With the high school basketball season coming to an end, many families are now preparing to make the decision of what AAU program to compete for.  I have seen players have great AAU experiences and I have witnessed the devastating impact of being on the wrong team. This one choice can make the difference between your child excelling and improving in 2019, or getting frustrated with basketball and possible quitting the sport for all together! Coaches and players will tell you what you want to hear, but I suggest you sit down as a family, discuss your goals and establish an executable game plan.  I am going through this process right now with Jayden, my 15 year old daughter.  She is coming off her first high school season where she went through the full range of experiences;  great games and painful to watch games, pure excitement from winning and tears of disappointment in a loss. In the end, she made All League Second Team and has caught the eye of many coaches.

With success comes more work. We need to make sure we choose a team that is the right fit for what she wants to accomplish this year. AAU is a family commitment and you want to be 100% sure you get this most out of this season.

I want to share our approach with you!  First, have the confidence to tell all the coaches you will consider their teams in Spring.  I let them know I would get back to them, but first Jayden had to complete this exercise:

  1. She MUST take some time off to rest and re-energize
  2. During this time she needs to reflect on the season and write down 3 areas of strength and growth form the season, and what she wants to attack this off season.
  3. We will look at all teams and see whose style aligns with the improvements she wants to make and who will give her the opportunity to grow.

It can often be really challenging for parents and players to find a program that will maximize the athlete’s opportunity to learn, improve and grow. The following seven tips are meant to help guide you through the process of finding best fit for your athlete so they have the best AAU experience possible.

1. Review and Refresh

Often, athletes will jump right in to the AAU season immediately after their high school season. We can’t stress enough the importance of getting some time of before jumping into AAU.  It is really important to take a break from all of the strains, stresses and pressures and let yourself recover. This will give you sometime to think about the areas you succeeded in and the areas where you need to improve in while also letting your body recover so you can compete at your best.

2. Give Yourself a Post-Season Skills Evaluation 

This is a very important step. Honestly  assessing where your skills are at and where you’re at physically is crucial to planning how you want to proceed with your training and with selecting an AAU program. Ask yourself the following:

  1. How is my jump shot?
  2. How confident am I in my ball handling?
  3. How is my conditioning?
  4. What goals do I have for myself for the summer?
  5. What goals do I have for next high school season

This will give you an idea of where you are at, where you want to go, and how you are going to get there.

3. Determine Off Season Objectives

This is where you take your skills evaluation and you turn it into a list of goals.

What are your objectives?

Do you want exposure?

Do you need skill development?

Do you simply want a great experience?

It is important to ask yourself these questions so you are on the right path to choosing the right AAU program.

4. Create an Individual Development Plan (IDP)

Creating an IDP is essential because you are no longer on your high school program’s schedule. This is part of process that is going to become routine for you. Bringing your skills up to the level they need to be at to ensure maximum growth. There needs to be a series of check points to ensure that you are steadily progressing. The IDP relates directly to your off season objectives and what you want to do during the season in order to gradually improve. You will want to:

  1. Focus your time and energy on 1-3 specific areas to improve on
  2. Make a commitment to a daily/weekly/monthly routine that is unique to you!
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5. Get Your Off-Court Business in Order

While you might have great goals and objectives, they are worthless unless you have everything else in order. People tend to neglect the things that are most important such as your school work, meetings with guidance counselors, tracking your GPA and getting your SAT tests scheduled.

If you are not on pace to be eligible to qualify for the college you want to go to, there really isn’t a point to focus on basketball. Make sure you get everything in order because you don’t want to miss out on what you have been working for your entire life.

6. Budget Your Time and Money

Many families have the time to develop the necessary skills and the money/resources for the best AAU program, but it is important to be mindful of these investments. Consider two situations:

  1. Athlete 1 lives far away from their practices and games because it has a great reputation of producing great players and has some of the things they are looking for. Their family spends on average 16 hours per week in the car, commuting to and from practices, games, tournaments, etc.
  2. Athlete 2 chooses a program close to home that has everything they are looking for in a program  even though it might not have the same pedigree as the program Player 1 chose. They don’t spend 16 hours in the car per week. Instead, this athlete uses that extra time to practice and keep on track with their IDP.

Who is going to be more prepared to play at the next level? Probably the athlete that spent that extra time practicing! Just because you can afford the best program financially doesn’t mean that is the program you should chose. Your time and money are an investment!

7. Research and Find the Right Fit

Guess what… not every AAU program is the same! This is not a “one size fits all” situation. It is most important to develop your primary objectives and find a program that fits as many as possible.

  • If you want EXPOSURE
    • Get on one of the top programs that are playing in the top tournaments where the college coaches are.
  • If you want DEVELOPMENT
    • Find the opportunity that will offer you the most repetitions and coaching so you can enhance your skills and get better.
  • If you want to have a great EXPERIENCE
    • Find the right program that will travel to tournaments rather than staying in-state, has people who you enjoy playing with as your teammates and offers the team bonding activities that you enjoy the most.

Parents, DO NOT sign up for a program and invest a lot of money if your athlete is getting nothing, or worse, the wrong thing out of the program! Ask yourself “what is your primary objective?” Then find the right program that will help you reach those objectives.

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