How to play Three Lines Basketball

Now that we're back to school, we're also back to recess. If you have a whole new crop of basketball players on your playgrounds and just one or two hoops, recess can be tough. Introducing fun rotational games can help, like the Game of the Week: Three Lines Basketball!

Group Size:  6+

Age Group:  Grade 2+
Length of Activity:   Less than 10 minutes
Developmental Goal:  To develop teamwork and communication.
Equipment:  One basketball, three cones and a basketball hoop

Before You Start: ​

  • Have one basketball, three cones, one basketball hoop and marked boundaries.
  • Explain the rules of the game and the basic rules of basketball — including proper dribbing, passing, shooting and defense.
  • Ask the players to explain the rules of play back to you.

Set Up: 

Place three cones at the top of half a basketball court.

How to Play: 

  • Have everyone stand in three single-file lines, one behind each cone. 
  • The first player in each line steps forward past the cone and turns and faces the next player in line. 
  • The three people that have stepped out are a team of three and will play defense.
  • They will play in a half-court game against the next players in line behind each cone, who form another team of three.
  • Other players in line wait their turn to play while cheering. 
  • The defenders get ready as the first offensive player, behind the middle cone, starts with the ball. 
  • This player passes the ball to one of her/his teammates to start the game.
  • The object of the game is to be the first team to score.
  • The following rules apply:
    • If a player shoots and misses, either team can rebound the ball and shoot again immediately.
    • When a point is scored the team that made the basket stays on the court to play the next three people in line.
      • The team that scored starts on defense. 
      • The team that did not score returns to the end of their respective line.
    • If a foul is called, the player who has been fouled gets to throw the ball in from out of bounds.
  • If a game is taking too long, have players waiting in line count down from ten, nine, eight, etc. 
    • The last player holding the ball takes a free throw shot. If the player makes the shot, her/his team stays on the court. 
    • If the player misses, her/his team returns to the end of the line and the other team stays on the court.
  • If a team wins three times in a row they have earned three claps and return to the end of the line.


  • Players cannot dribble, in order to move the ball they must pass.
  • When players on defensive rebound the ball, they must pass it one time before they can shoot the ball.

Love implementing Game of the Week? Playworks offers professional development programs that will teach your staff to use recess and playtime to improve health and support learning. Curious to learn more? Submit the Training Assessment form and a local Playworks representative will respond directly.


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