Monday, January 19, 2009

"Why AAU sucks"

The following is an entry from a popular message board.

"Mother has a kid in aau since 7 or 8th grade, pays crazy money , program director tells the mother don't worry, we can get your daughter in to a D1 school ,no problem! Kid ends up D3 and paying for college, this is why you are a fraud ! You should be put in jail for robbing these people of their money! I hope the mom is smart enough to sue the h-- out of you, because I know you guys are only about one thing... people have realize when they are getting scammed! Everyone doesn't always do the right thing!"

The above rant is an often heard complaint about"AAU"ball.( A reminder, AAU is not the governing body for youth basketball. Club teams can join AAU for sanctioned events and benefits such as insurance coverage. Not all Club teams are members of AAU.) I have heard these proclamations again and again. Here is the flip side of the coin:

1. Girls' Club Ball is not very lucrative- Very few, if any, girls club directors can make a living strictly with Club money. The numbers just do not add up. For instance, some Club teams charge between $1000- $3000 a player for a club season. If we took the higher end fees of $3000 and multiplied them by 15 players, you can see a a $45,000 profit! Not Bad, but hardly retirement money. But wait, we forgot overhead. Clubs pay an extraordinary amount of its fees for gym usage, tournament fees, insurance, equipment, uniforms, marketing(web sites/business cards), coaching stipend, etc. Now, I took the high end of $3000 dollars a player. I know very few clubs who charge these rates. However, I have heard of numerous Volleyball clubs who charge in the $5000 range for a season. Why does Club basketball get such an unsavory reputation over money when Volleyball charges as much as 5 times what the average Club Basketball team does. The answer is THE BOYS.

Boys basketball is where the money is. The NCAA is a money making machine and it's schools earn a lot of money off of the sweat of their male basketball and football players. Having daughters, I am very thankful for Title 9 ,and the positive repercussions of the act.(It also has some negative repercussions). But, the reality of the matter is that the golf team, the rugby team, the swim team and in a lot of cases, the women's basketball teams of most colleges are paid for with the help of the men's basketball team.

"While $15 million per ACC team may not sound like a lot, consider this: The money brought in by most men's basketball teams sometimes support as much as half of its schools' athletic budgets."

My point is that AAU basketball has earned such a bad reputation because of the money that is generated on the men's side of the game. Derrick Rose was worth at least $1,000,000 to the University of Memphis.( Factor in NCAA Tournament revenue, Nike Contract, Ticket Sales, Memorabilia Sales etc.) With all that money being generated by so few people, 15 players, it is no wonder that so called corruption occurs. Before it was AAU, the high school coaches, street agents and "uncles" were seen as the corrupting influences on the great and pure game of basketball; not the rich college booster with the bag full of money or keys to a new car. Moving on, The NCAA is trying to take back control of it's precious commodities and put them back into the hands of the true caretakers of the game. Care takers like the great Adolph Rupp and his point shaving team. Or Tim Donaghy. Or Tates Locke, the former West Point coach, who hired Bobby Knight to his first coaching job. I am not casting stones, I am only emphasizing that "AAU Ball", money-hungry reputation is a product of a billion dollar business and when so much money is involved, backroom deals are bound to happen. There is simply not enough money involved on the girls/women side of basketball for such corruption to be so prevalent.

2. A club director has never made a jump shot for one of his/her players. Colleges will find the talent. No logical person can blame a club director for a player falling from a Division 1 scholarship to a Division 3. Parents must be more educated on the developmental and recruiting process. If the above mentioned young lady was training like a Division 1 player since the 7th grade, I find it hard to believe that she could not have earned at least an NAIA ride, to help with college. The problem is, most parents expect club coaches to work their children out two times a week and feel that is sufficient in earning a D1 ride. That may be sufficient if your child is Britney Griner and is 6'7. D1 players eat, drink, think, and sleep basketball. Do not blame club coaches or directors for the lack of dedication of your child.

Now I will say that playing for a good club and a director/coach, who is well connected, is a major plus. I know of club directors/coaches that can get a hidden gem on a college coaches radar with with a phone call. However, the players still have to perform. Spurs GM, RC Bufurd, can not make his colleague and friend ,Bill Self, sign a player that can not play at the Kansas level. Self will take his phone call and respect his recommendation but the kid is going to have to show and prove.

Parents should make sure of the following when finding and staying with a club:

- The club emphasizes development in the Middle School years. Fundamentals should be paramount and games should be secondary. I have read that some European youth basketball leagues will not allow coaches to run set plays up until High School. The purpose of this is to teach kids HOW to play instead of teaching kids PLAYS.

- High School club teams that claim to be Elite should have an Elite schedule. If your so-called Elite team is not playing in exposure events against the best of the best, you are not playing on an Elite team. Furthermore, if you so-called Elite team is playing in one of the lower divisions of Exposure events and chasing trophies instead of college letters, your team is not Elite. These clubs are not getting kids looks and are waisting parents money.

- Look for track record. Has your Club put kids in school? How many kids have gone on to college from your club? If the answer is none, you probably should find another club. However, if your club has a track record in sending kids to schools and you do not earn a scholarship, then your child's ability and dedication is most likely to blame. If you are with a newer club that is playing an ambitious schedule and training accordingly, you are probably in a good club.

- If your child is in her junior year, and her club director/coach is telling you that your child is going D1,with no college interest up until that point, you probably are playing for a director that is either, dishonest or naive. D1 Caliber kids have usually received at least some college interest by their junior year.

Most good parents teach their kids not to play the blame game. We all have heard the saying
" When you point the finger, there is always three fingers pointing at you". Parents need to be more aware and proactive in regards to Club Ball and the recruiting process instead of automatically blaming the "crooks in AAU" for their failure to inspire 'Elite Basketball' dedication in their kids. I promise you that your $1000 a year did not make anybody rich.