Why Standard Youth Basketballs Are Too Heavy and Result in Bad Shooting Habits

Have you put much thought into the size of the basketballs that you use? How much they weigh? And how they affect your players and their development?

I have. I even have a kitchen scale to determine exactly how much each basketball weighs and how it affects players' shooting. I'm going to share what I found to hopefully save you some time and frustration.

In the picture below, you'll see a full size 29.5 inch men's basketball on the left. This basketball weighs 22 ounces. On the far right you'll see a mini ball that weighs only 10 ounces. This is the basketball my son used as a 3, 4, and 5 year old.

Men's Basketball Women's Ball Youth Ball Size 4 Another Size 4 Mini Ball
22 ounces 20 ounces 17 ounces 14 ounces 11 ounces 10 ounces

According to online research and my digital kitchen scale, you can see the weight of each ball in the chart above. There is a huge difference between the 22 ounce men's ball and the 10 ounce mini ball!!

My son is 5 years old and about 40 lbs. He recently tried out the third ball from the right (14 ounce Mikasa ball). He can shoot that 14 ounce ball at a 7 ft basket from approx 6-7 feet away with decent form.

If he goes any further past 6 or so feet, uses a heavier ball, or a higher basket.... one of two things happen....

1) He shoots short and can't get the ball there.

2) Or his shooting technique goes to hell in order to get the ball to the basket.


Self Discovery is a Better Way to Learn

Now, I haven't taught my son how to shoot. He figured it out on his own. I just have him use a really light and small basketball and a little plastic hoop in the basement.

Through experimenting, self discovery, and observation.... he figured out how to shoot with good technique all by himself. I just make sure he doesn't shoot with too big of a ball, too far back, or with too high of a hoop.

He's actually a pretty good shooter from about 7 feet. Shoots about 65%. Decent form. Nice knee bend. Good rotation. Nice follow through. It is surprising to me but true.

His older sister (7 years old) on the other hand has less interest (doesn't shoot for fun like he does) and hasn't developed good form on her own. It's not terrible form but nothing like her younger brother and not nearly as accurate.

The purpose of this article is not to tell you about my kids. But to get you thinking about the size of basketballs that you use and how your kids are learning.


Are you using basketballs that are too heavy? Are you giving kids an opportunity for self discovery?

I see lots of 5 year old kids shooting at high baskets and with youth/junior balls -- and those are still way too heavy.

I am a full grown man (6ft, 200lbs) and can barely shoot a men's basketball from 23 ft with good form. If you think about it, my release point is about 4 feet higher than my sons (because I am so much taller). And I weigh 150 lbs more than him. So to expect him to be able to shoot a 17 ounce youth basketball at a high hoop with good form seems unrealistic.

So we try to get kids using basketballs and hoops appropriate to their age and size. My son just started using the 14 ounce ball and he actually went back to the 11 ounce ball. When he was 4 he never used anything heavier than 10 ounces. When he was 3 he mostly used nerf balls.

For my daughter who is in 2nd grade, we are using this 14 ounce Mikasa ball on the right.

For the money, it works great. They are only $13 and you can order them here. We ordered 10 for one of our teams.

I like the 14 ounce ball because it's bigger than the mini (good for dribbling) yet still fairly light for shooting.

When I looked in local sporting goods and big box stores, I could not find the 14 ounce or 11 ounce basketballs above. So I ordered them online.

I also ordered this 11 ounce Markwort ball for my son. It's bigger than a mini but almost just as light. The ball works fine -- but one of them we ordered got a little bubble. Not the greatest quality. But for only $12 I didn't mind and it's the perfect size for my son.

The 14 ounce Mikasa seems to be a little better quality. We have been using them with our 2nd grade team and so far so good.



Size Comparison

Here are a few pictures so you can see the size differences...

11 Ounce Next to a Full Size Men's Ball 22 ounces

14 Ounce Next to Full Size



Recommendations

Based on my experience, here are some suggestions on what size ball you should use...

Age (Years) Weight of Ball (Ounces)
0 - 3 6 or less
4 10 or less
5 11-12
6 12-14
7-10 14-17
11-13 17-20

Of course this chart is not perfect because every kid matures at a different rate and it depends on the gender of the player. But these are some general guidelines to consider.

If you're not sure the weight of a ball, use a kitchen scale. That's what I did.

Before going with the norm, consider the weight of the ball your players use and how kids learn. Sometimes just putting them in the right environment and allowing self discovery is a better way to learn. In fact, when ever possible, this is a better way to learn. This won't work in all situations. But when possible, it's something I think you should consider.


Related Pages and Helpful Resources:

Bob Bigelow's Coaching Youth Basketball The Right Way
Coaching Youth Basketball - Drills, Offense, Tips, Etc.
Youth Basketball Shooting: 3 Things Youth Coaches & Players Need to Adjust



What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...



Comments

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Mark says:
2/27/2019 at 1:30:43 PM

My 2nd grade boys team will be using a 27.5 inch ball through summer league, at a 8 foot rim height.


After that, And I disagree with this 100%, we increase to a 28.5" ball, AND raise to 9ft. It will be impossible to continue to progress from teaching basics, to running plays / spacing etc, cause everyone is going to be taking short shots again.

One or the other, seems OK, but both...ugh.

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  1 reply  

Will says:
3/4/2019 at 1:48:52 PM

I like how our recreational league does it in the Chicago suburbs:

K/1st - 8 feet and 27.5 (This is a real struggle for kindergartners for the first month)
2/3 - 9 feet and 27.5
4/5 - 10 feet and 28.5

Girls (6-8) are at 28.5 and 10 feet in middle school
I'm assuming boys are 28.5 in middle school as well, but can't confirm.

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michael says:
2/8/2018 at 5:39:31 PM

my bad 8 feet

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michael says:
2/8/2018 at 5:38:47 PM

i am 10 i like higher hoops because a school people keep talking SUGAR about me but at the gym i am like a god i think this is because of the court length at the school it is about a feet

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KR says:
4/3/2017 at 12:15:56 AM

My son showed an interest in basketball from a very young age. He had various toy balls from infancy to 4-5 years of age. But my present to him on his 4th birthday was 29.5 inch regulation basketball. I took him to the park and let him try to make a basket with it on a 10 ft rim. Needless to say, he had a difficult time making one. But placing that obstacle in front of him did not stop him from continually trying to make one. And he eventually did....over a year later, after a frustrating hour of trying...manage to eek the ball over the front of the rim. He's practiced with a Size 7 ever since, and worked on 10 ft rims as well. He's now 11, and easily one of the best shooters in his age group that I have seen. He has in fact been forced to use smaller (28.5 inch) balls to play in certain leagues and that has only hampered his accuracy. and almost certainly working with a large ball has improved his ball handling.

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Cory says:
3/29/2017 at 8:36:16 PM

We come down to Minnesota many times a year from Canada. It''s a 6 hour drive. My kids team is grade 6. They use a size 7 ball that''s 22 ounces. The rest of the world (FIBA) uses a size 6. It is way easier to teach proper mechanics with a smaller and lighter ball
Why is USA promoting this?
Thanks. Cory

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  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
3/30/2017 at 10:18:10 AM

Cory, I wish I knew.

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Deon says:
2/1/2017 at 8:30:32 AM

Why does my molten GG6X size 6,suddenly became so small after a few weeks of using it?

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Richard says:
5/4/2015 at 2:11:19 PM

I come to these questions differently. The player should be at least almost able to palm the ball. If the player can''''t grip the ball, the player will nestle the ball in her palm. On release, the ball will slide off the palm rather than being directed by the shooting fingers. Once habit , this is often overlooked and very hard to correct.

Similarly, the rim should be low enough that a jumping player can reach at least half way up the net. Then a layup is one and form shooting is not a strength exercise. My then 11 yr old son automatically developed perfect layup form when I broke an 8-10 foot basketball and got it permanently stuck at 7 1/2 feet.


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John says:
2/14/2015 at 6:54:22 PM

Upward Basketball is a fantastic program that teaches kids to play basketball with age appropriate balls and rims. Usually taught at church gyms, it is an awesome program my kids have been in for the last four years. Highly recommend it, you can search for a program near you.

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  1 reply  

Lonnie Howard says:
5/5/2015 at 10:00:29 AM

We have Upward Basketball here in Houston. But, they still seem to follow what schools and AAU does regarding ball sizes and basket heights.

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Ken Sartini says:
11/17/2014 at 7:34:51 AM

I agree with Jeff here.... since he is playing with the big ball in two leagues I wouldn't want to change what he is doing now.

Be careful with the distances he shoots.....make sure that he shoots within in ranne and he should have no or very little problems/

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Jeff Haefner says:
11/17/2014 at 6:54:49 AM

Lonnie -

It's too bad they jump to the full size ball so quickly.

Almost everywhere you go in the US, they jump to a bigger ball too quickly. However some places are worse than others. Around here in Iowa they use the women's 28.5" ball in middle school. And in high school they jump to the men's size.

Ideally he uses the same size ball in practice, games, and at home. Using a different size ball will affect long range shots in games a little bit. But should a 12 year old really be shooting long range shots? Is he a mature 12 year old or still waiting to hit his growth sport? As you know 12 year old Johnny can look like a man next to 12 year old Jimmy. That can make a big difference.

Personally, I would try to make sure that the majority of reps my son is taking is with good form. And close to the basket. If 80% of his shooting reps are at home with a smaller ball, then the 20% of the other reps with a bigger ball in games and AAU won't hurt his his technique much. He might miss a few farther out shots in games. But I'd be ok with that. Other lay ups and close range shots, he won't even know the difference.

Now some young boys are pretty adamant about using the same size ball as games. And others don't know the difference. So you may or may not have a challenge there. And confidence and many other intangibles may take precedence over forcing him to use a smaller ball.

So long story short, yea he might struggle with outside shots a little bit (might drop his percentage a few points) if he uses a smaller ball at home. But it won't drop much. And based on my experience, midrange / finishing shots won't be affected at all. If there is any affect, it's all mental because I have seen numerous kids make the adjustment without any trouble.

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