The world of AAU is not one that carries a good reputation. That is why I was asked to write a book on the subject. So many people and media outlets constantly criticize AAU Basketball, and for good reason. I have been asked to send an email to thousands of parents that are attending various national venues to assist them in preparing their children for success within the sport!
That preparation starts and ends with one vital decision, what AAU program or COACH they will play for!!! This decision is make or break! Will that coach be able to provide experiences and opportunities that will assist the child in attaining success and reaching their goals??
I recently had discussions with NCAA reps and USA Basketball reps and there is a better effort than ever to fix what is wrong with the AAU System. Their efforts are vital, to clean up the system, but the ultimate "fix" is parents choosing the correct coaches and not falling for the tricks and schemes of the money grabber!
The problem with AAU starts with the parents and I always say this when I hold parent meetings at the National Camps I run around the world and basketball conferences clinics I hold for various companies. Parents are not a problem because of behavior, they are a problem based on being naive. They choose the wrong programs. They have the wrong goals and expectations for the program they belong to. Some are being fooled by coaches that should not be coaching anyone!! No RESUME! The parents might only be concerned with winning! They might be concerned with "looks", peripheral things that do not matter. Coaches are the most important aspect of an AAU program! Are your kids being coached by a competent adult that has connections and experience that has been trained to work with young kids. Do they have a teaching certification? Have they been a head coach at a High School or an assistant/head coach in College?? The reason why that is important is in order to be a head coach of an educational institution, you must be vetted and interviewed and passed courses. You must be held accountable.
Many coaches that coach AAU were fired from high school jobs for cause, but ANYONE can coach AAU! So, if a coach has been fired for misbehavior, go coach AAU! Is that who is coaching your child? Going on road trips providing no supervision? So many programs have kids coaching! So many programs have no mentorship! So many programs do not provide life lessons. So many programs just want to win and never place the advancement of the student athlete first and foremost. OTHER PROGRAMS ONLY CARE ABOUT MAKING MONEY!!!! In my experiences, it is usually one or the other! If you find a coach or program that is concerned with LIFE LESSONS and BASKETBALL DEVELOPMENT, you have a winner! Look for a program that gives you what is most valuable, a positive experience that your child can learn from.”
I would always want my child to be coached by a person that has a background in education, a background in teaching/coaching, a background of national experience. So many coaches are like a USED CAR SALESMAN, or POLITICIAN! They will make a presentation and sales pitch that works on parents that are naive. So many coaches fool parents and then it is too late to make the proper and required change. The parents often times realize (usually too late), that they made the wrong choice.
It is the parents responsibility to make sure their child is playing for a coach that is honest and true. To ensure that their child is playing for a coach that treats everyone fairly and teaches life lessons through the sport. The coach must teach the student athlete what it takes to make it to the next level. FUNDAMENTALS!! All these "TRAINERS" and "COACHES" that claim to know things, do NOT! SO MANY KIDS PLAY FOR INCOMPETENT COACHES!! It is the parents job to make sure their child is coached HARD. HONEST. EVALUATED. Does the coach provide visual feedback? Do they evaluate the kids? Do they provide an assessment to the parents of the kids performance?
Be careful PARENTS!! You are responsible for choosing who has influence over your child. Take this responsibility very seriously. Picking a program that your child plays for is a massive responsibility. Picking that coach is even more vital! Is that program being run by people that only concern themselves with money? What is the "actual" mission statement of the program? Are things done in a professional and respectful manner? Is the channel of communication wide open and constant? Often times the program is being run by someone that has never coached or does not coach. They are people just collecting money. In that instance, who are the coaches? Are they coaches that have run programs before? The parents need to do their due diligence before choosing who to play for. Does that coach have a track record of getting kids to the next level? Kids that are successful citizens within their community?
Pick who coaches your child wisely. John Wooden once told me that being called "COACH" is the greatest honor a person can have. These things I am saying in this email have come from decades of experience, 3 decades to be honest! I have learned these things from great mentors, like Coach Wooden. having the privilege of sitting with Coach Wooden privately on several occasions taught me more than anyone or anything.
LET ME BE BLUNT HERE...Do not just choose a coach that will PLAY YOUR KID THE MOST!! Do not choose the coach that gives you "GEAR". Do not play for a coach that accumulates talent and wins because of that talent yet never really teaches or coaches the kids. Do not play for coaches that never have been a head coach or been a teacher and have a certification of working with children. Do not play for coaches that never discipline the student athlete when discipline is called for. Never play for a coach that is easily influenced politically. Never play for a coach that coaches for money, last to arrive and first to leave.
Try your best to play for a coach that has been a head coach before. A coach that has connections to the national level of basketball, whether USA Basketball or NCAA events Play for a coach that has been there and done that! Do not play for coaches that only want your money and provide no feedback. Do not play for coaches that only want to win and will do whatever it takes to WIN, especially at the lower levels. Play for coaches that do not simply play zone and trap! Play for coaches that teach the fundamentals! Do not play for 20-something coaches that have no clue. They will instill bad habits and before you realize this, it will be too late.
As you all start to prepare for the summer of 2018, as you prepare for the NCAA CERTIFIED events and summer camps, remember these words! Do not participate in events run by coaches that simply use cones and get their drills off youtube! No more "TRAINERS", you can get trained by YOUTUBE! You need to get COACHED, not TRAINED! Have a MENTOR! Someone that KNOWS the game! STAY AWAY FROM MONEY GRABBING CAMPS!
Play for coaches that care. Play for coaches that have a resume. We need to eliminate the bad within this great sport. We need to fix AAU. This starts with you, your decisions. Stop falling for the gimmicks. Do not play for easy coaches, play for coaches that are demanding, professional, honest and experienced. This one decision, especially at the early ages of 9-15, will have more of an affect on your child than you know. Do the right thing.
Best of luck to you and I am sure I will see you this summer.