10 concepts to make sure you’re NOT choosing the wrong AAU team

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Choosing the right AAU team can be a challenge. Knowing how to look at this process is going to be the first great step in making the correct decision.
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1. Playing time 
If you’re not in the top 7 or maybe 8 players find another team. What’s the point of playing on a team if you’re not playing? AAU is not HS, it’s purpose is different. Get on a team that provides ample playing time.
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2. Playing time
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3. Playing time 
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4. Playing time
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5. Playing time
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Ok… to be honest, choosing an AAU team is really really hard because there are so many variables that go into each player's individual needs. It would be impossible to write a blog that spoke to everyone’s specific situation. My top 5 list right there is the only thing universal to every player, after that, consider these next 5 “things to consider”.
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6. Schedule 
Be realistic about your child’s needs and find a team that has a schedule that lines up with those needs. Practice too often? Don’t practice enough? Too many tournaments? Not enough tournaments? Kids at different ages need different things, so take the age of your child into account as well.
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7. Coaching
You don’t need to find a great coach, just make sure they aren’t terrible. As crazy as it sounds, finding an AAU coach that is good enough is just fine. Make sure they are a good person and treat your child well. Make sure they are building confidence in your child and providing opportunities. If they are not great at X’s and O’s but they check the other boxes be satisfied. Remember, if they are a great in game coach, awesome practice coach, and an all around great person, they probably should be coaching college and not your kid!!!
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8. Commitment 
This one is important to balance burn out and opportunity. Some AAU teams will begin in late February and end July 31st just to start back up again in the September. That’s a huge commitment, especially if they are practicing 2-3 times a week and playing 2-3 weekends a month. Too much too soon is a big problem for kids, so if your child is younger, be careful of this trap. On the flip side, if you are looking for a competitive AAU experience and your team is only playing April, May, and a couple weeks in June until school is out, you may need to find a more aggressive team.
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9. Travel
Question. Why do so many AAU teams go to Las Vegas every summer? Is it for the kids or the coaches???  Be smart about the amount of travel your team does. We are sooooo fortunate to live where we do. The best basketball in the WORLD is between Baltimore and Richmond. You can stretch that to Philly and Hampton and still make it a day trip. Until your child is in High School and getting recruited to college, going outside of the mid Atlantic is a waste of time and money.  With that said, I’ve known a lot of teams to generally stay in the mid Atlantic and then one tournament go somewhere to a cool location for fun and team building. I’m completely fine with that.
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10. College
Step 1 - Be realistic about what level college player your child is going to be. Step 2 - Make sure your AAU team is going to tournaments that the level of coaches you need are going to be there. If your child is a D3 player and your team is traveling the country to get seen by D1 coaches on the west coast there’s a disconnect. If your child has D1 scholarship potential and your team is only going to little tournaments with no coaches, there’s a disconnect. This one is by far the most complicated so I’m barely scratching the surface here, but these two steps begins the process to make sure you’re in the right spot.
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BONUS  INFO - Don’t think of choosing a team as a marriage, think of it as a one year commitment. Why? Every organization has strengths and weaknesses and you need to recognize that even the best ones are not perfect. It’s amazing to be able to play for one club your whole life, but what if your needs change? Answer the question, what does my child need this year, right now? And find a team that fits that need and has that as their strength.  As you get older, yes, kids tend to settle into one team and that’s great. But playing the field and finding a team to target your specific needs is the intelligent approach.

Author: Alex Harris

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