Getting the Most out of the “AAU” Experience

Getting the Most out of the “AAU” Experience
Mike Lee, NBA Skills Trainer

As the spring approaches many players and parents are choosing their AAU/Grassroots club.  I’ve received a few emails lately asking thoughts on where to play and I thought if one person is asking – usually others are thinking the same thing.  Here are few thoughts to get the most out of your AAU/Grassroots experience as possible.


How many tournaments should we play?

This statement sums up how I feel about how many games and tournaments you should play.  “If you start the beginning of the spring with a weak left hand and go play 100 games from April – July, at the end of the summer you are still going to have a weak left hand.”  You should be working on your individual skills 4 times as much as you play games.  If a team plays 2-3 tournaments in April, May, takes June off for high school and July that’s 6-9 tournaments which I think is about right, depending on your age.  Am I saying playing AAU and games are bad and all you should do is workout?  ABSOLUTELY NOT – you need balance.  As much as you can try you cannot exactly recreate game situations in a workout – you need to play.


My kid needs exposure

No they don’t. For the most part basketball has a natural process of getting kids to the level they belong at – for the most part.  There are obviously exceptions to the rule, like Steph Curry, but his story is evidence to my point. Being good enough and YOU finding the right fit is way more important and in your control then who comes to watch you.  I know of AAU program, which seems to push their kids to attend NCAA DI schools, when I rarely see any of them really excel, let alone contribute, at that level.  Would they have a better experience and enjoy it more, maybe playing a slightly lower level?  Probably.  With that being said, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with accepting an offer to be part of an elite program where you go into the situation knowing you might not have a chance for many minutes.  You can absolutely be a huge contributor in other ways — every elite program needs great teammates and a great scout team.


Choosing a program

Choose a program for your child based on who is going to coach them. Not how much free gear they get or if you can play for free.  Ultimately your child’s development and experience is going to depend on who is spending the most time with them. Understandably, finances are an obstacle for some families, however, every legitimate program will have fundraising opportunities to cover your expenses.  

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