Have you every thought about letting your child play AAU or YBOA?
Written By: Lamar Hull
Parents, coaches and young basketball players, I played AAU and YBOA basketball and it was fun. However, if you are thinking about enrolling your child in a youth basketball traveling team, consider some of the following advantages and disadvantages. These are some of the experiences I learned as a baller for the Newton Flames, a local AAU team put together by some area coaches. With all of the pressures that kids nowadays have to cope with, the decision for them to play in Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Basketball or Youth Basketball of America (YBOA) leagues has to be one that comes from them. It is very important as a parent for you to consider the advantages and disadvantages of these leagues and ensure that your child knows the whole picture when they decide to play on one of these teams.
It is easy to see the upside of AAU and YBOA basketball leagues. Certainly worth noting is that participating in tournaments that require travel, kids will gain the experience of being in other environments that they may otherwise be unexposed to. Sometimes, I would travel and my parents couldn’t make the game. I would catch myself acting inappropriate with the other players. So, your child’s home foundation and values will be tested. But all in all, kids will be kids. By participating in AAU or YBOA, young basketball stars will get a chance to travel, which can be an influential factor for them as they mature and eventually decide which college they would like to attend.
Another advantage is that the some of the players in these leagues are some of the best in the country. There is no denying that more and more college recruits are popping out of the AAU system and that playing with and competing against these athletes is great for player development. Getting used to a high level of competition is something that can be beneficial in the long term for any young athlete. I got the opportunity to play against Chris Paul, which would have never happened for me at a young age if I didn’t play AAU. Of course his powerhouse AAU team beat our local team, but I scored 26 points and Chris Paul scored 27. He and I played well against each other, but knowing before the game that I was about to play against a top recruit, provided me with a challenge that would really test my work-ethic and skills. I played well against him, so that gave me confidence to continue to improve on my game. You are most likely to experience those type of games in the AAU circuit where your child will play against a top basketball recruit.
It is also worth noting that AAU and YBOA leagues and tournaments do have a high level of exposure, and depending on your child’s goals with basketball, this could be a good thing. While maybe a little too much exposure for the athlete just looking to get more reps and practice, athletes who are looking for scholarships or a chance to play basketball at a collegiate level will appreciate the exposure that these tournaments provide.
Having said all of that, it might seem like there’s only positive reasons to play AAU and YBOA basketball.
There are just as many, and maybe even more, disadvantages to these leagues that are worth mentioning. The first and often worst thing at many of these tournaments are the parents themselves. That’s right, mom and dad, I’m talking to you. From parents who complain about how much playing time their kids are getting to parents arguing in the stands while trying to portray their child as the next Michael Jordan, there’s no end to the drama at AAU and YBOA games. While the intentions clearly come from a place of love and pride, the parenting at these games can be slightly intense and overwhelming if your child is motivated purely to play basketball.
The coaching issue is another toss up because these coaches do not receive payment for their time. While this can be a positive thing, often times some coaches are difficult, strongly opinionated, and playing the favorites in a tough game. “Daddy ball” refers to parents who volunteer to coach teams solely to boost their own child’s game. Coaches like this should be avoided when choosing a team to play on.
As you can tell, AAU and YBOA tournaments and leagues are controversial at best. As long as you and your son or daughter have a good conversation about these issues, you’ll be able to make the best decision for you and your child when playing youth basketball.
Stay Tuned for my blog post about Coach Lawrence Gordon who has coached some of the top college basketball recruits in the AAU circuit