AAU basketball (Amateur Athletic Union) season brings both anticipation and dread for parents of avid ballers. Don’t you ever ask yourself, Why are we putting ourselves through this?
Two of my three kids played AAU basketball in middle and high school and I will tell you that it is not an easy commitment for a family to make. There are PROs and CONs to AAU basketball, and as a sports mom who’s experienced both, I’m compelled to give you fair warning.
PROs of AAU Basketball
- Gives your child an opportunity to play more basketball, perhaps at a more competitive level than in school ball.
- Maybe, just maybe, down the road when your child is in high school he may be seen by college scouts. Again, a very big MAYBE on that one. (If that’s the case, the argument could be made that AAU can wait until high school when the scouts are actually noticing.)
- Provides an opportunity for your family to take trips, make memories together. We definitely had some fun times on our AAU trips, seeing new places, bonding with teammates and their families.
And that, my friends, is the extent of the PROs of AAU basketball.
The CONs (A.K.A. The Perils) of AAU Basketball
There is no shortage of negative feedback on AAU basketball from sports leaders:
Charles Barkley… “AAU is the worst thing that ever happened to basketball”
“Ever since AAU became the de facto leader in “preparing kids”, it’s been all downhill” Gregg Popovich.
“Look we all know AAU is about the name on the back, not the one on the front and if everyone was being honest, nobody really cares who wins or loses. We’re there to watch individuals not teams but you hope kids would at least try and play the right way”. Current Division one Head Coach
But from a sports mom’s perspective, I will tell you the “perils” I saw:
- Costs can be ridiculous! Fees, gas, hotel stays, eating out–it really really takes a chunk out of your wallet.
- Your weekends are at the mercy of the tournament schedule.
- There is a level of craziness in play at AAU tournaments. As one sports blogger says: It’s that time of year when…high school coaches call AAU the devil because it’s the place where kids lack discipline and accountability. Of course, not all AAU programs are guilty of this, but hang around an AAU tournament for a weekend, and I guarantee that you will see that lack in full display on the court.
- AAU parents are sports parents on steroids. I know because when my son and daughter were playing, I found myself saying things to refs and coaches that I would have not said at a high school game. Whether or not they deserved my wrath is not the point; the problem is that I’m paying a pretty penny for my kid to have a great experience and get better at basketball and, dang it, I’m here to make sure that it happens!
For many parents, it’s all about their kid in AAU, not the team or program. When a player goes 10 for 10 or scores 20 points, the parents love AAU and brag about their child’s success. But when that same kid goes 0-19, it’s AAU’s fault and nobody else’s. (Tiny Green, NothingbutSkills.com)
AAU Basketball: Yes or No?
Think long and hard about your decision to play AAU. Don’t do it because everyone else is. Don’t do it just because it sounds fun. In fact, if your child is serious about getting better at basketball, I would look at other options before AAU, and then if you decide that is the route you choose to take, be very very picky about the AAU organization you join. Vet them for sure.
I like what Tiny Green says about playing a parent’s decision to let their child play AAU:
Doing what is best for your kid is the best bet when it comes to AAU.…Improving your child’s HAPPINESS better be #1 on your “TO DO LIST” when it comes to AAU.
Are You Frustrated with the Politics of Youth Sports?
The issue of politics in youth sports can take all the fun out of the game – if you let it!
I know – my years of sports parenting experience have given me ample opportunity to get sucked into all the games and drama that go on behind the scenes.
I have hope to offer: You CAN navigate these treacherous waters successfully – I can show you how.