How to Start Playing Basketball As an Adult | Helpful Guide

So you have been thinking about it for quite some time, you are in your 20s, 30s, or are 40 years of age? You missed your opportunity to play high school basketball, and every now and then you have this urge to play some pickup basketball but don’t know how to start.

How to start playing basketball as an adult without any experience is quite easy to do. The best thing to do as an inexperienced basketball player is to prepare while the hardest part is to follow through. When you have players who are much more experienced and skillful than you it can be intimidating.

But don’t sweat, I am here to help you with playing in your first pick up game. But first, we need to get you ready, throw what you thought about playing basketball out the window, and lets put you on the right track.

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Where To Start

I am going to assume you have a pair of shoes, hopefully, basketball shoes, shorts, and a shirt.

Now you can jump in a game at your local gym like the YMCA if you dare but it may be overwhelming, and you may not want to play again. I advise if you have little to no experience to have some patience while progressing very slowly. I will show you how.

Go to a court and shoot some baskets, its called shoot around, the pros even do it. Get comfortable shooting, make sure for every shot you take, do a layup. Maybe you have played a little basketball which is great, the only way to get better at basketball is practice and lots of volume which means repetition is key to shooting and perfecting any skill, so your muscle memory takes over.

While practicing on your own pick up the pace and speed, imagine as if you were playing in a real game.

Try to do this a few times a week until your comfortable shooting and you have some confidence doing layups at full speed.

The next place to play is some half-court basketball. Half-court basketball can be 2 on 2, 3 on 3, and 4 on 4 etc. This type of game is going to help you you gain some experience. I would avoid full-court entirely right now as it is a completely different game. If you are not used to doing a lot of running, the fast pace game will leave you in the dust, tired and down. The idea of taking this approach I am suggesting is to build some confidence in you and overcome any fears you may have about playing.

Half-court basketball is a great way to put up shots freely, if the player you are guarding gets by you, you will have help. It is a less stressful game, especially if your playing against mediocre players.

Next when you get some experience and are comfortable enough move to full court pick up basketball games. Be aware there is a heap of things I could say about this type of game but I don’t want to confuse you.

If you do want to know more here are the unwritten rules of pickup games click here. It discusses how to call the next game, foul calls, and keeping track of the score.

Full Court Pickup Basketball – Do’s & Don’ts

I’m not going to stop you from dreaming but by all means, do not think you are going to play your first basketball game and think you will score a lot of points. I’m a realist, who has played this sport for years, guys who are new to the game better stay humble. Basketball players will know after the first game if you can play or not and they will ice you if you do too much nonsense. Don’t be afraid this is why your here, to fit in.

TIP: Ice means not pass you the ball.

My advice is to play very hard, go for every rebound, play defense, pass, pass, pass. and pass some more…

But what about scoring? What about it?…

Only shoot when your wide open from shots you have practice in shootaround. I am actually being nice, my advice to you is to not shoot at all but only shoot layups when you get comfortable you can slowly move from in (layups) to shooting (outside shots) a few feet out. You will find as soon as you shoot with a game going on its 100 times harder than shooting alone.

Run the court on fast breaks as hard as you can, while doing a layup, slow down as much as needed to give yourself the best chance to make the layup. Realize that the faster you go towards the hoop with the ball, the softer you should shoot the layup.

Keep things very simple, while understanding to keep the floor balanced. If you don’t know what that means you need to start learning. Basically in pickup basketball get out of the way when your teammates have the ball and they are dribbling towards you. Do not go towards your teammate with the ball, unless he needs help or you know how to set a screen.

Watch basketball games on youtube or tv and see how the players space out on offense.

Setting Screens

Setting a screen is an excellent way to help your teammates get open and yourself also, learn to do this, and where to go after setting a screen. If you have no idea how to do this don’t. We are trying to build your confidence not kill it.

Remember if you go in with the idea that you going to score a lot of points well I have some bad news for you, unless you’re 7 feet tall good luck! I mean this in the most sincere way.

Basketball is a very difficult sport, I have spent years of my life practicing and there are many players much better than myself who are naturally talented and gifted. I may be better at certain skills than other players, but as basketball players, there is always someone better and you can’t be good at everything, those players are in the NBA.

What Are You Good At?

Hopefully, after playing a few pickup games you feel a little more comfortable with the environment and the game. The question becomes what have you noticed your good at? Defense?, Rebounding? Setting screens? Running fast breaks for easy layups? Whatever that might be double down on it and use that to your advantage, meaning do it often. Players realize who the rebounder, shot blockers are and they pick them up on their team.

There is a player who I play with who is quick and not the greatest offensively. But his man to man defense gives players problems, he is one of my favorite players to play with. He also passes me the ball cause I can shoot. It’s a simple game, so don’t make it complicated.

Adult Basketball Leagues

Basketball leagues vary in rules, game length, and skill level. Do a google search and look in your city or town for Men’s League, that you could play in. With that thought comes registration which costs money, you also may need to buy a jersey if your joining a team. If you can’t get on a team start your own by asking a bunch of your friends to play in a league with the same skill level as yourself and the players on the team. Everyone will need to pay the registration fee that will allow them to play 10 to 20 regular season games and playoffs. It is a great team sport to get together one day a week and a good excuse to get out of the house for a couple of hours.

Not all basketball leagues are the same so do your research ask questions and email the commissioner and they will help you out.

Why Basketball?

Basketball is a low cost, fun game that is great to get into shape. The benefit of playing basketball is you can lose weight while having fun. You will quickly not even realize how hard your body is working when you are trying to help your team win. Physical activity from basketball can burn 200 to 1000 calories an hour depending on how hard you work on the basketball court.  The benefits are endless while even studies suggest that middle-aged adults live longer if they use basketball as physical activity. The fact you can go to any court and start a game fairly easily is one of the reasons I took up basketball and have loved the sport.

Playing basketball will have you meeting a lot of individuals from all walks of life, your basketball team may include the worse players or the best players, but most often then not its a combination of average to really good players. After you play basketball you are going to feel tired so it’s important to stretch your muscles and take care of your body, If it hurts stop immediately.


I still get nervous when I play basketball and I have been playing for years, I like to win and show everyone I can still play in my mid-30s. I enjoy the game and have fun, I don’t lose sight of that.

You are going to be nervous and you are going to make mistakes make sure you understand that your human and you have barely played any basketball. Becoming good at the game unless your a natural athletic talent is going to take time, a lot of time. If you enjoy playing it will be much easier to improve then to hold yourself at a high level of accountability with little to no experience. For years I have been hard on myself to not miss shots, we are our worst critics. The game of basketball itself is an impossible feat to master, when we are hard on ourselves it makes it even more difficult and the game isn’t fun anymore.

Adult Basketball

Keep in mind when you go play basketball at your local gym or at an outdoor court you will notice all the adults playing. When the game starts throw the word adult out the window. People, in general, have multiple personalities when playing sports. Mike is the nicest guy in the world who was there for me when my car broke down, the guy even left his work to come to help me. But on the basketball court, that isn’t the same Mike I know and he isn’t helping me with my car anytime soon.

This is the reality of pickup, it is on the basketball courts you more often than not you get your fair share of arguments and even fights. As a new player stay out of it all even if you think your right. To some, this is life, to you who is just starting it’s just a game.


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