What are some unwritten rules in basketball


In sports science, the use of the term "rule" indicates a terminological problem. There is the use of a narrow term of rules, which only refers to the codified sports rules or sports rules, and there is the use of a broad term of rules, which also relates to moral rules and, moreover, all rules of sport that are based on social conventions, includes.

The broad term makes it possible to cover all those rules which underlie the practice of sport and which are essential for an understanding of sport practice. Far more rules come into focus than just those that regulate motor actions in sports. Rather, the term “sport rule” refers to all intended actions in sport. The perspective is thus expanded via the concept of rule-based action. The mutual greeting of two team captains, the congratulations of a defeated person to the winner, the apology after a foul or the manipulation by means of doping represent acts in sport that are only partially subject to or violate rules that are commonly referred to as sports rules. But also “attacking” and “defending” are game actions that are not stipulated by the codified sports rules. These examples can make it clear that in addition to the rules of the sport there are other systems of rules that guide our actions. It is possible to recognize this if one understands rules to be “patterns of action” that represent a guideline for our actions in sport.

If the various descriptions of sports rules are to be presented systematically, they can be differentiated according to rule types. Various typologies can be found in the sports science discussion on this topic (cf. i.a. Digel 1977; Jost 1977; Scherler 1977). Taking these typologies into account, a rule analysis should distinguish five large groups of rules:

  • Moral rules of sport are mostly unwritten laws. As ethical and moral principles, they describe behavior that guarantees fair sporting practice. They have a quasi universal character. With global intercultural recognition of such rules, it would be possible to interpret sport as a social learning field that can be assessed positively.
  • Similar to the “moral rules”, rules for the sport idea are unwritten principles with the help of which the “meaning” of sport is created. Scoring as many goals as possible, striving to be better than your opponent, are, among other things, maxims of action that are suggested to sports enthusiasts via the rules for the sport idea.
  • Constitutive rules of sports are rules that enable certain actions in sport that make up or constitute a sport. They can be understood as "implementing provisions" for the rules of the sport idea. For example, if a player violates a constitutive rule of the sport of basketball, he no longer practices basketball, but at most a sport similar to basketball. So, in a sense, you can't break such rules, and you can't follow them either. You cannot do anything that is forbidden or required. If you do something else, you don't have to expect any sanctions. However, at the moment when you are ready to practice a certain sport and violate the handball rule 7: 8, then there is a rule violation. In this situation a constitutive rule becomes a regulative rule.
  • Regulatory rules of sports are rules that regulate actions within a framework of a sport established by constitutive rules, although not all constitutive rules must or can be regulative rules at the same time. Regulatory rules are used by arbitrators as reference points for their decisions and correspond in their form to the description of the constitutive rules. However, in contrast to the constitutive rules, such rules relate to actions that can occur even if the rule did not exist.
  • Anyone who wants to play successfully or want to do sports follows the strategic rules of sports. In the indispensable framework established by the constitutive rules, there are numerous alternative courses of action that affect the way in which the goal of the sport can be achieved. Anyone who violates strategic rules risks failure or even defeat, if the strategic rules are a reasonable rule. In contrast to the constitutive rules, the strategic rules are rarely codified in a rule book.

Sports rules can operate in two ways; they “define” and “regulate”. They have a prescriptive, constitutional, social and practical character (cf. Winch 1966 and Waldenfels 1984).

The strategic rules are the rules that you refer to when you want to teach someone how to do something best, while the constitutive rules are important when you want to teach someone how to do something and when you want to show off what kind of action one understands what someone has done.

A person who takes part in a sports competition submits not only to the rules of the respective sport, but also to non-sport-specific rules that define the idea of ​​the sporting competition in the sense of a “norm”. They determine whether someone does “right” in the sense of “standard” sport. This standard can be further specified, with a distinction being made primarily between the maxims of morality, legality and expediency. Each of these maxims is based on a different valuation principle (cf. Weber 1982).

The distinction between constitutive, regulative, strategic, moral rules and rules for the sport idea is based on the insight that rules can, but do not have to be, laid down in writing. It is therefore important to point out that rules do not necessarily have to be formulated in language. How to distinguish between a rule and its formulation or description. One can unconsciously follow a rule without being able to explain it (cf. Keller 1974). For rule analysis, this means that not only those rules are taken into account that are desired to guide action in sport in the sense of informal rules. In sport, they are primarily used to determine ethics, the sporting idea and tactical action in the individual sports.

The rules in sport do not, as is often asserted in sport-pedagogical discussions, merely have a commanding or restrictive function for action in sport; neither are they subject to mere arbitrariness. In principle, they have a character that is based on mutual claims. This means that everyone who does sports must follow the constitutive rules and be able to rely on others to behave accordingly. In this respect, rule-compliant behavior in sport with regard to the constitutive rules is a necessary condition for doing sport with partners. Those who take part in sport have to make a promise that they will adhere to the membership rules of the sport system. This in turn means that in the sense of an upstream rule for our actions in sport it can be formulated: Every athlete must assume that his partner tries just as sincerely to adhere to the constitutive rules of sport as he does. This makes it clear that the constitutive Rules of sport can be described as a prerequisite for concrete action in a sport. Rules determine which actions are considered identical in sport, what is a successful, well-executed, better sporting act compared to another.

In sports science, the discussion about the meaning of the sports rules is primarily led by philosophically oriented authors (e.g. von De Wachter 1983; Gebauer 1983; Fraleigh 1984; Lenk 1985, Drexel 2002). Ethical problems in sport are also interpreted in terms of rules theory. In addition, sports education deals with questions of rule theory (cf. Digel 1977; Jost 1977; Scherler 1977; Landau 1979; Volkamer 1984; Digel 1982, 1984). At the center of this discussion is the question of the significance of rule changes from the point of view of teaching and learning theory. The fact that rules can be changed in principle allows the sport and thus its regulations to be geared towards the needs of those who do sport. Sports content and its rules can be changed in specific teaching-learning-game situations depending on age, gender and abilities in the interests of the participants. By modifying the canon of rules for a sport or individual sporting abilities, it is possible to

  • adapting sports activities to external conditions (limited range of sports halls, lack of equipment, class size);
  • to respond specifically to individual learning situations (systematic simplification, making it more difficult, more exciting, more interesting, less dangerous);
  • To create equal opportunities despite unequal conditions (advanced and beginners, physically stronger and weaker, boys and girls, pupils and teachers).

This fundamental openness of sport and its rules makes it possible to redesign and vary sporting practice on a daily basis, to enable creative and active sporting experience and experience in a world of movement that is appropriate for the participants.

In sport-scientific studies dedicated to the problem of social learning in sport, the rules of sport play a central role, not least for the reasons just mentioned (see e.g. Singer / Ungerer-Röhrich 1984).

The term rule is also made explicit in some studies of sports sociology (see e.g. Heinemann 1983, 52 - 55). Similar to the philosophical discussions, especially in game theory conceptions, reference is made to linguistic-philosophical analyzes of the concept of rules, so i.a.to the investigations of Wittgenstein (1982), Winch (1966) and Searle (1971), whereby Wittgenstein's language game - described in his "Philosophical Investigations" - can be called a classic point of reference for such descriptions. Often, in game theory studies of this kind, the "rule game" is treated as a special type of game, without, however, clarifying the role rules play in the other game types (cf. e.g. Sutton-Smith 1978; Grupe 1983; Krappmann 1983).

In terms of sport history, the question of the development of sport rules also arises. The process of changing the rules in individual sports is attempted in connection with general social changes (cf. Dunning 1979; Digel 1982; Bernett 1984).

Finally, rule questions are raised in connection with socio-psychological studies on the problem of violence in sport. In individual rules of sports, a trigger mechanism that promotes violence is suspected, and attempts are made to change the rules to reduce aggression, e.g. in handball games. In connection with pedagogical considerations, such rule interpretations also appear in considerations devoted to questions of moral education through sport (Landau 1979; Köhler 1985).

The sport rule is not only discussed in sport science. In addition, it is a popular demonstration object when in general philosophical, sociological and linguistic discussions the concept of rule is to be explained as a fundamental concept for the theoretical interpretation of human action, for example in Searle (1971), Waismann (1976). For the sport-scientific discussion of the rule topic, such interpretations are important insofar as they are to be regarded as comprehensive attempts at interpretation for rule-based sporting activities. In addition, this discussion helps to clarify the definition. The distinctions between rule, rule description and rule compliance as well as between rules and natural laws are particularly important. Another important question is whether rules are only appropriated through contact with the environment and thus acquired parts of memory or become effective in action as the result of experience, or whether they also belong to the genetic makeup of every human being, as Chomsky assumes for language rule systems (cf. Chomsky 1981 ).


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Topic assignment: sport development Keywords: sport rules, competition, science by Helmut Digel. Permanent link to the entry.