Friday, August 3, 2007

Is AAU bad for high school and college basketball?

On my question-and-answer column today, a reader relates a story I hear quite often about AAU basketball.

Her family took a trip to Florida so her child could stay in a hotel room with her during a recent AAU tournament. The other teammates weren't so lucky.

Ten or 12 were herded into two hotel rooms with two beds. The coach then gathered money, allegedly to get something for the team, and proceeded to go out and chase women. At least it's how her story goes.

I cannot tell you how often I hear those kinds of stories. I am not a big fan of AAU basketball for a number of reasons, and having non-sactioned coaches is at the head of my list.

Who knows where these guys come from. Some are quite good, mind you, and know their stuff. I am a huge fan of Rick Lewis' Carolina Flight organization in the Huntersville area. They teach, teach, teach and have one of the best fundamentals camps I've ever seen. It kicks up again next month on Saturdays and Sundays.

And I could go on and name names of a lot of folks who I think are good -- and bad -- but this isn't the place for that. I will say that one of my best friends, Kevin Ligon of the Charlotte ACES, has been running an AAU organization for nearly as long as I've been writing, which is now more than two decades.

Kevin says many AAU guys are good guys and are about teaching the game. Others, he admits, are out for self and to try to find a superstar to sell to a college and ultimately get paid as a NBA hanger on or to get a college assistants' job -- or something closer to The University, if you know what I'm saying.

At least in high school, I know the coaches are employed by the school system and have been screened. The great majority of them do have the kids' best interest at heart, but AAU has hurt their ability to coach. You have many, not all, AAU coaches trying to route kids to certain programs and forcing transfers and pulling kids out of high school practice for AAU practice when the sports overlap (normally doing high school playoffs). The high school coaches end up in adversarial positions sometimes with the AAU coaches over kids whom both sets of coaches should have the same goal for.

That is, as the kids say today, not a good look.

I've seen too many AAU teams with no fundamentals and no plays, just running up and down the floor. So many pundits will tell you AAU basketball has been terrible for our game. I can't disagree.

AAU has really exploded in the past 10 years and that mirrors about when USA International basketball has gone down. While the Europeans learn to pass and shoot, we learn to crossover dribble, dunk and make SportsCenter.

Nothing much is going to change immediately. I can only hope parents will make informed choices about their kids. I can only hope that players will open their eyes and really see who it is, in their particular situations, who really has their best interest at heart.

A lot of times it isn't the guy giving you free Nikes to ride with him to Virginia to play five games in a day.

Later

LW
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mr Wertz, I am an AAU coach for a local organization and sadly i have to agre with your coments here. We are so fractioned off here in town. So many organizations and people get mad and go start another. It is all about my kid and not our kids, kind of like CMS. My son will not play even though I coach. He'll just play Y ball.

Anonymous said...

Preach Langston. I so agree with you. As a former AAU mom, we went through all of this. I sent my son to private school to get away. It helped a little.

Anonymous said...

I could not disagree with you more. AAU has been a wonderful experience for my daughter. We recently returned from the AAU Nationals where her team placed and she had a lot of fun. Since our return she has received several college survey letters. As to background checks, my daughter's coaches had to undergo NCAA Certification, which included a background check.
It is through AAU that my daughter has learned and fell in love with the game. We have been blessed to have wonderful coaches who share our attitude that if you want to get better you've got to get in the gym and put in the work.
The only difference I can see from when my son played AAU ball--back in the day when there were only 3 local AAU teams, is that AAU is no longer the exclusive domain of the Elite athlete. I've seen various skill levels on our local teams and wonder why a parent of a child who is not willing to put in the work necessary/or posess the skills to one day compete collegiately would pay to play AAU versus Park and Rec.
Don't blame AAU! As with anything, there are bad people involved in good causes. I would advise parents to seriously consider the skill level of the athlete, check their level of commitment, take an honest look at parental motives, and carefully choose a positive organization.

Anonymous said...

I must say I have not seen this side of the aau organizations. I believe that if the high schools would do more to get college coaches in to see the kids play during the fall we wouldn't accept the aau organizations andits demanding time and monies from
the families. My sons play aau because the high school coaches
don't have the relationship or whatever is needed to get the D1 and D2 schools in to see them during the fall. i would love to have just the fall dedicated to basketball and take the summer off from camps and aau.

Anonymous said...

As a parent of boys and girls AAu players, I agree w/ you wholheartedly on the boys side. The girls side is different and generally a good all around experience. Girls AAU is what boys used to be as someone said earlier here. Boys is out of control and needs restrictions. We've had coaches have sexual relations in rooms with our kids sleeping, take money for their own car payments and worse. Unless I personally knew the coach WELL I would NEVER let me son play AAU again

Anonymous said...

Langston, I'm so glad you said this. We have been dealing with this crap for years, through all three of our kids. I wish there was another way to get colleges to see them other than AAU.

Anonymous said...

I agree boys AAU is totally out of control. I coach AAU Boys basketball, and I could tell you first hand, some of these team/coaches are out of control. The players are cusing continuously, displaying poor sportsmanship; like taking a shot with three seconds left on the clock and they are up by 20. And its sad to say, but is your more prominent AAU programs in Charlotte
that are the worst, when it comes to showing respect and class. These prominent AAU programs are were the character flaws are taught and begin. 1) They are told by these coaches they are great 2) They come to practice whenever they want, and when they don't show up they're not required to call. 3) They are allowed to disrespect their coaches, teammates, fans, and opposing players; and do all of this without an ounce of punishment. That why when these kids get in the real world they can't function, because all the sudden, the things they use to get away with they no longer can. And in the real world they're just another Joe, and no where remotely idolized.

KID ADVOCATE said...

Langston, your comments were right on the money! AAU on the girls side is just as bad or not worse than the boys. Parents get upset with coaches when they feel that their child isn't getting enough play time, coaches only get teams when they feel their child has been cheated of their light, and coaches ue their position to upgrade their little Black Book. I feel that a child will not get it all at any practice and they need to put in extra work afterwards, however when they are practicing the coach needs to ensure that they are getting the most out of it. Instead teams spend more time on picking out shoes, discussing who did what with the money, and who is getting more play time that kids only get about 30min. of practice time. 15 on stretching and 15 plays! THE ULTIMATE GOALS IS TO GIVE THESE YOUNG PEOPLE A FAIR SHOT AT LIFE AND AS PARENTS, COACHES, AND ORGANIZATIONS WE ARE GIVING THESE KIDS THE WRONG MORALS AND STANDARDS TO BE SUCCESSFUL AT LIFE. STOP LIVING THROUGH OUR CHILDREN BECAUSE YOUR MICHAEL JORDAN AND SHERYL SWOOPES DAYS ARE GONE AND PUT YOUR CHILD IN THE BEST POSITION THAT WILL BE HELPFUL FOR THEM NOT YOU!

Coach Mack (NC Wildcats, Durham, NC) said...

Quick and to the point: There are immoral people throughout all walks of life... from reporters to priests. AAU ball is not immune and I do not understand why folks are up in arms.

I have coached the same guys since 2003 and we finally made it through and placed 3rd in USSSA Nationals this year. We are not just a team, but a family. I will follow these guys to the demise of my life.

If you really want to know what you are getting into, ask surrounding players.

I could comment for these days about this blog, but i'll stop here.

Take care,

Coach Mack

Anonymous said...

Coach Mack, you must live in a bubble. I am pulling my kids out of AAU after what we went through this summer. We gave money and gave money and coach kept getting new stuff. Our kids were treated poorly, never practiced and were told to Just Go Score! We got nothing out of our AAU experience and Mr Wertz is right on the mark with his comments.

Anonymous said...

It appears that the real premise of this blog is to determine who is responsible for the demise of basketball. I have an answer for you, and it is not the AAU Coach. An AAU Coach has access to the kids legally, from the time the school basketball season ends until the end of October. However, the AAU Coach generally only has practice once or twice a week for a couple of hours. On the other hand, the high school Coach has access to the kids from November until the end of March, varies depending on school district. The high school Coach has complete access to facilities and can practice with the kids six days a week.
AAU is an arena in which kids showcase the skills they already have--skills that should have been taught by the Coach who has them the majority of the time--the high school Coach. AAU is suppose to be comprised of athletes considered to be at the top of his or her game, not kids who can't dribble or don't understand the purpose of a screen. We send kids to high school to learn-this includes high school basketball. It is my opinion that the high school Coach has let this generation of athletes down, not AAU.
As to the comment about the crossover dribble, etc. this is not a reflection on AAU, this is a reflection on how athletes have evolved. Today's athletes are creative as well as tremendously athletic. As a nation we celebrate people and those characteristics that bring us entertainment. Again, this has nothing to do with AAU.
In conclusion, it seems a little unfair to blame an AAU Coach, who spends a couple of hours a week with a kid for the demise of basketball when it is the High School Coach (who gets paid) who has greater access to the athletes, facilities, and the responsibility to teach the game. An AAU Coach's role is to provide exposure to those kids that already have the fundamentals. The role of the high school Coach is to teach fundamentals and to ensure that each athlete remains academically eligible.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wertz: This is a debate I have had for years. There are many corrrect statements in the replies you have received. As a former AAU coach for many years, I have seen good and bad coaches, good and many bad parents. One demon with AAU is money. If you or your team has money then you can attract the best players with what you can offer the players The parents love it because they do not have any money out of pocket and push their child to these teams. You should see these parents when you ask them for money or to help with fund raising. The result from most fund raising shows how much the parents don't care unless its free for them. I personally spent many many dollars of my own money because the parents would send their kids with no spending money to eat. I was not letting one of my kids go without eating or feel left out. The parnets do not want to pay for out of town rooms to be shared by a couple players, the parents expect their kids to go to these high exposure tournaments or the nationals free so as a coach you are forced to have as many kids roon together as possible. So you have 2 problems, money and parents, there are others. The coaches that do want to teach fundamentals are berated, and I was one, so the better players want to go where they can show their talents, not improve as they should. A few years ago the Observer ran a story about high school athletes and all parents should read it. The basis of the report was, don't be foolish and miss an opportunity for your child, realize your childs true potential. Not all kids are D1 players and end up at a top school.
These kids need their education more than they realize. Run the article again if you can, it should be sent to all the parents of AAU players.
High School coaches and I have seen good ones need to lose the, I am God attitude. They need to realize they are a major part of the childs life. They are under constant pressure to win for their own career progression and because of this excellent students are cast aside or become practice players, sit the bench during games because they are not one of the top 7 players. Its all about wining as most sports are.
The average AAU coach is very lucky to have 2 full practices a week where the high school will practice everyday available if they do not have a game, then there are off season conditioning programs and summer leagues. It is too much during the school year in most sports. They are still kids and need kid time but then again the coach must win, right?

ESPN and the NBA has made it a dunk fest, crossover dribble and humiliate your opponent necessity for these kids. You never hear about a kid that is a high persentage shooted unless he knocks down 3's more than anyone. When was the last time you heard anyone mention a player that has a 12 to 15 foot shot that is "money".

I miss the coaching and interaction with the players, the games, time with the players at tournaments, all are memories I cherish. I do not miss the constant bull from the parents, spending my personal funds, running a taxi service because the parents are too sorry to support their kids and bring the player to practice or games. I have worked the door at many AAU tournaments or been present when parents raise all kinds of sand, because they have to pay to get in tournament. I have heard, what is the money for? My kid is on this team and it should be free. Shut up and support your kid. Be a responsibile parent. Try showing a little LOVE for you child.

So now you have some of the problems. There is not a single problem or soultion but when you have a combination of ESPN and the media promoting players in a certain light, sorry parents, sorry coaches and MONEY issues, the product will have problems.

Thanks for the opportunity to get this off my chest.

Disappointed

christian basketball said...

you no i have done both for my daughter and have seen the bad that you speek of i also have seen the good i really dont no for sure if aau is good are bad but the one thang that bothers me the most about your artical is the statement that at least you no about were you stand with high school my personal exepirence with school ball is a bunch of good ole boys you either fit in or dont the best way to get your girl to play in school ball is have ther mothers to flirt with the coach or have alot of money i really thank you need to take a closer look at school coaches i really believe there is more corruption in school coaches than in aau but its in both

viagra online said...

I cannot tell you how often I hear those kinds of stories. I am not a big fan of AAU basketball for a number of reasons, and having non-sactioned coaches is at the head of my list.

kamagra said...

I have heard, what is the money for? My kid is on this team and it should be free. Shut up and support your kid. Be a responsibile parent. Try showing a little love for you child.