Originally published on 31 Aug 2013 on Sportskeeda
Unless you plan on playing “basketpolo” on a court like the one pictured above, you may want to consider some points before constructing a basketball court. In an effort to promote the sport by facilitating the construction of courts, FIBA has released 10 guidelines for the construction of outdoor basketball courts in its FIBA Assist Magazine, March 2003.
A basketball court is a long-term investment; one can’t just fashion one out of thin air. If you have two different contractors building two courts, the one with more experience will do a better job because they would have the knowledge about what is important during construction. But if the inexperienced one has access to FIBA’s guidelines, the scales can be balanced.
Here are FIBA's 10 guidelines to building basketball courts-
1. The site should take into account the need for the proper orientation of the court and any future extensions.
The area should be flexible enough to allow for expansion as and when the need arises. During construction you may think that all the space you need is in the inside of the court. As the courts’ use increases, you may need bleachers for the audience.
You may need to put in scorers tables, team benches and erect fences to manage the crowd. While building a court, imagine all possible additions you can foresee around the court and account for them in your plans.
2. The geomorphologic characteristics of the ground should be considered, it should be geologically stable and flat to limit earth movements and support work as much as possible.
Although it doesn’t take a layman to know that an air-ball over these fences will require a mountaineering expedition to retrieve the ball. Geomorphology is the scientific study of landforms and the processes which shape them.
It would be worth your time to get an expert to assess the ground on which you plan to build a court. You will be doing a lot of digging, for the floor of the court and for erecting the poles. And even if the ground seems smooth enough to not cause problems, there may be a case of a perfect construction, which sinks into the earth in certain spots.
You may have seen courts with crater sized depressions in them. That is the result of not knowing the surface you are choosing for your temple.
3. The site should not produce humidity and excess moisture or be prone to flooding. Or it should have a system of surface water that only simple interception drainage is necessary. FIBA allows a maximum slope of 1% from the centre of the court to allow easy run-off of water in event of rain.
Unless you’re playing a hybrid of basketball/swimming, you don’t want the surroundings of the court to look like the one pictured below:
It does say a lot about the drainage system of the court, though. Flood all around but the court is barely dry enough. It is a common sight to see basketball courts equipped with mops. Before playing, the players grab a mop and dry the court out after rains.
That may seem like a workable solution, but if the court is not equipped to have the water drain off automatically, then the water can seep into the ground when there aren’t players to mop the ground. That will degrade the surface, so ensuring an adequate drainage system is essential.
4. The sun should ideally be in a lateral position with respect to the main axis of the court. North/South orientation of the main axis is recommended. With allowances for 10-15 degrees deviation depending on the geographical coordinates of the country.
Few sights are more irritating than that of the bright sun right behind the backboard, daring you to shoot as a blind man. Wearing shades on the basketball court is not an option.
A more ideal solution is to construct the court with an orientation, which makes the sunlight more forgiving.
5. The site should be protected from particular climatic conditions such as winds, by building windbreaks of hedges or trees, but only with suitable plants, which allow comfortable shelter. It should be surrounded by hills or smaller buildings that could serve as windbreakers.
Strong winds can be quite a deterrent in basketball. A three pointer which would have swished the net can turn into an air-ball.
Heavy dust flowing in the wind can get into the eyes of the player or also make the floor slippery. A windbreak should be at least thirteen feet high to account for the flight of the basketball while shooting.
6. The location must allow easy use of light, water and sewerage.
The basketball courts at Sports Authority of India, Kolkata are not quite well illuminated; there aren’t dedicated floodlights on the court. But there is a path running by the courts with streetlights. And there are buildings nearby with bright lights. Although that court lacks floodlights, thanks to the well planned location, its surroundings serve it with light.
Speaking of water, dehydration can be a major deterrent. Having a cooler nearby can go a long way towards making for a comfortable experience on court. And having a washroom and a toilet can make the difference between having to change clothes in the open versus preserving your modesty and smelling like a sty add opposed to being daisy fresh.
7. The flexibility and multiple availability of the court must be looked at, to allow possible multiple uses and subsequent conversion should the need arise.
You can add about two or four baskets kept at a comfortable distance along the sidelines, to allow for more players to practice. Check out the courts at PYC Gymkhana, Pune, where Brandon Jennings had once dropped in (bottom right picture). That court lets you utilise multiple rims.
8. The courts should measure 28×15 metres with a perimeter band of two metres.
The very least we can do is make sure that there is adequate spacing around the court.
9. The distance of the pole from the end court line must be at least one metre.
As anyone attempting a layup at speed will attest, you need the pole to be at a far enough distance to avoid collisions.
Picture Wiley Coyote bumping smack into a pole, that is what happens when the pole is too close. That’s why some basketball competitions have foam cushioning on the poles to protect the players.
10. The benches must be on the same side as the scorers’ table. The latter should not be closer than one metre from the sidelines.
One reason why it helps to have the bench adjacent to the scorers’ table is because it lets the players be close to where the scores are being kept. Also if you are going to place obstacles around the court, you may as well keep them on one side.
Having benches on opposite sides lets them face each other, which can lead to taunting. Ideally they should not be in each other’s visual field.
So there you have it. Taking stock of FIBA's 10 guidelines for building basketball courts will help you get a court that is optimized for play and ready for competitions. Take care to keep the above 10 points in mind if you want to go about constructing outdoor basketball courts in your neighborhood.