How to Keep Score in Basketball

Have you ever been asked to keep score at a youth basketball game? Did you decline because you do not know how?

Here’s how to keep score in basketball. It is not that difficult – please refer to the statistics captured for a game against the home team Bombers and the visiting Rockets. The game is currently in the third quarter. The Bombers are losing 23-28.

  1. Prepare the sheet prior to the start of the game – Write down the names and uniform numbers of the players. Hint: List in order of the uniform number lowest to highest. The action on the court moves quickly so you will need to locate players on the sheet quickly too. This is especially important for the list of the opponents because you will probably not know them by name or face.
  2. The four most important things to capture on the sheet are the score, the team fouls, the player fouls and team timeouts.
    • The overall running score – on the right hand side you will see that the score of this game is Rockets 28 – Bombers 23. Every time a basket is scored mark off the boxes on the running score. Make sure to check the scoreboard often to see that they match. If they are different, find your mistake and correct it or notify the scoreboard operator that they missed some points. This happens more times that you would think so a good scorekeeper can save a game. Ironically it is not critical to keep track of the points by each player, however it is recommended that after each basket you mark the points 1, 2 or 3 next to the player’s name in the column of the quarter that the basket was scored. You will notice that Rockets player #39 has 7 points through the first three quarters of play. He made two free throws worth one point each in the second quarter. In the third quarter, he scored a two point shot and a three point shot. When a player makes a shot beyond the three point arc, the referee will put both hands up in the air. At the end of each quarter add the total points for the quarter. Make sure that the totals of the columns equal the total captured on the running score.
    • If you look at other scorebooks, you may notice that some scorekeepers use a circle and lines to capture free throws. A circle with no lines means free throw attempt, add a slash when one free throw is made and add another slash to make an X to indicate two free throws made. I use the simpler method of marking 1 point for each free throw, but feel free to use these symbols.
    • The fouls by the team in each half –A team is allowed six team fouls in each half. A bonus is awarded to the team fouled if the fouling team has over six fouls in a half. (You may hear the following – “that team is in the bonus”) The bonus is a 1 and 1 free throw shot. (1 and 1 – a player gets a second free throw shot if and only if they make the first free throw). A double bonus is awarded if the fouling team has 10 or more fouls in a half. The double bonus is an automatic two free throws. Keeping track of fouls is very important because many games are won and lost at the line. The fouls are often captured on the scoreboard too. Make sure that the numbers of fouls on the scoreboard are consistent with the numbers in the book. If the numbers do not match consult with the other scorekeeper. (Typically – both teams keep a book)The fouls by each player – each player is allowed five total fouls in a game. After the fifth foul, that player will be ejected from the game. After each foul the ref will look over to the scoring table and announce the number of the player who committed the foul. If the foul was made in the first half, put a slash through the corresponding number. If the foul happens in the second half, put an X across the number. You will see that the Bomber’s player #1 Phillips had two fouls in the first half and one foul in the second. Making a distinction between the first half and second half fouls by player is not required but it helps you keep track of team fouls by half. After you mark the box for the foul on the player line, mark the box on the team fouls line. When a player gets five fouls notify the referee. Time outs by each team – The number of timeouts allowed by each team can vary depending on the league or tournament so it is a good idea to ask the ref prior to the game. Typically, a team is allowed three full (one minute) timeouts and two 30 second timeouts. After a team calls a timeout, the ref will ask the coach if he or she wants a full or a thirty. If the coach wants a full timeout, the ref will put both arms straight out to each side like a T. If the coach wants a 30 second timeout the ref will put both arms straight out to the sides like a T then touch his or her shoulders.
    • Basketball is a very strategic game and timeouts are key to the execution of the strategy. The timeout can be used to set up a play, to stop the clock or stop the momentum of a hot team on a scoring streak. The strategic importance of the timeout makes this stat line important. The refs will look to the scoring table to get this key information.
  3. Important things to note about timeouts – if your team takes too many they will be assessed a technical foul – the penalty is free throw shots for the opponent and loss of the ball.

One Response to How to Keep Score in Basketball

  1. Mark C says:

    The running score is not correct. The runner score is kept by marking off in the increments of the baskets scores. For example
    if a free throw is the first point scored the score keeper marks off 1, if the next score is a 3 pointer the score keeper skips down to 4, not marking of 2 or 3.. if the next score is a 2 pointer the score keeper marks off 6 not 5 and 6. This allows the score keeper to go back over the score pattern if the clock keeper and score disagree on the game score.

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