Looking For An AAU Basketball Team?
Many families begin to look for a New Jersey AAU basketball team in January. It reminds me of the day I was driving up to my team’s high school golf match, I was listening to the Mike Lupica show on ESPN radio. I really enjoy Lupica’s show as it offers some interesting perspectives on all that is going on in the sports world. Not to mention, his voice, which sounds a little like Krusty the Clown, is semi-amusing to me. Nonetheless, it being Monday, the NCAA Championship game between Kentucky and Kansas was what was going on so Lupica had some extra special guests on his show. One of those guests was Charles Barkley, who, love him or hate him, at the very least will give you an honest and most of the time comical perspective on whatever subject he is talking about. In short, Charles says what is on his mind, and I like that…a lot. Obviously, with the NCAA Championship that evening the majority of the talk was about the game and the players in it. At one point Lupica was asking Barkley about all of these top notch players coming to Kentucky and playing so well together. He was making the point that many of today’s players now know each other so well no matter where they are from in the country because they play with and against each other the majority of the year on the AAU circuit.
“AAU is the worst thing that ever happened to basketball.”
This quote is verbatim, not a misprint, and a point that I have alluded to on my site over the years, most recently in my article, “I’m Looking For a Team.” However, Charles Barkley saying this on a national radio show is a pretty big deal, and it brought smile to my face when he did. Why? It’s simple, it is very difficult for basketball players to improve when their constant focus is not on getting better, but on developing the business of AAU basketball.
AAU Basketball As A Business First
AAU basketball first and foremost is a business. It’s primary focus is on making money, not on getting players better. For this reason, there are roughly a million and five AAU teams in the country (this might be a slightly exagerated estimation, but you get my point). When I was in high school, and before that, there was about one AAU team per county, if that. Now, when players do not make an AAU team they either try to find another one or just create their own so they can play. This kind of subscribes to the, “Everybody gets a trophy mentality,” as everyone needs to belong on a team so they do not get left out. What ever happened to getting cut from a team (something I experienced on multiple occasions) and going out and working hard on your skills and athleticism in an attempt to make the team the next time tryouts rolled around? Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first) but isn’t this how players get better? Isn’t this how they learn? Players ask the coach about their weaknesses, learn why they did not make the team, and then work on those skills in order to become better basketball players.
Start Your Own AAU Basketball Team?
The ability to create your own AAU team has actually watered down the AAU circuit. There just are not enough good basketball players out there to fill the roster spots on these teams. Consequently, when these teams go to tournaments blow outs seem to be the norm. Unless they are playing against another team who is equally as bad, in which case the game is competitive but the level of play is very low. It just does not make sense. Why not take the off season and work on your basketball skills, develop athletically, and become a better basketball player? It’s okay to say that you are NOT on an AAU team, especially when you are out working on your game daily and improving. And, if you must create your own team, try making skill and athletic development your focus and tournament/game play supplemental. In the end, you will find your players will be much better for it.
AAU Basketball Recruiting & Reality
Furthermore, from a business perspective, AAU is about being able to say that you have the next big thing on your team. It is about being able to say that this kid got a scholarship for Kentucky and that kid got a scholarship at Michigan and they both played on my team. They lead parents to believe that they actually had something to do with the development of this player and why they were so good. When in actuality, the player was good in the first place before they even started playing on that team. The top level teams are in constant competition for these high profile players, not because they care about developing the player but so that they can say they have them on their team, even if it is just for one tournament. Yes, one tournament. Often times these top notch players play with one team one weekend and then jump ship to another team for another weekend because the new team promised them more. As that happens, these teams can say that the next big thing played for them and ultimately use them as a selling point to get more of the upper echelon players. Yes, ultimately the kids are being used for the benefit of the AAU program. Granted, they aren’t paying to play on the team but there is still something wrong with a kid being used to essentially sell your program. Not to mention that there is also something wrong with a couple kids not paying for anything while the bill is funded by the other players or one rich parent. It is totally bazaar and not right for the players, which I thought was supposed to be the primary focus.
AAU basketball has taken the focus away from developing basketball players and turned basketball at the high school and middle school level into a business. Players at the lower levels are getting cut from one team and going out and creating their own team just so they can have a team to play for and say they play AAU. This waters down the market and limits the overall development of these players. The problem at the higher levels is even worse. Players are essentially being pimped out from tournament to tournament for the good of the program they are in. And, why not? Doing so aids in the true focus of AAU, building a business around naive teenage basketball players who see the promise of bright lights and a new pair of Nikes. The focus of basketball should be about the player, it should be about developing that player, and helping them improve not on laying claim to a the skills of a player which you had no responsibilty for creating. So did it surprise me that Charles Barkley referred to AAU as, “the worst thing that ever happened to basketball?” Not at all, because quite frankly I agree.
This winter and summer you may want to consider an alternative to spending thousands of dollars and countless hours on hotels, bad concession stands, and travel all over for “AAU or Select” basketball. Rather than spending 15 hours in the gym this weekend at an AAU tournament while shooting only 10 times, consider what 1 hour of training on shot form with expert feedback while getting up 250 shots might do. Imagine what might happen if you were working on basketball specific strength exercises under the guidance of a tried and proven basketball trainer. Silly back rim dunk attempts at AAU basketball tournament warmups might actually become converted baskets if you did the leg work NBA players do. We welcome you to come and join us at Elite Basketball Training here in New Jersey, If you are outside of New Jersey and are looking for a great basketball trainer, check out www.BasketballTrainer.com.
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Ps. If you are coaching AAU please take the blue tooth out of your ear while you are coaching the game. It is not a piece of jewelry and I cannot imagine what is so important that you need to have that blue tooth in your ear for during a game. Just in case someone decides to call you it is okay if you miss that call, you can return it after the game.