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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, as well as to stop the game clock. 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, such as the five-second rule in basketball.
List of time-out rules by sport
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 or a linebacker) and the head coach. The number of timeouts is limited to three per team per half in the National Football League, and college and high school levels; to two per half in amateur Canadian football, and to one per half in the Canadian Football League. Unused timeouts carry over between the first and second quarters and between the third and fourth quarters, but they do not carry over between halves. If overtime is required in the NFL, each team is given 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 is an incomplete pass, but sometimes, the team may choose to sacrifice a down to stop the clock.
- Spiking the ball. This, likewise, is an incomplete pass and sacrifices a down.
- Waiting for the two-minute warning in the NFL, three-minute warning in Canadian football, one-minute warning in Arena football if it is approaching. College and high school football do not have any of these stoppages.
- Committing an offense for which a minor penalty may be called. In some leagues, late in the game, a 10-second runoff may be assessed to discourage this.
- 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 some leagues, if time is called because of an injury, the injured player may be ordered to sit out at least the next play as a way of discouraging the feigning of injury.
A common practice in gridiron football 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—possibly because they have come to expect a timeout to be called, if the opposing team still has one. 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. It has only happened once in the NFL, in a 2007 game between the Buffalo Bills and the Washington Redskins, when Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs called a timeout just before Bills kicker Rian Lindell attempted a 51-yard field goal. The kick was good, but Gibbs was awarded the timeout. Gibbs then called a second timeout when Lindell was preparing to kick the ball again, because Gibbs was unaware of the rule. Gibbs was issued an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which narrowed the attempt from 51 yards to 36 yards out. Lindell made the 36-yard field goal to win the game for the Bills, 18–17.
Another common practice, particularly in high school, college and the NFL, is for a team that, with its defense on the field, is trailing the opposing team near the end of the regulation by a touchdown or less to use their time outs when the winning team is using the victory formation to run out the clock. Since winning teams using the quarterback kneel can run off the last 90 seconds to 2 minutes of a game (depending on the level) with three successive kneels, the losing team will call a time out to stop the clock, force the winning team to run a standard play (as only a few seconds are taken off the clock with the kneel itself, the clock restarting only upon the snap) or make a first down and thus increase the chances that the trailing team will get the ball back on offense.
Baseball players and managers of both the offense and defense, 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), 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. 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 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 being broadcast, as of the 2015-16 season, each team is granted one 60-second timeout and three 30-second timeouts per game in addition to the media timeouts (at the first dead ball under 16, 12, 8 and 4 minutes remaining in each half). A maximum of three 30-second timeouts may carry over into the second half. Any called timeout that occurs within the 30 seconds prior to a scheduled media timeout break automatically takes the place of the upcoming media timeout, with the only exception to this rule being the first called timeout of the second half. A timeout cannot be called when the ball is live. Previously, under NCAA rules in prior seasons, teams had a total of five timeouts, and timeouts superseding media timeouts were only used in the women's rules.
High school basketball allots five timeouts per game, with three 60-second and two 30-second timeouts. In overtime games, each team is given one additional 60-second timeout, and is allowed to carry over any unused timeouts from regulation or – if the case may be – previous overtimes. Media timeouts are typically reserved for televised state tournament games only.
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.
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.
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.
During the 2009 season of the Indian Premier League of T20 cricket, the halfway point of each innings contained a seven-and-a-half minute television timeout, two-thirds of which were devoted to additional advertising time. After complaints by viewers and players (criticizing its commercial purpose and for breaking the flow of the game), the following season replaced them with two sponsored and compulsory two-and-a-half minute "strategic timeouts" that must be taken by each side at certain points during the innings; one must be taken by the bowling team between the 6th to 10th overs, and the batting team between the 11th to 16th overs.
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) (though there is a change of ends at 8 points).
Each team is entitled two sixty-second time-outs in regular time, and one extra time-out in extra time. The time-out can only be called if the team is in possession of the ball.
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