Time-out (sport)

In sports, a time-out refers to a stoppage in the match for a short amount of time. This allows for the coaches of either team to communicate with the team, e.g. to determine strategy or inspire morale. Time-outs are usually called by coaches or players, although for some sports, TV timeouts are called to allow media to air commercial breaks. Teams usually call timeouts at strategically important points in the match, or to avoid the team being called for a delay of game-type violation.

List of time-out rules by sport

American and Canadian football

In American football and Canadian football, the use and rationing of timeouts is a major part of strategy; calling time-out stops the clock (which normally is running between plays except in the case of a penalty, an incomplete pass or when the ball is run out of bounds), extending the time a team has to score. Timeouts can be called by both players (typically the quarterback) and the head coach. The number of timeouts is limited to three per team per half in the National Football League and one per half in the Canadian Football League. If an excessive timeout is called,then it is just ignored or waved on there is no penalty for that. A new trend in the NFL is to call a timeout right before a would-be game winning or game tying field goal. This strategy is to "ice the kicker." The kicker prepares himself mentally to make the kick but then has the time out break his concentration. It has worked on occasion but has also backfired. For example, in an NFL game played on November 19 2007, between the Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans, Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan called a timeout to ice the kicker. It was difficult to hear the whistle and the play continued, with Titans kicker Rob Bironas badly shanking a 56-yard field goal. The play was restarted, this time without a timeout, and the kick was good.


Baseball players and managers of the offensive and defensive team, as well as umpires, can request time out for a number of purposes, such as for a batter to step out of the batter's box to better prepare for a pitch, to replace a worn ball, for a manager to speak with a player or umpire or to replace one player with another (for which a time-out is required by the rules), etc. The requested time out is not effective unless an umpire grants it verbally or by hand signal (both hands raised). Since there is no clock in baseball, the main effect of a time out is to temporarily prevent the defensive team from tagging base runners out or delivering a pitch, as well as to prevent base runners from advancing. Under certain (uncommon) circumstances specified by the rules, umpires are required to call time out, even while a play is in progress, such as certain cases of interference. Unlike many other sports, the rules of baseball do not limit time outs, either by number or duration. The end of the time out is indicated by an umpire verbally declaring "Play!" and/or by pointing at the pitcher while he is holding the ball (these umpire signals are identical to those used to start a game or to resume play after the ball has become "dead", for example due to a half-inning ending). Since baseball provides natural breaks in the action when teams exchange offensive and defensive roles between half-innings, TV timeouts are not necessary.


In basketball, timeouts can be called by both players and the coach. In American college basketball, each team is allowed four time-outs per twenty-minute half. In the National Basketball Association, teams are allowed one 20-second timeout per half, and six regular timeouts over the course of the entire game. Additionally, in the NBA, the team is allowed a maximum of three timeouts in the 4th quarter and two timeouts in the final two minutes of play, regardless of how many timeouts have been used prior. Under both college and NBA rules, if a team calls a timeout when it has none left, the team will be assessed a technical foul and lose possession of the ball. The most famous incident of this rule happened during the 1993 NCAA championship game when Chris Webber, playing for the University of Michigan Wolverines, called a time-out with 11 seconds left in the game. The technical foul thus received secured the game victory for the opponents, the University of North Carolina. A similar episode happened in a 2008 game between the Phoenix Suns and the Seattle SuperSonics, when Sonics forward Wally Szczerbiak, with his team trailing by one in the final 15 seconds, called a timeout that the Sonics didn't have, after not being able to inbound the ball in 5 seconds. The mistake cost the Sonics possession and the game, being defeated 103-99.

Beach Volleyball

In beach volleyball, the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) stipulates one 30-second time-out allowed per team, per set. In FIVB World Competitions, there is an additional 30-second technical time-out in sets 1-2 when the sum of both scores is equal to 21.

Ice hockey

In ice hockey, each team is allowed one thirty-second time-out per game, which may only be taken during a normal stoppage of play. In the National Hockey League, only one team is permitted a time out during stoppage. However in the International Ice Hockey Federation rules, both teams are permitted a time out during the same stoppage, but the second team must notify the referee before the opponent's time-out expires.

Team handball

In team handball, one sixty-second time-out per half per team is allowed. Time-outs are called by the head coach by handing a green time-out card to the match official, and can only be called when the team is in possession of the ball.


In volleyball, the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) stipulates two 30-second time-outs allowed per team, per set. In FIVB World and Official Competitions, there are two additional 60-second technical time-outs in each set when the leading team reaches the 8th and 16th points, however there is no technical time-out in a tie-breaking set (5th set).


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