Q & A Forum
Experienced coaches are ready to answer your basketball questions! Visit our forum
Why Standard Youth Basketballs Are Too Heavy and Result in Bad Shooting Habits
- By Jeff Haefner
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 full size men's or women's basketballs. That is crazy. I also see a lot of them using the 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.
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
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|
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...