What Are the Biggest Differences Between Girls' and Boys' High School Basketball?

Two Teenage Boys Playing Basketball
Boys' high school basketball is more likely to be played at the rim. (Image: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

The difference between boys' and girls' basketball increases at the high school level because of the widening physical differences between the genders. The structure of the game is similar for boys and girls, but the pace and athleticism varies. Studies have shown than male and female athletes are also motivated differently and respond best to different coaching stimuli.

Physical Differences

Boys' and girls' basketball is similar during the elementary school years because the male and female players are similar in their stature. Boys begin developing greater upper body strength than girls during the middle school years. As they reach puberty, they often enjoy considerable growth spurts. The physical differences between boys' and girls' basketball teams becomes pronounced at the high school level.

Basketball Sizes

Girls use a slightly smaller basketball in high school -- 28.5 to 29 inches in circumference and 18 to 20 oz. in weight. The boys' basketball is 29 to 30 inches in circumference and 20 to 22 oz.

On-Court Differences

Girls have generally closed the physical gap on the court. While dunk shots still are rare in the women's game, they do occur. Many top female players have improved their strength and agility through intensive training and become more comparable to male counterparts. But many of the staples of boys' high school games -- jump shots, high-flying drives to the basket, battles at the rim -- remain less common in the girls game. "I'd say 99.9 percent of the women's game is played below the rim," University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma told Time.com. "Footwork and positioning and all that stuff is so crucial, because you can't just throw the ball up on the rim."

Varying Injury Factors

As girls push their bodies at the high school level, they put themselves at greater risk for injuries. While testosterone helps boys develop more muscle at puberty, estrogen is more likely to add fat to females at puberty. Female ligaments become more lax -- and more vulnerable to injuries. Girls are 3 1/2 times more likely than boys to get hurt playing basketball and they are far more prone to anterior cruciate ligament injuries, according to a "Psychology Today" review of the book, "Warrior Girls: Protecting Our Daughters Against the Injury Epidemic in Women's Sports," by Michael Sokolove.

Varying Motiviations

Studies have found that female athletes tend to be more team-oriented than male athletes. They are more focused on self-improvement rather than winning at all costs. Girls are more likely to value team unity than boys. They are also more likely to blame themselves than others in defeat. Coaches moving from one gender to the other must adjust their style and message as a result.

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