STARTING AN AAU BASKETBALL TEAM
Starting an AAU Basketball team is the dream of many basketball coaches as AAU Basketball is the most competitive level of youth basketball in the country. Here are some pointers for building a successful AAU Basketball team.
AAU Basketball is one of the fastest growing segments of the youth sports industry. Club teams for both boys and girls range from players as young as 8 years old all the way through high school. When it comes to youth basketball, AAU is the most competitive level of play out there. So how does one get started?
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To start an AAU basketball team, you obviously need players. When it comes to selecting your team, be sure to identify players that offer different skill-sets. Make sure you have several players that can handle the ball, rebound, shoot, and play defense. An important asset to look for in a player is coachability. Does this player have the will and drive to improve? To have a successful team, you don’t need an all-star roster. More importantly, look for players that can contribute in various ways and have a team-first attitude. Because there are no roster-size limits, you can have as few as five kids to as many as fifteen or more! I recommend somewhere between 8-10 committed players. You want to have enough depth on your bench in case of fouls, injuries, or players that are absent; however too many players will result in fewer available minutes and less chemistry on the court. Remember the more kids you have on your team, the harder it is to develop chemistry and to give players personal attention.
Once you have selected your team, it’s time to meet with the parents and lay out the basic expectations and costs. There are obvious fees associated with AAU basketball. Unlike a league where you pay a set fee up front, AAU costs can range dramatically depending on how many tournaments you enter, gym time for practices, uniforms and equipment, traveling fees, etc. Unless you have a sponsor, which may be difficult to obtain when you are just starting out, those costs are going to come from your players’ families. Keep in mind that the more players you keep on your roster, the more the team fees are divided; however that may also result in less game time for each player. In addition to explaining the costs, make sure to give parents an idea of your coaching background and philosophy, as well as what you expect from your players in terms of commitments. Good communication with your players’ families will be an important part of building a strong foundation for your program.
AAU offers elite-level youth basketball competition. For that reason, you want to be well prepared before throwing your team into the fire of tournament play. When you feel you are ready to test your team’s mettle, do a search for the local AAU-sanctioned events in your area. While AAU basketball runs year round, the “peak season” for tournaments takes place between March to August. Tournaments come in all shapes, sizes, and formats. They can range in cost from anywhere to $125-$400 or more. In most cases, you are guaranteed at least three games and can expect to play on both a Saturday and Sunday of a given weekend.
So what should you expect in your first tournament? For the most part, your team will likely play against experienced teams from the metro area you reside in. Unlike youth basketball leagues that may emphasize sportsmanship and fun, AAU can be a bit cutthroat. There are no rules against continuous pressing or running up the score and at times talented squads may ruthlessly take it to less-experienced clubs. Be prepared to take your lumps early on, even if you have a talented team. Championship clubs are not built overnight.
Over the course of a season, set realistic goals for your club and emphasize improvement. Also, keep things fun. Too often, the win at all costs mentality burns kids out and turns them off to continuing with the program. Make your players’ experience with AAU memorable and rewarding by helping them to improve their abilities and offering them opportunities to show what they can do. This will be the key to starting an AAU basketball team and building it into a successful one!
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