AAU Basketball: Pros and Cons

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Advantages and Disadvantages of AAU Basketball

Written By Lamar Hull @ Google+


aau basketball

As your child’s basketball season comes to an end, they may be interested in playing AAU basketball in the summer. My goal for this article is to help people understand the purpose of AAU basketball and provide some advantages and disadvantages of this basketball organization. We will also discuss why some NBA players, such as Kobe Bryant have publicly expressed their concern with AAU basketball. I think it is super important for parents, coaches, and players to understand if AAU basketball is right for their player, son or daughter. If you are not even sure what AAU is; AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) is a non-profit volunteer organization established to provide sports activities for our youth. It has consistently grown over the past years to be a dominant and leading sport’s association. It is exclusively dedicated to promote physical fitness and development of amateur sports’ programs. AAU was founded with a goal of creating universal standards in amateur sports. AAU offers young players with the opportunity to play team sports in their local community and compete against other young athletes their age from around the country. AAU offers team events in several different sports with AAU boys and AAU girls basketball being two of the largest. Ages in most AAU sporting events range from 9U to 18U, allowing children to play for championships against other children similar in age and athletic development.

What are the Advantages of AAU Basketball?

In my opinion, I believe AAU basketball can have a great impact on improving the basketball skills of young basketball players. This depends on the coach and what they are trying to accomplish while handling young players. Are they truly teaching the fundamentals of the game? Are the coaches teaching life lessons to help young players mature a lot faster? Are players getting the opportunity to compete with some of the best players? These are some questions that should be answered when looking at the advantages of AAU basketball. AAU basketball has developed and become very competitive all over the country. My second point is that AAU basketball provides the best environment for young kids to gain experience of being with and playing against other passionate players which they probably wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise. When kids play AAU basketball, they will also get the chance to travel. Traveling can be an influential factor as they mature and sooner or later make a decision on the type of college they would like to attend. The traveling aspect of AAU is a great opportunity for young players to see what it is like to be on a tight schedule and play a lot of basketball. This is similar to what your child will experience in college if they have the opportunity to play at that level. A lot of games, practicing, and traveling.

AAU basketball will allow your child to experience a more focused program. AAU basketball provides important life lessons such as; commitment and focus. These two words are important to my college basketball coach. I learned a lot about this in my AAU days. Both my parents and I had to be committed so that I could be at every game. The games or tournaments could be in different areas every weekend. I had to be focus and practice daily, so that I could compete with some of the best basketball players around the world. Generally, all of us live in a competitive world. We always want our kids to be dedicated and strive to achieve the best. AAU meets the required commitment to give your child a richer and deeper experience in sports. For the most part, AAU has adequate resources and outstanding coaches with adequate skills in helping your child develop. There is also flexibility in choosing which team your child should play for. The AAU system is more of a free market where a variety of programs come in different sizes and shapes to meet various needs. The great thing about AAU basketball is there are 3 different levels. Each level being different in skill and competition. If your child is good, but wants to develop their basketball confidence on the court, then maybe a lower level AAU division may be better for them. There is also YBOA which is similar to AAU but is equivalent to AAU’s lower basketball level in terms of competition and skill. Most of the programs are generally competitive and have experienced coaches.

Another advantage is that a lot of the AAU basketball players are passionate about basketball and are some of the best in the country. A lot of college basketball recruiters will come to watch players play in an AAU basketball tournament. Generally, competing and playing against high profile basketball players will have a great impact on developing your player’s skills and confidence. If it wasn’t for AAU, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play against Chris Paul. We were two North Carolina kids from different parts of the state. Chris Paul is now a NBA player, but in our AAU days, I was able to go head-to-head against him. He scored 27 points and I scored 26. This was a HUGE confidence booster for me knowing he had some basketball credibility already. High level competition is usually beneficial in the long run for any player. Playing against all types of basketball players, helped me develop my basketball IQ on the court. AAU basketball will basically provide challenges to test your player’s work ethic and skills. Playing frequently increases confidence in a player and thus improves the quality of his/her game. I will tell you a quick story, when I was playing for the Newton Flames 12U we would always get beat by a superstar Gastonia AAU team. They were the same aged kids, but were bigger, stronger and faster. We were a local team with local talented players, but the Gastonia team recruited players all around the Charlotte community. Year after year we would lose to them in a major way. I would say we would get beat by 20 points each game, but like the little engine that could, one year, we won the entire Gastonia AAU basketball tournament. And to top it off, we beat the Gastonia AAU team to win it all. I remember it like it was yesterday, the team had seen us a million times and was sure they had another AAU tournament championship under their belt. They even came out blasting their victory music and singing “We-Are-The-Champions!” before the game started.

It got to the point were it was annoying and cocky! We played one of our best games ever! Every player was hitting on all cylinders. My best friend, RIP…Piggy Shuford, dunked the basketball on a fast break. This was the team’s first dunk ever in a game! I lead the team in scoring and was MVP of the tournament. The Gastonia kids were crying their eyes out because they didn’t think they could get beat by us. The moral of the story, we were able to play against some really good talent, finally beat them and gain the confidence that we needed to improve our basketball skills, confidence and maturity as a team and individuals. Ultimately, AAU basketball leagues and tournaments have a high level of exposure. They provide a strong base in developing young kids’ basketball goals. This is so true, if it wasn’t for AAU, I may have never become as passionate about the game. I was able to play against so many other good players, which pushed me to become a better basketball player.

I mentioned this before, but this is another huge advantage for AAU basketball. AAU teams, tournaments, leagues, and etc. provide an essential recruiting ground for college and university basketball scouts. The advantage here is that college basketball recruiters can to attend to see all of the good players in one place or area. They can see AAU players play in several games in any given AAU tournament. You wouldn’t believe it, but some young basketball players aren’t discovered until they join a successful AAU basketball program and are found because of their consistent performance against other talented players. Another positive aspect of AAU is that college coaches will get to know AAU Coaches and parents so that they can eventually recruit their talented player(s).

Charlotte Cougars AAU Boys Basketball

What are the Disadvantages of AAU Basketball?

During the training programs; injuries, burnouts and stress issues may arise from playing so much basketball. It is important to consider the time, commitment and cost particularly when your child plays a lot of basketball. In AAU, you play A LOT of basketball. I remember when I played and coached a AAU team, we could have played anywhere from 3-5 games in one day on one hour intervals. This was tough for a lot of players because they would run out of gas by the end or get hurt before then. Another disadvantage of AAU is that it can take away the time your child has to improve their basketball skills. The time left for your child or player to work on their skills is minimal. If your child wants to be really good, it is essential for your child not to only play in competitive games, but also practice to improve and develop their basketball fundamentals.

This can sometimes be a BIG disadvantage of AAU and that is the parents and fans. Parents appear to be the worst hinders at many of these AAU basketball tournaments. You will find that some parents are living vicariously through their child and start complaining about their child’s playing time and many other things. I have seen parents yell at other young players using words they shouldn’t be. I have seen parents fight amongst themselves and take the competitive nature of the program too serious. Parents and fans will also hassle the referees by using vulgar language, which isn’t setting the right example for these young kids. I have seen some parents make AAU a business. They have a young player that is really good, the parent wants to know what the team or coach can do for them. This way the child or parent can get something out of the deal.

This thought transitions very well in to my next statement. Another critical disadvantage of AAU basketball can be the coaches. The coaches do not receive payment for coaching an AAU basketball team. AAU basketball coaches can be really tough on their young players. Sometimes this causes coaches to not be easy going and can always be strongly opinionated; in most cases they play their favorite players in tough games. Obviously, coaches with these habits should be completely avoided when selecting a team to play for. Coaches, like parents, can treat AAU like a business. The end goal is what can you do for me? Finally, college recruiting has strict rules which should be observed. College recruiting does not take place until a basketball player goes to high school. College coaches usually don’t attend games played by children under the age of twelve.

Kobe Bryant calls AAU basketball “Stupid”

In Kobe’s exact words, he is not pleased with the way the AAU basketball program is ran currently.
kobe calls AAU basketball stupid

kobe aau basketball

Image Courtsey of SI.com


In my opinion, AAU basketball is undoubtedly one of the best youth sports organization to help develop the skills of our young players. It aims at fully nurturing the skills and talents of our young and talented players in a competitive environment. Whether I believe Kobe Bryant’s remarks are true or false doesn’t matter, but I do think there are some disadvantages and advantages with the organization like anything else. If your child or player has the opportunity to play for a good coach or team that truly focuses on developing their individual and team skills as well as their character, then I would say give AAU a try. All of the other stuff that I mention in this article comes with the territory, but could still provide a positive experience if your child is exposed to the right people within the organization. Some AAU teams have basketball tryouts, which is good because you can get a feel for the environment. Overall, my personal experience whether as a player or coach has been positive and I would encourage those players who still dream and want to become successful basketball players to give AAU a try.

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