Here the struggle parents are having is that they want their kid to have a good experience in AAU basketball but don’t know how to make sure that happens.

Since you’re here, I know that your priority is helping your child have an enjoyable and successful AAU basketball experience. But why does it seem like there are 10,000 options out there and all of them are “the best one”. Let’s get things straight- there is no one size fits all AAU program. What is crucial to your child’s experience, is totally wrong for another player. “Confusing…where do I start…” Stuff like that is probably running through your head right now. But don’t worry I’m here to lay it out in 7 SIMPLE STEPS so that you can ensure that your child has the exact experience that you’re looking for- whether that be to play college basketball or have a fun social outlet. Let’s get to it!

Today I am bringing you the 7 Things you need do before you AAU. AAU in the past has received a lot of criticism. Even basketball gods like Kobe Bryant and Lebron James have spoken out against the AAU or nothing “norm” that has taken over youth basketball. What I want to do for you today is teach you how to get the most out of that experience, because it’s not AAU that’s the problem, it’s how much AAU and the lack of information available for parents to make the best decision for their kids. 

I had a tremendous experience, some of my best friends came from AAU but I also have been disgusted by some of the things I see in the basketball community. I see parents paying an astronomical amount of money, investing an astronomical amount of time and not getting anything in return. This is something that is very disturbing to me and so I want to make sure that it doesn’t happen to you. 

Let’s get into 7 things that you need to do before AAU. 

  1. REVIEW AND REFRESH

The number 1 thing is to REVIEW your highschool basketball season and refresh. You don’t want to go from a highschool basketball season, with all of the strains, stresses and pressures that come with it (or for right now with COVID changes to AAU, go right from AAU to high school tryouts) and just jump right into trying out without taking a couple days of physical rest. But also a couple days to think about your successes, failures and the things you want to improve on in the next 6 to 9 months. So the #1 thing that you have to do is REVIEW and REFRESH.

  1. SKILLS EVALUATION 

Give yourself a postseason skills evaluation. Where are your skills at; where is your jump shot, your handles, your physical status meaning, how fast you run a mile, what do you bench press? 

Contrary to popular belief a lot of people’s skills are not following a mindful skill development program during a season. Which results in skills actually regressing, even though you’re spending more time playing basketball. Think about it. You’re going 6 days a week, but spending that time on the high school schedules program. You’re spending that time on the coaches program. You’re spending that time with the majority being dedicated to the development of the team. I find very few players understand the significant impact that actually has on your individual skills. To keep those skills confident and elevating during the course of a season, all it takes is 15 to 20 minutes everyday. 

At the end of the season whether you’ve done that or you haven’t, I recommend doing a skills evaluation. Simple stuff like how many shots out of 50 can I make from 15 feet? How many shots out of 50 am I making from the 3-point line? What is my conditioning level? These baseline metrics will give you a ton of insight on where you need to spend your time.

  1. DEVELOPMENT PLAN 

Your postseason skills evaluation will be part of a process that is a routine you should do before, during and after every season, so that you have clear checkpoints of where you’re at and where you need to focus your energy. 

You want to make sure that there is a time period every year where your sole focus is on developing your skills. A period of time where you are not on anybody else’s schedule or program, and you’re focusing entirely on your skill development. This allows you to make significant skill developmental jumps where you largely stop playing games and focus all your time and energy on 1 to 3 areas that you really want to improve. Make big gains, return to competition, rinse and repeat! It’s very important and critical at this time that you do a skills evaluation and from there develop your INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN.

  1. INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN

This relates to what you were able to do during the season, what you want to do long-term and where your skills currently are. From there, your individual development plan is a commitment to a daily, weekly, monthly, routine that is unique to you and to your skills and ability, and that is unique to your own goals and objectives. THAT is not anybody else’s responsibility, it’s your responsibility and it’s your commitment to making those goals come true. Your daily routine is the most important part of that process. Your individual development plan stays true, regardless of outside circumstances. 

  1. GET YOUR BUSINESS IN ORDER

Now it’s time to get your off-the-court business in order! There are a lot of people who have goals and objectives and focus primarily on the basketball side of things, but neglect other crucial aspects of their goals. What I’m talking about here is your schoolwork. Immediately you need to meet with your school counselor to understand your progress  towards completing your 16 core credits. Know what your core GPA is. Get your SAT test scheduled. Get registered with the NCAA and make sure before you make commitments to anyone or anything, that you are actually on pace and eligible for the NCAA and qualify for the type of school that you dream of going to.

  1. BUDGET TIME AND MONEY 

I see way too many athletes and families put so much attention on playing in competition, that when they earn that very opportunity they’ve been working for (ex: play in front of college coaches), they haven’t taken care of the most important business. That is dedicating significant time to purely skillwork, no serious, expensive competition, just working on your craft! 

Don’t let that be you, get your business in order before you go try out for the AAU program. Now when it’s the time to play, it becomes the time to budget your TIME & MONEY. Evaluate your long-term goals, experience and financial expectations and find a program whose make-up aligns with what YOU want out of the experience. 

What I don’t want is for you to sign up for a program and invest a lot of money, when you are looking for exposure and get an experience. Or when you need development and are getting exposure, because if you are getting exposure when you need development, you end up neglecting development. Let me be real- that college coach is not going to call you because they saw you. They are going to call you because they saw you AND you have the skills that translate to the next level.

  1. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH

Find the right fit. What I mean by that is every AAU program is not the same, it’s not a one size fits all. Once you’ve gone through the 6 steps I just walked you through and you’ve determined your objectives, you have to find a program that fits those objectives. Now your primary objective could be exposure. If your primary objective is exposure you want to get on one of the top programs and make sure that you’re playing in the top tournaments and showcase events, where college coaches are!

In conclusion, choosing an AAU program is just PART of the process to success. Focusing on developing your skills, constantly evaluating and improving your skill sets and then choosing an AAU program that aligns with your goals, is critical to not just being successful but actually having an experience that you will cherish for life!