: This can be tricky for coaches. With this method, coaches substitute as the game goes on. If a player is tired, a coach inserts another player.

Pros: Might help with wins by substituting based on the situation.

Cons: Very difficult to keep track of playing time to make sure all the players receive appropriate playing time. Challenging for an inexperienced coach.