Parents Guide to AAU Basketball: 8th - 12th
This guide is intended to help parents understand how AAU works and the best way to find the best Club for your player. Below you will find many helpful tips on things that matter when it comes to picking the right Club. You are going to invest a lot of time and money into this journey, so you need to make sure you have all the information needed so you can make an informed decision. Club directors try to entice you and your player by making big promises that they most likely will not be able to deliver. Pay close attention and ask a lot of questions. Our hope is that this guide gives you the questions and inquiries that you may not have thought of yourself. This is a big decision, so do it right.
Club’s Objective/Mission Statement: Define “Win”
Club's College Retention Rate
Graduation Rate: Percentage of players that leave their club and have a college to play for.
Picking your coach: Qualifications and background
Playing time philosophy: Showcasing
Development and Purpose: Offensive and Defensive philosophies
Investment: Time and Money
Club’s Objective/Mission Statement: Define “Win”
The objective and mission of a club should be finding a college for every player on the roster. This includes Division 1, 2, and 3 as well as NAIA options.
Finding players a college that they will stay at, are able to compete at, and ultimately leave with a degree.
An AAU Club’s definition of “Win” should be focused on individual players reaching their goal of playing College basketball versus the Club’s win/loss record in National level tournaments. The “Win” for an AAU program should be defined by the number of student-athletes that stay at the college they choose and graduate with a degree.
Club’s College Retention Rate
One of the questions you should ask the Club Director would be to provide statistics on the number of players that have gone from their Club to college and have stayed at that college for the duration of their eligibility as a basketball player.
Graduation Rate: Percentage of players that leave Club and have a college to play for
Another question to ask the Club Director would be to provide a written history of the players that finished as seniors in that Club and went on to play college basketball. If they cannot provide that or their percentage is a very low rate that is a red flag. Players at the AAU level should be able to play at a college if they choose. A small percentage will play all the way through Club and then make the decision that they do not want to play college basketball. This is usually a very small percentage.
Picking your Coach: Qualifications and Background
Picking your coach is as equally important as picking your Club. When picking your Coach it is important to know that coach’s basketball history including background checks.
Questions that you should ask the Club Director or Coach would include: Did you play basketball? If yes, at what level? How many years coaching experience do you have? What does your experience consist of? Do you have a Club philosophy that all coaches must follow, including playing time and offensive and defensive philosophies? Is your focus during games on coaching or teaching?
The cost in AAU programs can vary considerably. When being quoted a price it is fair to ask for a breakdown of the fees. There are a lot of variables including things like sponsorships, endowment funds, paid coaches versus volunteer coaches, tournament fees, gym fees, and gear that all affect the overall price.
If the price if more than your family can afford, don’t be afraid to ask if there are payment plans, sponsors, scholarship dollars, or volunteer opportunities to earn money towards your fee.
The purpose of AAU is to find as much money toward a full scholarship as possible. This would include athletic, grant, and/or academic money. This requires a lot of work beyond just playing in front of college coaches.
A good Club works for you in this regard. Your Club should be providing you with space on their website for a player profile and film
Your Club should be contacting coaches on your behalf at the level of play that is suitable to that player. Pushing players to play at a level higher than they are capable or at a collage that isn’t a good fit for them as an individual generally ends in disappointment and failure for everyone involved.
A good Club is realistic, honest, and knowledgeable of a player’s level of play.
A good Club doesn’t judge their successes based solely on wins or how many players receive Division 1 scholarships. Rather, a good Club is capable and knowledgeable enough to evaluate a player and then help seek out colleges that fit that specific player’s needs and ability.
A good Club Coach/Director has a network of college coaches at every level and has the credentials to contact any college coach in the country. It is okay to ask the Director or Coach for a list of the colleges that they have relationships with. If they are unwilling to share that information, that is a red flag.
Playing Time Philosophy and Showcasing
The purpose of an AAU Club is to make sure that college coaches are able to watch players. If an AAU coach chooses to play traditionally by playing the game with only their top players deeming the rest of the bench as ‘subs’, the ‘subs’ may never get an opportunity to showcase their talents in front of college coaches. Simply being on an AAU team and being on the bench is not going to get you a college scholarship. Players have to be on the floor. This time on the floor has to be consistent minutes throughout the entire game/tournament so that a college coach is able to evaluate their ability.
Any player who has been given a roster spot on an AAU team should be good enough to play at any point in time of a game. Many Clubs take a player just to fill a roster spot. Make sure YOU ARE NOT THAT PLAYER.
These are all great thoughts to ask the Club Director/Coach. If your answers are not direct and to the point, then that is a red flag.
When reviewing a Club’s tournament schedule make sure that all scheduled tournaments will have college coaches in attendance.
The tournaments that you attend in July need to be NCAA Certified Tournaments to assure college coach attendance. Tournaments in May and June do not have to be NCAA certified, but should be tournaments that draw a decent amount of college coaches.
Development and purpose: Offensive and Defensive Philosophies
All basketball programs should focus on player development.
We should be trying to develop college level players, so it makes sense to continue developing vs creating super teams. Far too often the focus is on winning games/tournaments to make a program look good rather than focusing on individual development of all the players, which in turn leads to players receiving college attention.
Offensive and defensive concepts should be designed to allow players to showcase their individual talent within a team setting. Clubs should focus strictly on man-to-man defense so that college coaches can evaluate spatial awareness, foot speed, and quickness of each individual player. An offense should be designed to allow players to showcase their individual skillset including handling the ball, shooting, and ability to get to the basket, as well as post moves.
An AAU program should be developing individuals as players rather than specific positions. This makes a player much more marketable when it comes to being recruited by colleges.
Investment: Time and Money
Playing AAU basketball is an investment. You are going to spend a lot of money on club fees, travel fees, and gear. This investment that you are going to make is with the intent of receiving scholarship dollars. If you intend to make this investment you need to make sure that your player truly wants to commit to the rigors of playing college basketball and everything that it takes to get to that level.
You can spend all of your money and give up all of your time, but you can’t make a player want to play in college and you cannot do the work for them. Before you even begin to look for a club, answer these questions with your player first.
This guide was developed by talking to parents, players, college coaches, club coaches and from personal experience. It is intended to help you through the confusing process of AAU basketball. We hope you find this helpful and wish your player the best of luck in finding the perfect college that provides a great basketball experience and a college degree!
About the Author:
Pius XI High School class of 1980 State Champs
University of Kansas – 1980-82
University of Wisconsin – 1982-84
Chicago Spirit Women’s Professional basketball team
30 years of coaching experience
I have been recruited at the highest level
I have been through recruiting with my own children
I have been the coach on the recruiting side
I am 37 for 37 in getting players placed in college basketball
I am the director of 1on1 Milwaukee and head the recruiting
I am a female