When your child starts playing a sport like basketball, you are no doubt looking forward to cheering them on from the sidelines during game play. However, gone are the days of parents tracking their child’s playing time down to the minute and fighting for their player to get even time on the court. And for good reason! Ontario Basketball has developed a rule requiring all players in Novice through Major Atom (U10 to U12) to each receive the same amount of playing time. There are several reasons why this is a great rule for young basketball players.

The Ontario Basketball fair play rule

This rule in the Ontario Basketball guidelines requires all games to have eight 4-minute periods. Player substitutions are only allowed between periods, unless there is a medical reason for a substitution or a player fouls out. This rule is designed to allow young players to maximize their skill development during the most formative years for a basketball player: the Learn to Train stage according to the Canadian Sport for Life guidelines and in keeping with Canada Basketball’s Long Term Athlete Development Model.

Top benefits of equal playing time

There are many reasons that all players should have equal playing time, and all team members will grow a stronger game because of it. While some parents may disagree, there is no disputing the many benefits for both players and coaches.

1. Focus on player development

The most important focus of playing basketball for players under 12 years old is their overall skill development, not whether they win or lose a game. Allowing players to spend equal time on the court during the game, whether they are star player material or not, will help them to learn how to move with both with and without the ball, pass, shoot and work together with their teammates.

2. Easy to show all players fairness

With this equal playing time rule all players are treated the same and given the same amount of playing time. This makes it much more likely that players will be treated fairly and there won’t be any who spend more time on the bench than others.

3. No teammate animosity

With equal playing time players won’t waste time worrying about how many more minutes their teammates are getting than they are. This allows players to focus on improving their skills, playing as a team and making friends with their teammates.

4. Less pressure to win at all costs

Without a fair play rule, it is common for teams to play their stronger players strategically in the name of winning the game. This can mean that weaker players may spend more time on the bench, learning that the most important part of the game is winning, not learning or having fun.

5. Allow players adequate recovery time

Since players aren’t allowed to play back-to-back periods they will be able have adequate time to recover between plays. This will translate into a better ability to go hard when on the court and not get tired or winded before their time is up.

6. Makes it easier on the coach

When coaches are required to rotate players evenly, there is less pressure on them to play certain players more than others or to track that every player is getting even playing time. The hard work of balancing time spent on the court is gone and there is much less likelihood that parents will be giving the coach a hard time about their child.

The fair play rule is positive for everyone involved

Allowing players and coaches to focus on overall skill development and fun rather than competition will encourage kids to stick to the sport longer than if competition is pushed too early on. When players start out playing basketball they likely do so because it’s fun, not because they love the competition. The fair play rule instituted by Ontario Basketball will force the first few years of their development to focus on growing their general skills and basketball IQ, without placing undue pressure to succeed and win, before they are ready to play competitive ball.