Ask yourself what you want to accomplish in these three areas: development, overall experience, college recruiting. These are things that you define but will be impacted by the AAU team you play for.
Development – No matter your age, continuous development as a player is critical to your future success. This may be regarding improving your skill set, physical abilities, basketball IQ and ability to compete against different types of play.
Overall experience – Are you looking for the most competitive experience? Do you want to win at any cost? Are you looking for a fun time with your friends? While this area may change as you get older it is a good idea to at least have a starting point.
College recruiting – When you are in 9th grade or younger this area may not be a huge concern. However, as you get in to high school, players will generally start considering what it would be like to play at the next level.
AAU team goals and priorities
As you evaluate your options, consider your goals and compare them to what the AAU team is trying to do. You need to find out what is motivating these teams to operate, coach and work with young players. This is not the point that you are committing to anything. You just need to get a quick idea of the team and see if they may be a fit.
To get started, try the following:
• Look over a team’s website (if they have one) and get a feel for how they operate.
• Do some Google searches on the program, coaches and players and see what pops up? You can find some real gems and red flags.
• Call or email the coach and ask a few questions. They should be able to answer questions you have.
Are your personal goals lining up with the AAU team’s goals?
We may have a match
Now that you know your goals and may have found a team that matches what you are looking for, it is time to really dig in before you commit.
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WHAT IS AAU BASKETBALL????
Who is coaching me?
The most influential person you will work with is going to be the coach. So, try and figure a few things out:
• What kind of experience do they have? If this is a young team then the coach may not have a lot of experience. This is normal. However, if this is a high school aged team then experience is a bigger factor. Have they coached AAU before? Have they coached at the high school or college level? If they don’t have experience do you think they will be quick learners?
• What is the coach’s philosophy on winning vs. teaching? Winning vs. playing time?
• Do you think the coach will be able to help you develop beyond where you are currently at?
• What style of coaching do they use? Are they ultra-relaxed and quiet? Are they high stress and loud? Do you think this style fits with your personality?
• What type of system does the coach run? If you are a post player that needs to anchor in to the post and the coach wants to run an up-tempo transition style offense, there may be a problem for you.
Who else is on the team?
This does matter because it will impact you and your goals.
• Is there someone else on your team that plays the same position? How will that effect your role? Will the other players push you to become better?
• Does the team have a good balance of scorers, rebounders and defenders? How does the coach see your role?
• Are there other players that are getting recruited already? If so, it may create additional looks for you.
• Will your team be competitive? If you want to go deep in to tournaments you must win games.
• Does the coach have a son on the team? This isn’t always a bad thing. Just make sure that everyone is given an opportunity to be successful.
What tournaments are you competing in?
As you get older, this is going to make a difference. Your time and money are valuable. Don’t waste them on tournaments that you don’t find valuable. If you aren’t sure you can rely on the coach, rely on the team or tournament’s track record or do some research on your own.
Keep in mind:
• Does the team have a set travel/tournament schedule or are they figuring things out as they go?
• If you are traveling, do your parents need to go with you or will transportation, hotels, etc. be provided?
• Is the tournament NCAA certified? If not, NCAA Division I and Division II coaches cannot attend. Is this important to you? Will other level coaches be there (NAIA, JC, etc.)? How do you know for sure? Remember, any tournament can make that claim but not all of them deliver. Do they have any history to back up their claims?
• How many games are guaranteed? Not all tournaments are created the same.
• How many tournaments are you committing to? Are you traveling every weekend, or do you have time to “just be a kid”?
• How good are the tournaments you are attending? Will you come back “battle tested” and ready to play at a higher level?
Team track record and resources
If you are looking at a new team then they won’t have any history for you to consider. In that case you can try and get a feel for their vision and decide if you want to trust in it.
If the team does have some history, you can start to evaluate how they have done and if they are at the level you want to be at. A lot of these depend on how old a player is.
• How do the teams help develop their players? Practice, workouts, personal training?
• Do they have a lot of players switching in and out? How long does a player typically stay with them? If players are leaving, what is the reason?
• Are you guaranteed playing time or a spot on a roster (this is not always a good thing)?
• What divisions do tournament directors place the team in (if applicable)? Top bracket, second bracket, bottom bracket?
• Has this team performed well at prior tournaments?
• Does the team have a solid history of players moving on to the next level? This might be college but could also be players making their junior high or high school teams.
• If you want to play in college, is there a history of players moving on to college rosters at all levels (JC through NCAA Division I)?
• Does the program have a strong network of college coaches?
• How much does it cost? What kind of financial obligations are expected? Are there different options for paying? What does the cost include?
The bottom lines
At the end of all this (and there is a lot) remember the goal is to find the best fit possible. You will never know everything for sure. And neither will the team’s coach or director. Do the best you can and then trust your gut. If you put in at least a little time to do your research, you will make a good decision.
How Much Does AAU Basketball Cost?
AAU basketball, or the Amateur Athletic Union, is a non-profit organization that is run by independent clubs across the United States. Under the AAU umbrella, teams can participate and enter various tournaments throughout the year. Although the AAU organization has many sports available, basketball is one of the most popular.
AAU helps you get in game experience, develop your skills, and get noticed. In most cases, AAU basketball teams are reserved for those players who are very serious about the game and who have the potential to play in college and other high-level settings.
How much is it?
• On average, AAU basketball is going to cost about $400 to $1,100 per season or year. This is not going to include airfare, food or travel. When you pay these fees, it will go towards the gym rental, uniforms, and tournament fees. Elite teams that receive national sponsorships can charge thousands of dollars per team. However, they may also get sponsorship from different organizations.
• Youthleaguemanagement.com states that you should be prepared to spend at least $500 to $1,000 or more per year. This price range will not include any sort of travel or food.
• Per jbballimagevt.hubpages.com, parents should be prepared to spend about $400 per player on the team.
What is going to be included?
• Most AAU basketball teams are going to be the most active from March until June. The reason they do not abide by a regular basketball schedule is because most of their players play with the school or another travel team during this time.
• AAU games are going to be in the format of tournaments, which are usually held on the weekends to avoid conflicts with parents’ schedules. The most common format that you are going to come across is two games on a Saturday and two games on a Sunday.
• Teams will practice at least once or up to three times a week; depending on the team, most will enter at least two tournaments per month. Again, since every coach is different, the results are going to widely vary
What are the extra costs?
• If the commute is long for a tournament, hotel fees may apply. While it is rare, some elite times may travel to the tournament by air. However, most tournaments will be at most 4 hours away by car.
• An AAU membership, which allows you to participate in AAU sanctioned events, costs about $25 per year.
• A one-time uniform fee may apply, which can be as high as $150. This fee will often include a few uniforms, gear, and a bag. If your coach wants everyone to have matching shoes and socks, this could be an extra cost to consider as well.
Tips to know
• Before the season begins, tryouts are typically held; this will at the beginning of the year, usually in January or February. Keep in mind that every team and tournament will have gender and age regulations, so it is so important that your child meets these requirements to qualify. While players can play up at the next level even if they are under age, no one can play down in younger leagues.
• Since AAU teams vary across the country, the costs, scheduling, traveling, coaching and practice times. Before committing to a league, make sure that it is a good fit for your child.
• Ask your coach how much experience he has. Try to find out what the coach is going to do to develop his or her players.
• Will the parents have a say in the coach or the overall program?
• When there is a tournament, find out how long it will take the team to get from one point to another. Will there be a bus? Carpool? Or are you on your own?
• Ask your coach up front to see what the overall costs are going to be before committing.
• To find a quality team, talk with some neighbors or basketball coaches in the area. It also does not hurt to research online or even attend tryouts.
• There are multiple recruiting websites that coaches can check. You can upload pictures and videos of yourself as well as post stats so that coaches can see your talent level.
How can I save money?
• If you cannot afford the fee to join the team, some teams may have a scholarship fund that they can dip into to help lower the costs.
• Some teams set up a tiered payment plan to spread the payments across the season instead of making you pay each weekend or tournament separately.
• Financial aid is available to those who qualify. Also, many teams choose to do fundraisers to earn money for their players. This can be anything from selling different items to performing a service.