OT - Kids Playing AAU Sports

Submitted by xtramelanin on March 25th, 2016 at 5:33 AM


One of the kids has been invited to play on an AAU hoops team starting next week.  We have avoided these things because of the strain on the rest of the family, but are leaning toward saying 'yes' to this, this one time.  I know there are lots of athletes on this board and those whose children are participating in all manner of sports, including basketball.

My question to the MgoParents, and I guess some of you who played AAU, is basically this:  What were your experiences with AAU hoops (other AAU sports?) in terms of time invested, travel, coaching, improvement of your athlete and visibility for possible college and any other relevant metrics that you care to share?

Thank you,


EDIT:  I want to say 'Thank You' to you all that have posted.  Great info and insight, which was exactly what I was hoping for.   Very helpful. 



March 25th, 2016 at 6:22 AM ^

Can't speak as a parent but as a player back in the day. My parents couldn't always make it, other parents would be more than happy to help out with taking care of your kid on road trips. Let your kid participate. AAU ball was some of the most fun I've ever had playing basketball.

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March 25th, 2016 at 6:50 AM ^

Some of it is really, really terrible.  Some of it is really, really good.  All depends on who is in charge (the coaching).  Talk to some of the team parents first to see if it is for you and your son.  Are the best players playing?  Is the coach's son sucking up tons of minutes even though he completely blows?  Is there actually coaching happening?  Is there accountability for players and their actions?  What are practices like?  From a basketball standpoint, is there any teaching of fundamentals, sets, defenses, etc?  Or is it just a bunch of chucking, driving, and eurostepping?


March 25th, 2016 at 6:43 AM ^

As an AAU alum, it is all about exposure. As a parent of a child that is playing select soccer, I see exposure and additional skills vs. those that are either playing rec or lower level club soccer. Parents are always willing to help out.

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March 25th, 2016 at 7:27 AM ^


We were involved with travel teams.  As a parent, I was disturbed by the political side of things.  Coaches from other teams trying to talk you into switching to their team the next year.  Parents using their power and taking groups of kids to other teams becasue they don't like the way coach is playing their kids.  There is a level of "Team" that has been lost.  There are exceptions where it's like a unbreakable family.  Parents don't pay for AAU or travel so that their kid can be Team Utility palyer so there is always someone who is upset.  Side note, it definately interupts worship days depending on your religius practice.


Get the right system and coach and your child will distance themselves athletically.  My daughter excelled when those around her were better.  By default, she had to play harder and I really don't think you can teach that in drills or less than competition.  Exposure comes after the age of 13 i would say where other outside of your team start tracking your child.

I would consider doing it, but it needs to be something the child really really wants.  Forcing them burns out.  Also agree with Dreisbach on asking about the organization, team and coach's philosophy and system.  It must match how you raise & teach your child.   



March 25th, 2016 at 8:04 AM ^

I am a parent of a girl AAU bball player.  I coach her team and have for 6 years.  I have kids recruited away every year and other people try to recruit away some kids. I have even had people try to recruit my daughter AND me away to a different club haha.  


That said, there is nothing like it.  The camaraderie that can be built between the kids and the parents is second to none because there isn't the inherent "competition" that happens in a school setting.  My daughter loves her AAU teammates and cannot wait to start up again next month. 




March 25th, 2016 at 8:03 AM ^

On developing kids and getting them top level exposure without exploiting them I don't mind AAU. My son and I watched a kid have a breakout game last year at the Adidas Fab 48 and that one game made him leap into the ESPN top 100. Not to mention there were like 50 top level D-1 coaches in attendance as well.


March 25th, 2016 at 12:46 PM ^

daughter plays 15U AAU in the 16U division for volleyball. Her coach is a local legend who still plays professionally. The TEAM has learned more this season than from their HS program. Talking with D1 coaches I know, AAU is a great recruiting environment because they are typically playing "out of season" and coaches are able to recruit an entire tournament of athletes...the odds of on site exposure is high IF thats what you want.
Son played travel baseball as the local community league is incredibly corrupt. League organizers have teams and make sure they take all the talent and win every game by 30 runs...my son started in 12U at 11 and the team was poorly coached and wasnt a good experience so that does happen. 13U he changed teams and had a great experience. 14/15U he had an excellent coach who played at WVU and some assistants who played minor league. the growth and exposure was phenominal. His first year of high school ball he is head and shoulders ahead of team peers


March 25th, 2016 at 8:48 AM ^

Late 90s early 00s. Two things to take away. The coach and the "mission" of the team. First team I played on was basically a regional all-star team. Games were seldom competitive. We either destroyed teams or got destroyed. Not much improvement because it was basically little more than pickup games even in "practice". Then some parents complained and we got an actual coach. That coach, coached us all the way to a regional championship tournament as well as an older team he was coaching so he ditched us in that tournament for another team. Was crushing to us. Long story short, they were fun, but they can be damaging to a kid if they're not handled properly and that puts a lot of effort on parents. Second part to that is make sure it's what the kid wants as it can burn them out. My .02.


March 25th, 2016 at 9:15 AM ^

Yes, every single time. There are very few avenues in life that can teach the same principles as high level athletics. And as I obviously don't know you, I have to say I'm not a fan of "avoiding these things because of the strain on the rest of the family." Don't hold your kids back from opportunity. Let em try, let em fail. You'll all be better for it.

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March 25th, 2016 at 10:56 AM ^

i played in college and continued football until my early 40's, still do short tri's, etc.  but we keep the kids local for the most part, plus, summer time is busy time on the farm and that takes priority.  normal football/basketball/wrestling/hockey doesn't impact summer, and those are hard enough to juggle with the larger than average family we have.


March 25th, 2016 at 9:38 AM ^

I would be cautious of non-high school athletics. A lot of the teams are pay to play, even though they invite you. I am also very cautious of sports specialization. Many of the coaches at the next level that I have talked to are looking for athletes who can play their sport. 

In the end it comes down to three things:

1) Is the student athlete playing because they want to or because they were asked?

2) Is the student lifting or working out to increase muscular strength, flexibility, and becoming a more complete athlete?

3) Does it allow your student to still be a kid? If they are on the go and "playing" without breaks, are they having time to recover, grow, and have a life outside of sports? If not, maybe it is time to slow down. 

With the percentage of HS athletes who actually make it to the college level, what percentages of those make it to the pros and make a living off of their athletic talent? ? To steal from the NCAA commercial, most of us major in something other than sports. 




March 25th, 2016 at 11:01 AM ^

we are allowing this b/c she wants it. we would not have otherwise gotten involved.

she is lifting/running, etc with the rest of us, so yeah, other activities going on.

we school year-round, but that allows a more leisurely pace.  the farm takes a fair amount of time in the summer.  i am told this will be a couple of practices a week, relatively close to home, and then some weekend tournaments.  to be done in a 2 month time period. 


Section 35

March 25th, 2016 at 9:47 AM ^

How old is your kid?

Why do you want them to play?

Why do they want to play?

It used to be only the best players played on AAU / Travel teams. Today you still have that aspect but now it is also which parents can afford to pay for their hopes of their son/daughter to get a scholarship. If parents would save their "travel team money" they could fund their own scholarship when its time for college. Most parents have no idea the rigorous demands of being a college student athlete. I wish I could do college again as a normal student. Dont get me wrong, my years as a student athete were some of the best years of my life. They were also some of the worst.

Exposure? Sometimes yes. Most of the time I say BS. If you have the athletic ability then you are going to get recognized. I came from a podunk town in the middle of Michigan and still got scholarship to the Greatest University in the World. Go Blue!  


March 25th, 2016 at 9:48 AM ^

Does your son play baseball or run Track? That's the season we are in now, so have them do that instead of basketball. No need to specialize at a young age. Play multi-sports because that's what Harbaugh likes :)


March 25th, 2016 at 9:49 AM ^

Good discussion on here, guys. This gives me a bit more perspective on Select Soccer, which might be something my daughter wants to do in few years.

Michigan Eaglet

March 25th, 2016 at 10:10 AM ^

I played AAU (and I'll inculde the time I played the weekends in the spring and summer at Aim High since that was semi-organized but not true AAU) for 4 years from after rmy 8th grade season to senior year of high school for one the bigger AAU basketball programs in the Metro Detroit Area. For me, I loved it and even though my high school team was competiive, it was tough to get a lot of people together after the season due to playing other sports, so AAU gave me the opportunity to play a lot more often with a lot players I otherwise wouldn't and get an exposure to many different skill sets. There was always college scouts at the tournaments and you could tell when two good teams (or players) were facing off because almost every seat around the court would be filled with them.

The team I played for had players ranging from Mr. Basketball to borderline (if that) potential D-3 players, myself very much in the latter group. I know that I definitely got a lot better mentally through understanding how other athletes would react or work in different situations and although, as many can attest, the style of AAU basketball is WAY different from hgih school or college, it is still beneficial. It's much more run and gun and less scripted plays. In basketball though, you can run the best plays in the world, but if you don't have good enough athletes and shooters, you just won't get far, and that's where AAU really shines from that type of development. When I was watching one of guys I played with for 2 years on TV a couple years ago (on an unnamed Big Ten team), I would tell my buddies to watch for specific types of drives or moves from this guy and then without fail he go do exactly what I said he would. It was a little surreal to see the guy I was running down the court with a year or two earlier in the summer was now on prime time TV, but I took what I learned from the coaches and players I played with and incorporated that into my game and that gave me a better understanding of the game and better situational awareness and reaction time.

I know there are politics involved often and for me I was more football focused, so I was more playing for fun and love of the game, I didn't get involved in any of that, but it does exist and you just have to try and find the right group of coaches and players to stick with. 

As far as time and travel requirements, I traveled with the team unless the games were relatively local (Toledo was about as far as my family drove to watch), There were tournaments pretty much every weekend and if they were far away, you might have to leave early on a Friday or something. Most of the time it was just coaches with us, but since a lot of the parents were involved and assitsants coaches themselves, we always had a decent presence. We didn't have any costs to the players since we had sponsors and had pretty good reputation, so I can't speak to that angle, but we did get shoes and bags and that kind of stuff that I still use to this day (my Jordan backpack has lasted me 7 years, thank god we got them). I ran track in the spring, so I didn't go to every tournament we played in and we practiced a couple nights a week. It was really a situation of you get out what you put in. If you made it a priority to be there and get better, you would play even if you weren't one of the best 5. 

All in all, I'd recommend it and just get on the best team you can, because the same principles as picking a college apply. Unless you're a superstar, be in a place where you are more in the middle talent wise so you can be pushed and driven to get better by those around you, but not so much so that you'd get overwhelmed.


March 25th, 2016 at 12:43 PM ^

Very good answer - especially the last paragraph

I've been  an high school coach and an AAU coach, plus my son has participated in AAU.

If your son LOVES basketball, I recommend you do it for at least a year. After that you'll know whether to find a different team and you'll be much better able to judge what a good team might be for your son (coaching, talent level, time/cost commitment, exposure, friends, etc).

There are SO MANY levels of AAU. If your son is looking at potential college, AAU is great. If not, then it might be a money and time drain unless you are good enough to be on a fully sponsored team. The costs can easily get into the several thousand per year depending on the travel.

The coaching ranges from great, to thouroughly horrible - where kids can even get worse to some degree. But as stated above, they usually will learn at least one-on-one skills and a fighter's attitiude about being aggressive with the ball. This breads confidence and is a major, major characteristic for any elite athelete.

It can make the kid feel special - travelling for sport is usually as close to professional as our kids will get, so it is a unique opportunity that is for the top 1% players. However, there is a hugh difference between the top 1% and the top .01%. This is where there are so many types of AAU ball. 

If your son is good enough to be on a good team - recommend it for at least a year. If your son is good enough to be on just any AAU team, then they need people like you to pay the costs to keep the team afloat. This might be worth it if your son loves the game and you have the extra cash. At least for a year.

Coaches will always appear good at first. Check out the last several year records. See what tournaments they went to and how they did. Average teams can lose by 50 to great teams and it can be pretty frustrating. Hopefully if you are an average AAU team, they will travel to a couple regional tournaments where the kids will see top level teams. But MOST of the tournaments will be more local and fit better with your team's level. That is best for the kids! Some coaches try and schedule way above their level because they have dreams that aren't helpful.

My son played a couple years. Rising sophomore JV player will be varsity next year. 2nd best player at his grade at his HS. Better than avg AAU team that was partially sponsored. Terrible coaching with scheduling way above his team's level ruined one year. Solid coaching with more balanced scheduling provided one great yaer.

My son is not doing AAU this year and instead is doing 7-on-7 passing league football. That is his focus going forward. I'm happy about this as it is less time and money and he seems happier about it. Plus, he plays with spring high school varsity travel team where the varsity coach sets up local tournaments against reagional high schools so he still stays involved.

Know your kid's level, expectation, and goals. Know your team's level, coaching, scheduling.


March 25th, 2016 at 11:50 AM ^

I love it. There's so many great friends from the summers together. The families become so close along with the kids. Plus the competition and number of games really helped with some development that couldn't happen in practice. And I enjoy it because of the travel and together it creates with our own family. 


March 25th, 2016 at 1:24 PM ^

I can't speak on the parent side of things as my kids are still young, but I played AAU ball for several years. Even as a kid, I noticed a lot of the politics involved by the adults. Also, there was definitely a big time committment.

All of that said, it was some of the best times of my life. It also helped my game tremendously from playing against elite players from all over, as opposed to just dominating the local leagues.

a different Jason

March 25th, 2016 at 1:54 PM ^

AAU did not exist when I was young, at least at its present level. I have one daughter in AAU softball and another starting this year. If it didn't crush their dreams, I would say no. Its a pain in the ass. From a time perspective but also expensive. The one good take away, the kuh-ray-zee shit you hear from other parents. I bet 75% think they are going to get college money for it. If that's the goal, send them to piano lessons. And some yell at their kid, the other kids, the other teams kids. Its nuts.

a different Jason

March 25th, 2016 at 2:45 PM ^

If going in you have visibility of the costs, the schedule and time frame, you should be ok. When coaches start group texting about unscheduled games they want to play, it gets old fast. One time I responded with, "That's nice, have fun." 3 parents came up and thanked me for being the one to say no. I had kids because my wife wanted them. Not because I want to haul their little butt all over creation to sit and watch another boring kids sporting event. I would rather spend time fishing, not for trout though. I'm gonna warn ya, the first game is fun, the second is Ok. The third is the killer. That's when it gets boring. Their isn't an AAU parent alive who hasn't at some point wished that their kids team would lose so they can go home.

There are great things about it too. They make friends outside their core group, the are exposed to higher levels of competition, they meet more coaches and get better instruction. They spend more time with you before and after games where you are really able to speak to them while they are listening.

Chris S

March 25th, 2016 at 8:48 PM ^

I played on a high level AAU basketball team and it was the best experience of my life. I was a small-pond kid and then I got invited to try out for The Family AAU Organization out of Detroit my freshman year in high school. It was a rude awakening but getting exposed to that level of competition helped me not only in basketball, but as a business owner now.

I do have to say, however, that it was the coach who made it a special experience. He was, and still is, the only coach I have ever met who emphasizes fundamentals - meet the pass, defensive stance, tight dribbling - to that extent. The all-americans and D-1 guys were not given a free pass either. I got lucky playing him. Even as a lower-level player, he still gave me a lot of attention and direction.

On the other hand, I can definitely empathize with some of the parents and kids who are against it. There are plenty of bad programs out there, and even the good ones aren't for everyone.

too long, didn't read: if your son is not serious about basketball (has aspirations to play college or beyond), I'd recommend against it and just throw together a weekend team for local tournaments. If he is serious, find a coach who demands fundamentals.