Upward Basketball Rules

Upward Basketball games are played under several unique rules.  Outside of these rules, the National Federation of High School Associations Rule Book governs play.

  • Man-to-man defense is played at all times in our Kindergarten - 3rd Grade Boy's Divisions and Kindergarten - 4th Grade Girl's Divisions. Zone defenses are not allowed in these divisions. EXCEPTIONS: The 4th Grade Boy's Division is allowed to play zone defense beginning Game #5.  The 5th Grade Boy's and Girl's Divisions may play zone at any time.
  • Defensive players will stay mostly in arm’s reach of the player that they are guarding unless providing helpside defense, are in weakside position, or if in a division where Zone Defense is permitted. (Isolation plays are not part of Upward Basketball because they take away the opportunity for improvement for all players and contradict the spirit of the rules.)
  • Double-teaming is not allowed. However, help defense is encouraged in the following instances:
    1. In The Lane Area: If a defender is in the lane, and the player being guarded is within arm’s reach, the defender is allowed to provide help by double-teaming. The intent of this exception is not to encourage a defender to remain near the lane at all times “soft zone” and to double-team the ball each time it enters the lane. The intent is to teach a player "already in the lane" to play help defense.
    2. Off Picks and Screens: Defensive switching is allowed on offensive picks and screens. At the appropriate time, players should return to guarding their assigned player.
    3. During Fast Breaks: When an offensive player has beaten their defender, another defensive player may help. Upon stopping the fast break, defenders should return to guarding their assigned player.
    4. In a situation where helpside defense is played, players may provide help until the original defender returns.  Once that original defender returns then the helpside defender must bump back to weakside position or to their man.
  • At the beginning of each segment, both coaches should line up highest ranked players across from each other without giving verbal cues.
  • Full-court presses are not allowed in the Kindergarten - 4th Grade Boy's and Girl's Divisions. Defensive players cannot guard their opponents in the backcourt. EXCEPTION: In the 5th Grade Boy's and Girl's Division, full-court pressing is allowed beginning with Game Day #5.
  • Due to the shortness of the court, backcourt violations will not be called (with the exception of when playing on a regulation size full-court in the 5th grade division).
  • The offense must purposefully attack the defense in every situation. If, after receiving a warning from the referee, the offense does not cross mid-court, a violation will be called, and the ball will be awarded to the defensive team.
  • Referees will call and explain all violations, and the penalty is a turnover. These explanations vary according to the age group and understanding of the players and should decrease as the season progresses.
  • When possible, referees verbally advise players of potential violations before a violation actually occurs.
  • There are no technical fouls or protest of games.
  • No score is given for a basket in the wrong goal. It will be treated as a turnover. EXCEPTION: 5th Grade Boy's and Girl's Division.
  • A player committing two fouls in one segment must sit out the remainder of that segment. The next player in the rotation comes in as the substitute. This does not change the normal rotation.  The player who has fouled out does not come back in the game until his turn in the rotation comes up again, while the player who comes in as a substitute gains extra playing time. This extra time does not affect the predetermined substitution pattern. EXCEPTION:  If a team only has five players at a game, the foul-out rule is replaced by a two-point penalty.  In a situation where a player would normally foul out, the opposing team will instead be awarded two points, and play will continue.
  • Non-shooting fouls result in the offended team taking the ball out of bounds.  All shooting fouls result in free throws, except in the last two minutes of the game (see below).
  • There are no overtime's in Upward Basketball with the EXCEPTION of the 5th Grade Boy's and Girl's Division.  In this division one (2) minute overtime will be played. If at the end of this time the game is still tied it will remain tied.
  • The game clock runs continuously.  In the final two minutes of the game, the following rules go into effect:
    1. Non-shooting fouls result in the offensive team getting one point and the ball out of bounds.
    2. Shooting fouls result in the offensive team getting two points. The opposing team then takes possession.
    3. Players fouled in the act of shooting who make the basket are credited with the basket plus one point. The opposing team then takes possession.

League Info

Basketball Sizes:

If you would like to get a basketball for your player to practice at home, here are the sizes that we will be using:

Kindergarten Girls & Boys:   25 inch

1st Grade Girls & Boys:  27.5  inch

2nd Grade Girls:   27.5 inch

2nd Grade Boys:  28.5 inch

3rd Grade Girls & Boys:  28.5 inch

4th Grade Girls & Boys:  28.5 inch

5th Grade Girls & Boys:  28.5 inch


Goal Sizes:

If you would like to set your home goal height to the same height as the goals being used in Upward Basketball here are the goal heights by division:

Kindergarten Boys and Girls: 7 feet

1st Grade Boys and Girls: 8 feet

2nd Grade Boys and Girls: 8 feet

3rd Grade Boys and Girls: 9 feet

4th Grade Boys and Girls: 9 feet

5th Grade Boys and Girls: 10 feet

Rules Unique to Upward Basketball

The rules unique to Upward Basketball are designed to recognize that Every Child Is A Winner by promoting:

  • Character
  • Self-Esteem
  • Safety for the players

Upward Basketball defines winning as learning and/or teaching lessons in the game of life.

As a parent, you play a very important role in building the self-esteem and character of your child and every child in this league.  Players will look to their parents, coaches, and referees as models for sportsmanship, respect for authority, and positive attitudes.

By being a positive participant in this league, you can provide a lasting effect in these children that will live well beyond the end of the season.

Thank you so much for all you do this season to help recognize that Every Child is a Winner.

Game Day

At each game, volunteers share what God is doing in their lives through a short devotion. 

Following each game, teams and parents gather together as each player is awarded an iron-on star, which is intended to build the player's self-esteem and team spirit.  Parents and family members are encouraged to be a part of these presentations and to cheer for players as the stars are awarded.


The Blue Star represents Effort

The Gray Star represents  ffense

The Red Star represents  efense

The Gold Star represents Sportsmanship

The White Star represents Christlikeness

How to Apply the Iron-On Stars

Use the following instructions to help avoid damaging the garment and to ensure laundering durability: 

  • Use an iron set at medium high temperature.
  • Set the iron to no steam.
  • Press using both hands for 15-20 seconds.
  • Do not move the iron back and forth as in ironing; just press down firmly. 

Game Format

A unique element of this league is the game format:

  • Referees lead both teams in prayer at center court before every game.
  • The Visiting team receives possession first. In jump ball situations, possessions will alternate.
  • K-4th grade games consist of two 18-minute halves and a 4-6-minute halftime.
  • 5th grade games consist of four 8-minute quarters and a 4-6 minute halftime.
  • The clock stops every 6 minutes for predetermined substitutions for K-4th Grades and every 4 minutes for 5th grade.
  • There will be no timeouts.
  • Teams will switch goals at halftime.
  • Scores are not kept in the Kindergarten Division.  Score is kept in all other Divisions.
  • No league standings are maintained in any league. Such standings add unnecessary pressure and intensity.
  • Coaches are allowed to walk the sidelines and encourage their players without stepping in the playing area.
  • All coaches will adhere to the substitution rules.