How to Get on an AAU Basketball Team

Picking the right AAU team and getting on it is not the easiest of things to do. So, here is how to get on an AAU basketball team. There are a lot of options and while that sounds like a good thing, youth basketball is quite competitive and you need to know more than a couple of things to be able to navigate the circuit.

To avoid getting overwhelmed or frustrated, what you need to do is a little research on AAU basketball and before you know it, you will have at least narrowed your choices down.

There are a few factors that you should consider before picking a team and trying to get on it. Let’s get you started on that path.

AAU Basketball: A Beginner’s Guide

AAU or Amateur Athletic Union is a non-profit organization that aims to promote and develop young athletes. AAU basketball is just one name for competing teams that are not part of a school. It is also called travel or club basketball. So, individual players come together to form teams and compete against each other.

A player can get started on being a part of one of these teams right from kindergarten. AAU offers opportunities for them to play for youth leagues, boys’ and girls’ clubs and the YMCA.

Typically, boys are eligible to play from the age of 7 in the under age category. They can compete in the under division until they reach the 12th grade. And girls are eligible to play from the 2nd grade to the 12th grade in the same category.

Those are the rules but when a player begins this journey depends on their goals and aspirations because the opportunities are available at different levels both in terms of age and their experience with the game. It is also good to have an estimate on the level of competition a player can handle.

A lot of successful AAU basketball players start on this path because of their love for the game. That is a good time to improve their skills and athletic prowess to see if, over time, that can turn into a career.

Since basketball is a team sport, you need to pick a team and be ready for some competition. But that can happen only after the player has a good understanding of the fundamentals of the game.

How to Find an AAU Team

How to Get on an AAU Basketball Team

For starters, the AAU or Amateur Athletic Union has a website that provides both players and parents with relevant information. This will help you start the process of finding a local youth basketball team.

Of course, a lot of organizations are not official AAU teams or clubs, which means you won’t see them on this page. Nevertheless, it is still a good place to start.

Now, picking a team requires you to ask yourself a few questions.

  • Does the team have a mission statement and do the goals match it? This is very important because it shows intent and action.
  • Is the team all about playing a lot of games or developing the player’s game? Because it means focusing on game quality more than quantity that is for endorsements.
  • Is the focus on winning the national championships or about playing a good game irrespective of winning and losing? At this point, playing the game well and focussing on getting to the next level in their career is more important than winning trophies.
  • What is the organization’s culture? This will decide whether the player has to earn the time or if the time is divided equally among them all.

How to Tryout for an AAU Team

There are no shortcuts when it comes to playing basketball well. But when you are trying out for an AAU team, there are a few things you can do to set yourself apart and catch the eye of the coach. Here are a few tips to help you get there.

Play the Game Right

Unlike school basketball, you don’t have a good part of a week along with a drill to practice. For an AAU team, you have one or two days to practice. The coaches are constantly working on finding a system that helps you learn quickly.

This means there is a limited structure. So, it is entirely possible that the coaches want players who already have a good set of fundamentals in place so that they can work on getting you ready for a game as soon as possible. This means your passing and cutting skills have to be sharp and on point.

Watch, Practice, Learn

AAU teams are elite which means you can expect fierce competition. So, you need to practice till you can be one of the best at your level.

In big cities, there will be three to six teams whereas in smaller cities there will be one or two AAU teams you can try out for.

Being one of the top 10-15 players in your city is the way you can make it on to one of these teams. You don’t have to be the best player on the team but you need to be good at running the floor, cutting and passing the ball. These are things that will help you score more points. AAU teams like players who can do that.

Communicate Well

This is something every coach looks for during a tryout. A player who can communicate well with the team by letting the players know when they have the ball or are ready to switch is a player that stands out.

This communication includes navigating the offense and defense by talking to the players. The player must also be willing to ask for help when needed because it is, after all, a team sport.

So, coaches like players who can make a good play and communicate it with their team because they elevate the entire team’s game.

Stick to Your Strengths

If a player is a shooter, make sure you create opportunities for yourself where you can demonstrate your skill. You want to make sure you give the coach plenty of scope to see what you are best at.

A lot of AAU games are five-on-five and you will be playing a lot more than school basketball. So, this is also a good time to assess who is capable of doing what. And don’t try to do things you are not good at because that spoils the game and also your chances.

AAU’s Good, Bad and Evil

Over the years a lot of things have been said about the debilitating culture of AAU. Players like Kobe Bryant had called it “terrible” and “horrible” because the focus was on playing as many games as possible and winning them along with snagging shoe contracts for the player more than working on developing the game of the player.

While it is not entirely untrue, this only re-emphasizes the fact that picking a good team is critical in terms of playing the right kind of game. The culture of the team and the vision of the coach can make all the difference to a player’s game.

As mentioned before, AAU is extremely competitive and players don’t always get the amount of time they need to practice. So, you need a coach who is focused on more than winning the game.

Unfortunately, the AAU is notorious for its bad coaching. This is because the head coach can be appointed by just about anyone who can start a team. This doesn’t even need certifications or criteria if they know how to recruit a team and pay for their participation.

Along with a good coach, you also need a team that is good for larger events because it adds to your individual profile. This gives you good exposure and increases your chances of being recruited.

But there are quite a few good things about playing AAU too. You get to test your boundaries because you will be playing with the best players and competing against the same.

It exposes a player’s weak spots and gives them the chance to work on them. This is not easy to find in local leagues.

Now, you don’t need to play AAU basketball for a scholarship, especially if you are a talented player. But this has been a platform for a lot of players to be discovered and make their way to scholarships.

AAU basketball is a great place to show your skills with tens of coaches watching you. With the competition being as fierce as it is, a good game can take you a long way. Letting that go is definitely a missed opportunity.

Parting Thoughts

There are a lot of American-born players in the NBA who played AAU basketball at one point or another. There is hardly a notable player who hadn’t, except Otto Porter but every rule has an exception, right?

Now, these tournaments are watched by coaches from all over. So, put in the hours, work on your play and come the moment get your game face on.