Choosing the Right AAU Program

Finding the right AAU or travel team can be daunting to any parent. Everyone wants to make sure they get into a competitive club that balances exposure, competition, and character formation. Google “AAU teams” and you will find the choices can be overwhelming as well as confusing.

To guide you in making the best choice for your athlete and your family, let us consider these factors:

Goals and Mission

This is one of the most important factors when deciding on an AAU team. Asking the team some of these questions will help you to know the goals and mission of the team.

  • Does the team actually have a mission statement, and do they seem to live up to that?
  • Does the team want the players to have a good time regardless of wins and loses? Or is it an intense AAU team that focuses on winning national championships.
  • Does the team focus on player development or on playing a ton of games?

For some people, the goals and mission of an AAU team may not fit what they value or are looking for in a team. Every team may not be the right fit for every player; however, it is better to know this before making any commitment that will not end up benefitting your young athlete.

Coaching

Coaching should be a huge consideration when choosing your AAU team as this is one of the main contributors to your development and basketball experience. Researching about the coach can shed light to the kind of experience you may get when you join a team.

  • What kind of experience does the coach have? Has he coached an AAU team before?
  • Is the coach relaxed and quiet or high-stress and loud? And, does his style of coaching fit your style of personality?
  • Is the coach trained enough to develop you beyond where you are currently skill wise?

Always prefer an experienced, knowledgeable, positive, and non-parent coach. Finding a coach with proper background check and basketball license is not easy, however, it is crucial to maximizing your growth as an athlete.

Practices

Photo Credit: Tribune Star
Practice not only prepares the team for competition but it helps players develop their skills and ultimately win games. However, if the practice is not conducted properly, you may end up questioning why you invested so much hours of your week driving places. Some questions to ask:

  • How often does the team practice and does it encourage skill development and improve team building?
  • Does the coach actually plan set drills or do the players do whatever they want?
  • Is it mandatory for all the players to attend the practice session?

Many AAU basketball teams do not practice or practice just for the sake of saying they practiced. Choose the teams that practice at least twice a week along with doing scrimmages and situational play.

Competing Tournaments

The tournaments you will be competing in will surely make a difference in the long run. So, do not waste your time and money on tournaments that are not valuable for your development. Some questions about the tournaments to ask are:

  • Does the team play in tournaments or leagues or both?
  • Does the team travel out of town for tournaments?
  • How good are the tournaments the team is attending? Who are the most notable teams playing?

Generally, AAU teams start traveling beginning in 10th grade, right when colleges start recruiting players. Teams traveling to NCAA certified events where college coaches  watch teams play are obviously your best choice to get exposure.

Expenses

Families and players can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars per summer to play. These fees usually include basketball uniforms but not travel expenses. It is good to know and ask the following:

  • Do they offer financial assistance to those who need it?
  • What are the out of pocket expenses a player should expect?
  • What type of uniforms do they have? While good uniforms do not necessarily equate to a good team, it says a lot about how an organization values their players’ self confidence when they invest in high quality uniforms. Some of the best clubs in the nation happen to also be the best dressed, and you can see the pride in their players when they come out the court looking like pros. Some of the popular names in uniform designing industry are Allen Sportswear, Boombah, ProLook

Bottom Line

At the end of all this, remember the goal is to find the best fit possible. Do the best you can and do not hesitate to ask questions or ask other parents for their own experience. Being a part of a solid AAU team can very well help your child land a college scholarship, or at the very least, develop valuable friendships and life lessons, all the while enjoying the sport they love the most.

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