The AAU Experience: Searching for the best fit

AAU basketball provides youth players with countless opportunities to compete and play in games. AAU can widen your competition pool, expose you to new players/teams and test your physical and mental skill capacities. Downsides associated with AAU can include: limited practice availability which hinders teaching opportunities, rosters that are constantly changing, travel expenses for families and individual agendas trumping team agendas. As the winter school season concludes many players and families direct their attention to the AAU season and figuring out what programs they are going to try out for. As you begin this process you want to ask yourself: how do you find the best fit and situation for your player?

What are the top priorities of the player?

Communicate with the player to get a better understanding of what they are looking for. How would they rank their top priorities? Everyone will be better served by knowing and remembering the top reasons why your child wants to play basketball.   Find out what they are looking for from an overall experience regarding desired level of competition, playing with their friends, weekend travels, general commitment levels, etc. Opening this communication channel will allow all parties to be on the same page and give direction when researching AAU programs.

How to conduct your research:

  • Ask other parents in your basketball community about their experiences with AAU programs they have played on.
  • Talk to your teammates about teams they have played on or if they know anyone that has played for a specific program
  • Discuss with your current school coach and see if they have anyone in their coaching network they can vouch for
  • Search social media posts to get an inside look at what is most important to their organization
  • Investigate the programs website and see if they have a mission statement, what is their why, past success stories and overall organization.
  • Observe other teams and coaches when you attend tournaments to keep mental notes for future plans. Introduce yourself and compliment the organization on attributes you found appealing.
  • Google the organization and see if you can find any relevant information that portrays either a positive or negative picture
  • Give the director/coach a call and have a conversation. Give them a chance to answer your questions and explain their philosophies.

As the great John Wooden said “failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” Do your research, open communication channels and be direct. Make sure the values and philosophies of the AAU organization are in alignment with what your child truly wants. Hold your child accountable to what they said they were looking for and allow them to grow in comfortable and uncomfortable situations. Focus on what your family can control and try your best to exhaust your resources to make the best decision.

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