In my last blog post, I wrote about the problems with AAU basketball, but as I stated in the article, as an AAU coach and club director with Pro Skills Basketball (PSB) Select, I’m actually a proponent of AAU.
I’m not an outsider taking shots at something I know nothing about.
Rather, I simply think that some of the problems with AAU basketball could be solved if parents, coaches and organizations were, number one, aware of the issues, and number two, took some relatively easy steps to correct the problems.
Regardless, for this blog post, I want to flip the lens and examine the benefits of AAU basketball.
Once again, I’m talking about AAU basketball as the “catch-all” term like Kleenex and not speaking specifically about the real AAU basketball organization, although many, if not all of the benefits, do apply to the real AAU.
My last caveat is that, when talking about the benefits of AAU basketball, I’m talking about AAU done the right way.
What does that mean you may ask?
To me, that means the team is coached by an experienced and knowledgeable coach, has positive and supportive parents, focuses on skill development and teaching over winning championships and/or going to “showcases” at a young age.
AAU basketball done right focuses on the bigger, long-term picture over the short-term, win-at-all-costs mentality. That’s why it’s vital that players find the right AAU program or team, and once they do, AAU becomes highly beneficial!
The 6 Benefits of AAU Basketball Are …
#1 Play Against Great Competition
Games are the best place to take the skills learned in practice and workouts and try to implement them in a full-speed environment, and AAU basketball offers the opportunity to do this against a lot of great competition.
Yes, there are varying levels of competition in AAU, but most teams should be able to find the right level for them … one that will challenge them, but also doesn’t completely overwhelm them.
There are many ways coaches can try to simulate games in practice, but no matter what, it’s just not the same as playing against another team with coaches and players who are trying to do whatever they can to stop you, and AAU basketball offers a tremendous platform to do this.
#2 Learn to Earn
There’s no denying we live in an everyone-gets-a-trophy age, especially in recreational basketball, but typically, this isn’t found in AAU basketball.
Because of the inherently competitive nature of AAU, teams and players must learn to earn playing time, points, rebounds, wins, championships, and ultimately, trophies. Not everyone gets a trophy in AAU basketball!
This is a great lesson for later on in life when, as adults, you must compete for jobs, awards, salary raises, etc. These things are not just given out like playing time, trophies, etc. are often times in youth sports today, and AAU helps to fight against this cancer of expecting to be given whatever you want and not earning it.
#3 Learn to Deal with Adversity
AAU basketball is competitive, so players will come across players and teams that are better than they are. This means there will be tough losses, tough games individually, and players and teams will inevitably have to deal with some adversity, and if you play AAU basketball long enough, there will be quite a bit of it.
Young players learn from the minute they start playing AAU that they will face some obstacles and they dang sure better learn to overcome them, or they won’t last long.
Again, this teaches great lessons for later on in life, which are grit, determination, and toughness … all tools that will certainly come in handy when they hit roadblocks in their lives.
In competitive basketball where playing time is not equal, opponents are tough, and there’s more than a little adversity, learning to be a good teammate is more important than ever.
This means placing the team over self, shelving your ego a little bit, learning to take instructions from a coach, and getting along well with other players.
Well, all of this is tougher to do in the competitive environment that AAU fosters, so AAU offers players many great opportunities to learn to be a good teammate.
Do all players learn to do this?
Of course not! But guess what?
For those that do learn to become a good teammate, it typically translates to, later on, being an employable adult!
#5 It’s Fun
Last, but not least, playing basketball is fun! This may seem obvious, but this is often times lost on adult coaches and parents who become overly-competitive and wrap their egos in their child’s individual performance and team record. They forget that basketball is a game, and games are meant to be fun no matter what level they’re played on.
Some of my best childhood memories are from my days playing AAU basketball, whether that be on the court with my teammates or off the court hanging out. Playing AAU basketball is fun if the team and adults’ focus is in the right place!
One of the biggest benefits of AAU over high school basketball for players who want to play in college is that AAU, due to NCAA rules on “live” periods, gives older players the opportunity to be seen by a ton of college coaches on certain 3-5 day periods every year.
Again, this is concerning high school players only!
College coaches DO NOT care about 1st-8th graders. College basketball recruiting does not usually start until 10th grade if you’re lucky.
If you want to learn more about the college basketball recruiting process, check out this article on the subject. (Side-note: Yes, I’m very well aware that for the top 5-10 players in the whole US, some sort of recruiting may start in like 8th grade, but this article is geared toward the other 99.999999% of players in the world!)
Back to my point, AAU basketball is the most beneficial and efficient way for players to get exposure to college coaches who could potentially recruit them.
Beware, though! As my guy Paul Biancardi says…
Players better be more concerned about improving their games than getting exposure because there’s a big difference between exposure and getting exposed!
Obviously, there are other benefits of playing AAU basketball, but these are my top 5 (and 6 for high school players).
While there are certainly problems with AAU basketball, I believe the benefits of playing on an AAU team or for a club that does it the right way, greatly outweigh the problems.
Finally, with the prime AAU season coming up this spring and summer, I want to wish all the players, parents, coaches, and clubs out there good luck and much success!