A few weeks ago an article appeared in an out-of-town newspaper discussing AAU/travel basketball. The premise of this solid piece was whether or not AAU basketball has become more important than high school basketball?
Every year right about this time the media, or a blogger will write about AAU/travel basketball. Some articles are negative, some positive. Look, I don’t mind reading them, despite hearing (and being involved) about this subject since the 1980′s. Instead of defending AAU or high school basketball, I would like to tell all those involved; players, coaches, officials, administrators and parents – we can co-exist. But it takes work, some understanding, integrity and the ability to leave the “ego” at the door.
Basketball is an art. Watching five players on the court coming together for a common goal. Observing a team share the ball on offense and helping each other on defense to stop the opponent from scoring takes working together. Success in basketball takes pulling for each other and not caring who gets the credit. Where else can you walk into a schoolyard and join four strangers and work together to stay on the court?
I’m not an expert on AAU or high school basketball but I have coached both. I have also coached at the collegiate level; I have a feel for all parties involved. In no way am I here to defend either AAU or high school; they both have positive and negative sides. It’s rare I come across someone who is willing to accept the other side or try to improve it.
The other day on Twitter someone tweeted, “The summer is for scholarships, the winter for winning championships,” I thought that was an interesting way to look at things. I once heard an AAU coach say that he put his team together in the spring and summer so his players can get “looks”. What he means by “looks” is an opportunity for a college coach and recruiting services to see the kid play. In the State of Michigan, we play 20 regular season games. During the spring of 2013 travel basketball players played approximately 40 games; give or take a couple. Some played more, some less. Now we have July coming up. You’re talking about another 30-40 games.
The “looks” in AAU basketball are there. Common sense (and your Math skills) says your opportunity to be seen by a college is greater for your travel team than playing a high school game.
The spring and summer are a great way for a college coach to head out on the road and evaluate to start the recruiting process. During the winter, it is much more difficult. The “grinders” get out there in the snow, they travel many miles on a Tuesday night in January to see a prospect. But what happens if the player they go to see gets into foul trouble early in the game? The college coach will see that kid for just a short time. In the summer, even if a player gets into foul trouble, he’ll have more chances that weekend to play and the college coach will get a chance to see him again at the same venue.
I have seen so many players over the years get noticed in the summer. Some were even offered scholarships. We can all agree playing for a travel team is a great opportunity. Playing for your high school team is also a great opportunity; mainly to share in memorable moments that you will talk about the rest of your life. Playing with your friends and classmates on a Friday night in January against a cross-town rival, well there’s not many experiences in sports like it. If your team is good enough, playing in the State tournament also has its advantages.
Disgruntled players, egotistical coaches, frustrated parents all contribute to this so-called battle between AAU and high school basketball. Everyone thinks they know what’s best for the kid. I have heard hundreds of stories. Why kids transfer, why kids switch teams, how much money a parents shells out, playing time, which tournaments to play in, allowed to play their position, the list goes on and on. There has to be a way to relieve some of this pressure. There has to be a way to get along. To make this an enjoyable and productive time for all involved. I know as coaches we’re not going to satisfy and keep everyone happy but are we even trying to get this “game” pointed in the right direction?
All I ever hear about with travel ball is the negative side, that’s no surprise because society thrives on bad news. Whether it is issues, drama, complaints… it gets old after a while. Been hearing and reading about it for close to 30 years. The real question should be, “What are we doing about it?”
Are we part of the problem or part of the solution?
How do we get everyone on board?
Is there enough room for everyone?
Are we losing sight of the ultimate goal in the game?
Is scoring 25 points per game more important than sharing the ball?
If you can play ball, someone will see you. The level of play in college is key though. If you haven’t received any letters or calls from a college, maybe you’re just not good enough to play college basketball?
Being honest with yourself about your talent is vital.
As a parent, you too have to be honest; you cant have an over-inflated opinion of your son’s talent.
Not everyone can play college basketball. Keep in mind Jeremy Lin of the Houston Rockets didn’t have one division one scholarship before he attended Harvard. Stephen Curry was not highly recruited out of high school either.
Starting today, July 3, 2013, let’s see if we can all help improve the current state of AAU and high school basketball. Because when it gets right down to it, it’s about the player. Are we doing all we can to help them?
So go ahead, play travel ball, play high school ball but always keep in mind to take time to work on your dribbling, shooting and conditioning. Most important though, make sure you are a good student and an even better person.