The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) is a nonprofit organization based in the United States. AAU targets the promotion and development of young athletes. However, AAU in the youth basketball world typically doesn’t refer specifically to this nonprofit organization, but rather refers to all competitive “club” basketball, similar to how the brand “Kleenex” became a catch-all term for tissues.
With that said, when we talk about AAU in this article we are talking about competitive club basketball. Moreover, many athletes, coaches, and parents believe that AAU basketball is a great way to develop new skills and be seen by college coaches.
AAU provides an opportunity for young basketball players to play A LOT of basketball. A looming question surrounding AAU is, does it really help basketball players develop their skills?
Inside the World of AAU
“Horrible” and “terrible” are the words used by five-time NBA world champion Kobe Bryant to describe AAU basketball, and the effect it has on young basketball players.
Bryant believes that European players are taught more fundamentals than American players that participate in the AAU system. With his astounding basketball resume and success, anything that comes out of his mouth is given instant attention and respect.
Due to his credibility and overall success in the NBA, does this mean he is correct in his assumption?
Bryant’s focal point in his argument targeted the number of games played with little to no basketball training or instruction.
We are firm believers that, the more you play AND practice, the better you can become as a basketball player. That is how we modeled our AAU basketball program, to have at least 2 scheduled practices per week and then games typically every other weekend.
Bryant believes that the AAU program is too concerned with wins and losses and the fundamentals of the game are being overlooked.
AAU does provide the opportunity for young players to participate in more games compared to school ball. With more games available, Bryant feels that the fundamentals are being deprived from young athletes.
Honestly, this is only one concern with AAU basketball. In this article, we are going to help you as a parent, coach or player understand the Pros and Cons of AAU Basketball, select the right AAU team, and more.
Pros & Cons of AAU Basketball
Pro: Play Against Great Competition
AAU basketball games allow players to take their skills learned in practice and workouts and try to implement them in a full-speed environment. In addition, AAU basketball offers players the opportunity to do this against a lot of great competition.
There are various competition levels in AAU, but at every level there are some really talented players. With that said, AAU coaches should be able to find the right level of competition for their team, one that will challenge their players, but also doesn’t completely overwhelm them.
Pro: Learn to Earn
There’s no denying that we live an era where everyone should get a trophy, especially in recreational basketball, but typically, this isn’t the case in AAU.
Due to AAU’s competitive nature, teams and players must learn to earn playing time, points, wins, and ultimately, trophies. Not everyone gets a trophy in AAU basketball!
This is a great lesson to learn 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 and trophies are often times in youth sports today.
Lastly, AAU helps to fight against the cancer of expecting to be given whatever you want and not earning it.
Pro: Learn to Deal with Adversity
AAU basketball is VERY competitive, so players and teams will come across other AAU programs with players that are better than them. This means there will be tough losses and tough games individually.
EVERY player and team 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 instantly when 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. These are some of the characteristics that we focus on at Pro Skills Basketball, which come in handy when young players hit roadblocks later on in life.
Pro: Learn How to Be a Part of a Team
In competitive basketball where playing time is not equal, opponents are tough, and there’s high intensity, 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 your coach, and getting along well with other players.
This sometimes can be tougher to accomplish in such a competitive environment, but the outlook here is that AAU offers players many great opportunities to develop themselves as great teammates.
Pro: AAU is Fun
Last, but not least, playing basketball is fun! This may seem obvious, but this is often times forgotten by 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 at.
A lot of great memories come from playing AAU basketball, whether that is on the court with your teammates or off the court hanging out. Playing AAU basketball is fun if the team and adults put their focus in the right place!
Pro: Opportunity for Good Players to Be Noticed
One of the biggest benefits of AAU for players who want to play in college, is that they have the opportunity to be seen and recruited by college coaches each year.
List of AAU Cons:
We don’t focus heavily on the negative aspects of AAU, but here are a few to mention.
- Star Driven – no team concept
- Winning is the main focal point
- A lot of coaches are not certified or experienced
- Not focusing on basketball fundamentals (ie. too many games, not enough practices)
How Do You Pick the Right AAU Team for Your Child?
- Ask for a background check on coaches
- Ask other parents for reviews on the local AAU programs in your area
- Talk to former players to get feedback
- Ask about the philosophies of the team, coach, and AAU program
- Is the AAU program teaching your child life skills that will help them succeed in the future?
- If a college scholarship is important, ask what their track record is in assisting high school players in earning a scholarship at whatever level.
- As a parent, knowing your child’s goals will help you find the right AAU team or program. Too many parents think they know their kids’ desires, but usually, their actions are driven by their own motives.
What is the number one reason most kids play?
They want to have fun with their friends. We would all be better served by knowing and remembering that sometimes.
AAU Advice for Parents
You can nip a lot of problems in the bud, simply by meeting with your coach at the start of the season. Get to know your coach! Coaches on the other hand, should be able to discuss how they are going to manage the season.
Make sure your coach goes over what he or she expects from their players, and what kind of practice schedule they’re going to keep.
What else should you bring up in the pre-season meeting?
It isn’t time to be shy! Speak up when it comes to your child’s future. Our PSB AAU coaches spend time talking with parents prior to the AAU season to set the right expectations for a successful and fun season.
Team goals, priorities, and philosophy. As a parent, it is important to understand if the AAU program that you signed your child up for is focusing on basketball and personal development.
As a parent, you can ask what is required to improve your child’s skills in the long run. Understanding the team goals, priorities and philosophies to make sure your child has a successful AAU season should be very important.
Parents should avoid “sideline coaching”, let the coach do his job. This only confuses their child.
AAU Advice for Coaches
Discuss what you expect from parents. For example, parents need to understand that they have the responsibility to get their child to practice on time. Parents need to support their child by attending games, praising their hard work, etc. Help them understand that they’re part of the team, too.
Understand playing time guidelines. Players will not get equal minutes, parents should know and understand that Johnny has to earn his playing time.
Set guidelines for game day. Make sure parents understand how they are expected to behave on game days. This means cheering in a positive manner, not putting down opposing players, no yelling at the referees, and no criticizing coaches.
We at PSB have a “parent code of conduct,” that lists out rules for how parents should conduct themselves throughout the AAU season.
Like anything, AAU basketball has advantages and disadvantages. We hope this article gave you a better understanding of AAU basketball. Pro Skills Basketball is a national leader in youth basketball.
We do have AAU teams in several states. PSB does its best teaching basketball fundamentals, team concepts and life lessons. Our ultimate goal is for kids to have fun, improve their skills and love playing the game!