Travel around many affluent and urban park communities alike and you will find something that is common everywhere.  What is that you ask?   Pick-up basketball!  

Pick-up basketball is a casual game of basketball that is played without formalities such as referees or coaches. Ground rules are dictated and managed by those that are playing. For example, during the game, an individual can call “Foul” for themselves or a teammate, and it can be debated among all the individuals playing if it is really a foul.

Speaking of teams, teams are formed on the spot, with players rotating in and out as needed and usually calling “next” to indicate the order in which the individuals will play. Once you are on a team and win, you will continue to play until you lose. Then the team that has “next” goes and will play until a loss and so on. The game is played on a half-court or full-court, and as mentioned before, the rules can vary depending on the group of players. Some teams even take it a step further and will play “shirts” and “skins” where one of the teams will not wear a shirt so all members of the team can be easily identified.

There is a ton of appeal to pick-up basketball because it is a fun and accessible way to get exercise with minimal equipment needs. It can be played at any age from youth to adult. It is a great way for groups of friends to get together and compete against people in town or against people of other towns. Given the nature of pick-up ball, it is a sure fire way to improve your basketball skills.

While organized sports are certainly popular and encouraged, there is something to be said for the experience of pick-up basketball and it can be complementary to formal AAU basketball or other organized sports programs. If you are interested in playing pick-up basketball, there are a few things to do that can help you get started.

For one, find a local court where people play pick-up basketball. This can be as easy as walking to or driving to parks and playgrounds in your hometown that also have basketball courts and see if there are pick-up games going on. Once you identify these courts, you should be able to learn when people are typically playing and may have regular times or days when they typically play. Additionally, you can ask your friends or family for recommendations. Most recently there are apps developed that allow you to search for pick-up basketball games in your area where you can actually reserve a spot ! This takes the guesswork out of all of it and couldn’t make things any easier!

One thing to be mindful of is that there will be all various skill levels and ages of those playing pickup basketball. Not everyone will have the same level of fitness or basketball IQ which may lead to tension during these games. If you go in with the right mindset and expectations, then it really should just be a fun, welcoming environment.

The next time the weather is nice, tour your neighborhood parks with or without a friend and consider joining a local game of pick-up basketball. Your improved basketball skills will thank you!

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