The following is a brief AAU basketball primer. It is an attempt to provide basic information so you know what to expect by participating in the ROCKLAND AAU program.
ROCKLAND AAU- What to Expect
AAU basketball groups are independent clubs and organizations that form teams and participate in various tournaments throughout the year under the AAU umbrella organization. Important differences exist between AAU teams and school or travel team leagues:
- Season: The AAU season is largely dormant during the typical basketball season of November through February as most of the AAU players are playing on school, recreation, or travel programs. Most AAU teams are very active between March through June, with some programs also playing through the summer and fall.
- Team Placement: Team placements are typically in January and early February. AAU teams and tournaments are organized by age and gender. For example, a 12U girls’ team is defined as follows: “Born in 1996 or after or in the 7th grade & born in 1995 or after.”
- Variety: AAU teams are independent organizations with a lot of latitude as to type of team, practice and play schedule, costs, playing time, travel limits, coaching philosophy, etc. It’s important to match the right program with the needs of your child and you.
- Games: Most games are played in tournaments (some AAU sanctioned, some not) that take place on weekends. There are websites devoted to various tournaments, and there are tournaments somewhere almost every weekend of the year. Some teams play only locally, while others travel around New England. Some teams stay overnight in hotels for tournaments when the commute is long, and elite teams at older levels might even fly to a tournament or two.
- Cost and time: There’s a significant money and time commitment to participating in AAU. Costs vary but can range from $500 to $1000 or more per year—not counting travel, meals, and hotels. As for time involvement, this is also variable, but many AAU teams practice one to two nights per week and play 2-3 weekend tournaments per month.
- Your child will likely improve. Youth sports have changed and become more competitive. Growing up, many of us played a new sport each season. While some parents still prefer this approach, many of the best basketball players now play year-round and participate in AAU. As a child grows older and competition increases, the ability to make teams becomes tougher. Children who practice and play a sport in the off-season generally improve more than kids who don’t. This specialization is occurring in all sports, and there are significantly fewer high-school multi-sport varsity athletes than even a decade ago.
- Your child will experience a more focused program. While AAU can seem intense, there are important life lessons in focus and commitment. We live in a competitive world, and we want our children to be dedicated and to strive for excellence. Because of the required commitment, a well-run AAU team will give your child a deeper, richer sports experience than most recreation or travel league teams. You can find outstanding coaches and resources that match the best that top high schools offer.
- You have more flexibility in picking a program. With travel and school teams, there are fewer options and more rigid rules as far as practices, playing time, etc. The AAU system is a free market, where programs come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit various needs. Most programs are quite competitive, use experienced coaches, and cater to serious basketball players.
- AAU teams are important recruiting grounds for colleges. Due to scheduling conflicts (college coaches are busy with their own teams during the winter) and the chance to see kids play against top competition, AAU tournaments have become important in college recruiting. But this should be taken in context:
- Most college recruiting does not take place until high school, and with a few exceptions, not until a player is a junior or senior. College coaches do not attend 12U games unless their own kids are playing or the next LeBron James is on the floor. The NCAA has strict rules on recruiting, and you should refer to the website for more information here.
- If your kid is good enough, the colleges will find him or her regardless of the setting.
- The vast majority of kids, including those on AAU teams, do not play in college. Making a certain AAU team guarantees nothing. No AAU program will be able to guarantee your child will be exposed to any college program.
Advantages of AAU
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