AAU Investment:Student-Athlete and Parents

Special to Greensborosports.com:

Now that the regular season is nearly over for majority of highschool boys and girls
basketball players except for the State playoffs, many student athletes are now
participating in AAU practices and events. Many student athletes are now coming to
the realization that this is a year round process. Is that good or bad for a student
athlete? The answer to that question will get a variety of responses. Here is one
thing for sure; the body does needs a rest at times before it takes on another
activity. The pressure comes when coaches take the stance that I can always find
some one else to take your place if you are not here when we begin and yet they wait
for the super star kid to come when the kid is ready. This is where a parent role is
extremely important with the understanding that their kids health is far more
important than the pressure being asserted by an AAU coach. Some times a week or two
break is not a bad thing and maybe it should be mandatory.

Again this is where a parent should take control of the situation.

During the AAU experience that a parent is about to embark on early on in their
kid’s participation and development, I sincerely hope they realize that their is
going to be an enormous amount of time and financial resources that will be required
and at the end of the experience there may not be a scholarship in the process as
far as basketball is concerned. Several factors could cause this to happen. One
could be that the student athlete really was not that good and by no means does it
has anything to do with success or failure in life. It could mean that the student
athlete was never that commited and many parents may need to get out of denial early
on when they see this before they end up spending thousands of dollars that leave
bitter tastes in their mouths later on. Sometimes maybe doing something else is the
better route versus wishful thinking. If the parent and student athlete is okay with
just being a part of something, then that is good as long as it is understood and no ill will is created during the process.

Some things that parents and the student athlete need to come to grips with
early on is if a kid starts to participate in AAU Basketball by seventh grade and
now they are in the ninth grade entering highschool and no improvement seems to be
on the horizon, it may be time to have a honest talk to see if just playing
highschool ball is more appropriate and it gives them a chance to enjoy the
highschool experience. Is this taking away a kids dream? No, it may help them to
avoid a nightmare as far as basketball is concern. Sure, there will always be
isolated situations that raises one’s expectations, but more times than not it does
not happen. Even the better players during this time come up short. Coaches from
college recruit early on and if a prospective student athlete is not at least in
their colleges data base as far as receiving letters or anything else that is
permitted by the NCAA rules guide lines, then there is a good chance that
someone needs to get on the ball quickly. Both parents and student athletes need to
do this; Do not wait for someone else to become your mouth piece.

Student athletes must also keep in mind that if you are good they will find
you and it has nothing to do with what AAU program that you are with. Coaches just
need to know what tournaments you are playing in during the Spring, Summer and Fall.
Also let them know what highschool that you attend. No one can measure the heart or
work ethic of a prospective student athlete and if they have that with a little
talent, then the end of the process could be rewarding as far as being offered a
Division I or Divsion II scholarship early on. Most student athletes will know
early on if they are being recruited and the parents should also be on top of the
situation as well. The biggest mistake that many student athletes and parents make
is that they get caught up in listening to the wrong people and they turn their
noses at schools that are not considered high major. Which in the grand scheme of
things means absolutely nothing. Researching the
academics and other pertinent information will help student athletes make a much
more informed decision that tends to work out best in the long run.

AAU and Highschool Coaches for both boys and girls sometimes needs to be brutally
honest with kids in letting them know that where their progress is at the moment,
that thinking of schools like UConn, North Carolina Tennessee, Duke and many
others are not realistic and maybe an Elon, Highpoint Central, North Carolina A&T,
Western Carolina and UNCG may be more of what they should secure or at least have
dialogue because in many of those cases some kids game are not even at that level.
Now that may sound harsh coming from a coach and many student athletes or parents
may not like it, but a coach needs to be straight forward and not be liked for
telling the truth versus being liked for saying what student athletes and parents
want to hear and hated later on when it does not pan out.

Sports is a very complex entity and yet simple that exposes strengths and
weaknessess for public display. Those student athleets that learn early on how to
deal with it more times than not will have grteater success and a much more happier
time. Oh by the way, so will their parents!


  1. Good piece.

    My child is involved in AAU basketball. I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, a few things along the way.

    -Set your priorities. School, church, family, and some FUN should still come first (in my opinion). A kid still has to be allowed to be a kid and do kid things if they are to grow into normal adults outside of basketball.

    -Does your child really want to be in it? We always stress to our child that when it starts to be more of a grind (and make no mistake about it… it’s a grind) than it is fun, it’s time to walk away.

    -Pick a program that fits. Not all AAU programs are created equal. Some are more about winning trophies and medals and less about developing the player. Your typical AAU program will spend most of it’s time in improving the team. Fundamental skills like ball handling, shooting with form, etc are taught and practiced about 20% of practice time and they will also get better by just playing. But the player will still have to be practice fundamentals on their own time if they really want to advance.

    -Not all coaches are created equal. Make sure you understand what the coach believes in. If they’d played at a college level, chances are they will coach like their college programs coached. Sometimes that’s not a good fit for a young player. Be very careful of a team that has a parent coach (coach with a child that plays on the team). It’s very hard to for them to resist coaching the team to benefit their kid… even if it’s on a subconscious level. But there are some great and fair parent coaches out there. Get an understanding about expectations up front.

    -Cost. It’s expensive. Some programs do a lot of fund raising to help offset costs. Some have scholarship opportunities if the parents volunteer with the program. But hidden costs like going out to eat while at a tournament can add up fast. Doing a little preplanning helps a lot.

    -Health. Injuries and fatigue can set in fast. Kids need downtime just like tired parents.

    All of that makes you want to run away and scream at the thought of AAU. But if you get on a good parent-involved team, it’s a lot of fun.

  2. Also, make sure you pick a team where your child will get to play. There are teams out there that just want your money and they don’t guarantee playing time. I have seen kids get out of basketball completely because they did not getting any playing time. Be aware there are coaches that will add players during the season and your child may be relegated to the bench. Choosing the correct team and coach will go a long way in insuring that your family will have a pleasant experience.

  3. No AAU team is going to guarantee playing time. The things you are pointing out is not reality. Play recreation ball if you want to share time. What happened to earning your time? Competiting for minutes? This helps develop character. Good luck finding a coach of a team that does not have an agenda. I would suggest to parents to be careful, but go to a team where your son can compete for minutes and practice as well as games are challenging. Once again, basketaball topics, everyone has an opinion even though baseball season is here. Oh yeah, there is AAU, USSSA baseball. The same things you suggested goes to those parents. AAU is not all about basketball for these kids and parents. The experiences and relationships created throughout the years for these kids can be priceless. AAU is great as long as the parents keep things in perspective. I rather see kids playing AAU than hanging out doing nothing. Most of the problems with AAU right now is that there are too many teams. Every kid does not have the skill set nor mentallity to play versus elite/high level kids. Keep it real, play rec ball at the Y or Upper basketball if you want “Little” Johnny to play. One last thing, if your child is not getting it done then don’t get mad if the coach brings in kids that can. Hey, that’s life. If you are not doing your job, then your boss will replace you!

  4. Any coach with average skills can win by cycling in new and better players to their program. The coaches that are elite are the ones that can develop a player.

    And just like a coach can bench a player if the coach doesn’t think the player is getting it done, players can bench a coach by switching AAU programs. With more teams, coaches have to earn their game time too.

  5. Big Shots highlights what is wrong with AAU. Don’t take a kid on a team if you know they are not good enough. Some coaches are just doing this for a money grab. They have to finance their team. I am not talking about 16, 17 or 18 year old kids. I am talking about 10, 11 and 12 years olds. Coaches who think they need to bring in players in the middle of the season should not be coaching! Develop the kids you have! Be a real coach and a real adult. The analogy to a job is ridiculous. This is not a job. This is supposed to be fun. It is true that a lot of these kids should be playing rec ball so the coach should be mature enough to tell the child and their family that this is the case.

  6. This should be about fun. lol!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Coaches tell parents at the first meeting that playing time is not promised. I can’t tell you how many times a parent says, I understand, I just want “Little” Johnny to be apart of this team and get better. There is nothing wrong with going and getting better players if winning is that coach’s goal. Parents need to know what to look for in a team and coach. They should also be honest with themselves about where their child is as far as his skill set and ability to compete with the better players on the team before measuring them up against players from other teams. As I stated before, AAU is not for every kid or parent! Get your son/daughter in the gym and put in work. My analogy was a good one btw. Continue to screw up on your job and see how long it takes to replace you. Tom had bad experiences with AAU and their coaches. Poor Tom.

  7. Never forget the monetary portion of all this. Just think of an AAU team carrying 15 players which many do not play and add up the joining fee and see what you come up with.

  8. Big shots is obviously one of those coaches that thinks an AAU coach is not responsible for developing players. Stating that playing time is not promised does not absolve you from not coaching the entire team. Who do you focus on in practice? Your starting 5?

    How many times have you said to parents “He’ll play some if he improves” when you just really want a practice body? AAU/USSA/USBA/etc is supposed to be about players, not the coaches.

    Unless you’re running an exclusive showcase team, you got it all wrong.

  9. My daughter played one year of aau basketball but played 5 years of travel soccer. My daughter had a great experience. We made sure she was on a team that was not above her level. We also made sure that the coaches and the parents were sane. She had several opportunities to play on so called better teams, but we decided against it because the coaches were insane. She is now in college and still loves both basketball and soccer. I just have seen too many families forking over a lot of money (thousands of dollars) to sit the bench. The outcome in most of these cases is the kids quit the sport entirely.

  10. @ AAU Dad, I never stated that the AAU coach is not responsible for the development of his players. Practice 2 maybe 3 times a week for about 1 – 2 hours each time. That leaves 4 or 5 days that the coach is not in the gym with the team. If you are looking for a coach to totally develop a player’s game then you have it all wrong. AAU Dad stick with Y ball and Upper Basketball. Parents have a choice, play with that team or keep it moving. Nobody is held hostage to play for a particular team. Tom glad to hear that your daughter had good experiences with soccer and basketball. Sounds like you were on top of things.

  11. Big Shot – My kid doesn’t play Yball but did play UPWARD (not Upper or Upwards) a few years ago. It was a lot of fun. We had to switch once 2 years ago but we’re on an AAU team that has done well at the state and national level and has coaches that somehow manage to develop the entire team in practice and at games. I guess that program knows how to attract quality coaches. Maybe you’ll be a good enough coach someday to make it at that level.

  12. @ AAU Dad, go ahead give that team a shout out. What is the team and organization? Which of the area teams are you referring to that only develop players 2 – 3 practices a week. You are right though you can develop a “team” with that many practices each week. BTW, I am not a coach, just observer. Give your team a shout out AAU Dad! Pleassssssssssssssssssseeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Bottom line, get your kid in the gym!

  13. I think I’ll pass on that one. I’m not going to be the source of drawing fire to them from you. It’s a program that works for us, may not be a fit for others.

    There are several good programs around. You just have to do some homework. Maybe Andy can post up a list of teams in the area. When we first started looking, we thought it was limited to one local team. Not true! Some programs will have 2-3 teams in the same age bracket. Some prgrams consist of just one showcase team. It all depends on the goals of the team/program.

  14. Yeah, pass on it (lol). If it is all you say it is then promote it. Anyway good luck to all parents/kids looking for teams this season. Remember, stay in the gym. It is the only true way to develop. No coach or team can do it for you.

  15. Once again, I am not a coach, I am an observer. I have been in this community for years and have seen a lot of good basketball…aau, usssa, yboa, rec, high school, middle school, college and pro. How about you, who are you “repping”?

  16. I’m just the dad of a player on a team we like. Nothing more. No one should take my advice on which AAU team/program is good for their kid. They should find out for themselves.

    This thread has gotten a little ugly so I want drag any organization into it.

  17. I think this is a great article and it really enlightens people towards AAU and the reality of it. In fact I believe it will help parents and kids take a more careful approach as to how they actually move forward along with the expectations.

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