For other uses, see Time out.

In sports, a time-out is a halt in the play. This allows 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 sportEdit

Gridiron footballEdit

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In gridiron football, the use and rationing of time-outs 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, officials requiring time to re-spot the ball and/or down markers, 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 in college football, to two per half in amateur Canadian football, and to one per half in the Canadian Football League. Unused timeouts do not carry over to the next half. If overtime is required in the NFL, each team gets two timeouts during a fifteen-minute sudden-death period, while in college football each team gets one timeout per possession. If a timeout above these limits is called, it is ignored and no penalty is assessed.

Teams use several methods to stop the clock without exhausting a timeout. These include:

  • Running out of bounds with the ball. In the NFL, this only stops the clock in the final two minutes of the first half and final five minutes of the second half; the rest of the time, the clock stops only temporarily, restarting when the ball is set for the next play. In arena football, the clock stops only for out-of-bounds plays in the final minute of the half.
  • Throwing the ball out of bounds. This constitutes an incomplete pass, but sometimes, the team may choose to sacrifice a down to stop the clock.
  • Spiking the ball. This, likewise, is akin to an incomplete pass, and it results in the loss of a down.
  • Waiting for the two-minute warning (three-minute warning in Canadian football, one-minute warning in Arena football) if it is coming up soon. College football does not have a two-minute warning.
  • Committing an offense for which a minor penalty may be called.
  • Feigning the injury of a player. If this occurs more than once in a game, a timeout may be charged, and/or a penalty may be assessed. In at least some leagues, if time is called because of an injury, the injured player must sit out at least the next play, as a way of discouraging feigning of injury.

In the NFL and CFL, a timeout is assessed against a team if a head coach unsuccessfully challenges a play.

A common practice in the NFL is to call a timeout right before a potential game-winning or game-tying field goal, a strategy known as "icing the kicker." In theory, this strategy works because the kicker has prepared himself mentally to make the kick only to have the timeout break his concentration. While this strategy has seemingly worked on occasion, statistics suggest that not only is this an ineffective strategy, but is actually counterproductive because kickers are more likely to make a field goal after a timeout is called.[1] There have also been times when the tactic has directly 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. Since a team is not allowed to call multiple timeouts between plays, they are prohibited from trying to ice a kicker more than once on the same kick; attempting to do so results in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, giving the kicking team 15 yards and an automatic first down.


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. However, the catcher may also request timeout once the pitcher has stepped on the rubber; usually with the intention of either "resetting" the play, or to deliver some information to the pitcher via either signals or a visit to the mound. 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 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 (two minutes, five seconds normally; two minutes and twenty-five seconds for nationally televised games[2]), TV timeouts are not necessary.

Other than coaching visits, which the umpires ensure stay brief, timeouts theoretically have no time limits. However, when no runners occupy a base, a pitcher must deliver the pitch within twelve seconds of receiving the ball from the catcher or else a "delay of game" is called, resulting in a ball.[3] Also, any relief pitcher is limited to eight warm-up throws before play resumes, except in special circumstances (such as a pitcher substitution due to injury).

Though not officially recognized as a "timeout," a stoppage in play can also be requested by the defense. This can be accomplished in several ways. First, once in his "set" position, the pitcher may stop play by stepping off the rubber prior to his windup. Secondly, the catcher may visit the pitcher at any point before he steps on the rubber. Finally, the manager or pitching coach may also visit the pitcher before he steps on the rubber (called a "coaching visit"). Under MLB rules, a team is limited to one visit per inning and a maximum of three per game. Under NFHS (high school) rules, a team receives three mound visits for the game and can use more than one an inning. If a team exceeds the limit in either MLB or high school ball, the pitcher must be removed immediately.


In International basketball, timeouts can only be called by the coach. In most USA based leagues, they can be called by both players and coaches.

In American college basketball, there are two systems of timeouts used. In games that are not broadcast, each team is allowed four 75-second and two 30-second timeouts per regulation game. In games which are broadcast on television, radio, or over the Internet, each team is granted one 60-second timeout and four 30-second timeouts per game in addition to the media timeouts each half.[4]

In the North American National Basketball Association, the rule on timeouts is more complex. Teams are allowed one 20-second timeout per half, and six regular timeouts, of one minute in length over the course of the entire game. During a 20-second timeout, only one player may be substituted. During a regular timeout, there is no limit on substitutions.

In the first and third quarter, there must be two 100-second timeouts. If neither team has taken a timeout prior to 6:00 of the first or third period, the Official Scorer must take it at the first dead ball and charge it to the home team. If no subsequent timeouts are taken prior to 3:00, the Official Scorer must take it and charge it to the team not previously charged.

In the second and fourth quarter, there must be three 100-second timeouts. If neither team has taken a timeout prior to 9:00 of the second or fourth period, a mandatory timeout is called by the Official Scorer and charged to neither team. If there are no subsequent timeouts taken prior to 6:00, the Official Scorer must take it at the first dead ball and charge it to the home team. If no subsequent timeouts are taken prior to 3:00, the Official Scorer must take it and charge it to the team not previously charged. In the fourth quarter, each team is limited to a maximum of three timeouts and if a team has two or three full timeouts remaining when the fourth period reaches the 2:00 mark, one of the timeouts will be changed to a 20-second timeout and it will retain one full timeout.

In overtime periods, each team shall be allowed two 60-second timeouts and one 20-second timeout. If a team has two full timeouts remaining when the overtime period reaches the 2:00 mark, one of the timeouts will be changed to a 20-second timeout.

The Official Scorer notifies a team when it has been charged with a mandatory timeout. Additional timeouts in a period, beyond those that are mandatory, are for 60 seconds.

Under both college and NBA rules, if a team calls a timeout when it has none left, the team is assessed a technical foul. (In college basketball, this means the team loses possession of the ball. In the NBA, the team keeps the ball because technical fouls do not carry automatic loss of possession.) 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 VolleyballEdit

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.[5]

Ice hockeyEdit

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.


In floorball, each team is allowed one thirty-second time-out per game, which may only be taken during a normal stoppage of play. The time-out is measured from when all the players is gathered around the team benches.

Team handballEdit

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).[6]


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