Playmakers International

Why Train?

“One system that prepares young American players for the pros, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), is, by most accounts, broken…

…The opportunity to travel across the country and play in front of these kingmakers—often on teams with other top prospects—is something high schools can’t deliver…

The result is a mixture of unrestrained offense and Harlem Globetrotter defense…”[1]

As a former high school AAU, collegiate, and WNBA player, I am not against playing AAU. I am however, against young athletes and parents being exploited by AAU coaches.

At the expense of young athletes, it appears that AAU basketball has become more appealing and very profitable to adults who portray themselves as coaches. While many AAU coaches line their own pockets by stacking their teams with dozens of players, young athletes are missing out on actually learning the game of basketball and on ADVANCING their skills, athleticism and basketball IQ.

Coaches focus on the team, NOT the individual. A lot of AAU coaches recruit players by boasting team records, convincing parents of young players that their child will benefit by joining a team of older players, or by using various other sales tactics to entice parents to pay to join their over stacked teams.

Unfortunately, many coaches (AAU and high school) are unable to focus on what actually makes a good player an exceptional player. What is even more unfortunate is that many of these AAU coaches don’t even possess the skills, training, experience, education or know how to properly develop their players.

“According to a WCC Assistant Coach, “… I’ll say there are 3 types of AAU coaches: 1) He/she does it to make money. Their number one priority is to use kids to make money. 2) He/she does it for ego. They want to talk to college coaches, have coaches kissing their butt to get a kid and feel like they are more important than they probably are. 3) He/she does it because they want to see the kids improve, they want to help the kids get exposure and they do it for the right reasons….The players’ experiences are symptomatic of these coaches, and, unfortunately, few of the teams featuring the elite players are run by coaches like category #3.”[2]

AAU can actually cause harm to the development of young athletes. In addition to losing hundreds of dollars to overzealous AAU coaches, athletes are losing the time it takes to develop them mentally, physically and emotionally as athletes. This development, that should begin prior to entering high school, must include more than basketball practice and more than simply playing hundreds of AAU games. Development must include developing athletes’ physical strength, core balance, stability, endurance AND basketball skills. Learning these fundamentals also aid in preventing injuries and are essential to those players who have an interest in playing long term and to parents who have an interest in saving thousands on their children’s medical bills before they even graduate high school.

“It’s a bad system for developing players,” says Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. “They aren’t learning to handle the ball, they aren’t learning to make plays against pressure. The emphasis with our high-school players is to get exposure and play as many games as you can and show everybody how great you are…

…Beyond individual skill development, the year-round play creates an environment where some players may burn out or even suffer injuries from too much activity…”[1]

Athletes and parents must realize and understand the importance of AAU at the high school level. AAU is in fact about exposure. College coaches are looking at and comparing players’ skill levels. Players who play years of AAU basketball without investing in ADVANCING their skill level are generally outshined by players who have honed their skills through intense, personal and targeted training. Additionally, college coaches are much more impressed with players who know the game of basketball and are able to exhibit their high basketball IQ on and off the court than they are with kids who can boast wins against subpar teams consisting of less skilled players. And, scholarships are given to those players who show they’ve taken the time to properly invest in themselves.

“As a collegiate coach, we can tell what kids have good skill level regardless of who they play against”

– Northern Iowa Women’s Basketball Coach

“The individual development is lacking at the AAU level,” according to one West Coast Conference Assistant Coach.”[2]

Again, I am not opposed to AAU basketball. AAU is inevitable and extremely beneficial to the high school athlete seeking a college scholarship or looking to eventually play professional basketball. However, thus far, I am disgusted with many of the AAU coaches I’ve come across and saddened by what the kids on their teams are missing. Parents spend thousands of dollars a year for their children to play, or not play, on one of hundreds of AAU teams throughout the Atlanta Metro Area. Prior to joining any team, I encourage you to do your homework.

I also challenge parents to allow their children to take the Playmakers International Assessment to find out if their child really has the basic fundamental skills and knowledge to compete when it is time for exposure.

“…they (parents)spent anywhere from $600 to $12,000 for a year of basketball, when factoring club fees, uniforms, tournaments, travel, etc, and most placed the sum between $2000-$5000 for one year. Additionally, it was not uncommon for parents to drive players an hour each way two to three times a week for practice in addition to traveling to weekend tournaments.” [2]

“Over the years, AAU basketball has evolved from an organization dedicated to providing an outlet for children to improve skills and develop valuable skills such as teamwork and leadership to an industry designed to put money into its leaders pockets…The steady evolution has left AAU basketball in the hands of sleazy, money-hungry businessmen rather than conscientious adults with the kids’ best interests at heart..”[3]