Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Local Referee takes on AAU vs High School

The following is an email from a high school ref and local club coach. I find this email interesteting and will address some of the topics/comments in a future blog. The email follows:

Last Sunday, I attended the San Antonio Basketball Official Association monthly meeting and heard a disturbing comment from a 30yr high school boys head coach..... He said, “Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) is the worst thing ever to happen to the game of basketball, ever!” Obviously, he has strong feelings or negative experiences with local AAU programs. I wonder if he has ever attended a camp, clinic or practice session given by Ray Caldwell, Roy Green, Anthony Calloway, Winter Nurse, Theresa Nunn Tim Springer, and Monica Gibbs or any other excellent local AAU coaches/students of the game. When it comes to a player’s best interests and development, there is a constant tug of war between AAU coaches and high school coaches. Unfortunately, a fragmented relationship has resulted from hubris and a power struggle between the two groups.

Often, their styles of play are different – while the circumstances make it almost impossible for them not to be. High school programs run a structured offensive system and put emphasis on preparation and knowing one’s opponent. High school teams will play two games a week (more if they play a tournament) and often have at least two additional days of practice between games. On the other hand, AAU programs have a greater volume of games against stiffer competition via Showcase tournaments across state borders and nationally. AAU coaches have a distinct recruiting advantage, better game management skills, schemes, strategies, and flexibility in thinking outside-the-box. AAU season spans from March through July, a team might play anywhere from 50-80 games, with practice time significantly limited (maybe bi-weekly sessions). In an equal span from November through March, a high school team might play 40 games – only if it reaches the state tournament. High school coaches are very limited to the students in their district and system rigidity. However, high school coaches have players for a longer period of time: from 9th through 12th grade for better overall skill development – during extra athletic classroom sessions/before or after-school practice sessions. Plus, high school coaches are tasked with ensuring players are students first and academically eligible to participate.

Often times we forget these are kids we are working with, not professionals. Burn out is real; kids need to be involved in other activities as well. Studies show 70% of kids’ dropout of sports by the age 13. And, the number one reason is they are no having fun anymore. This could lead to an increase of injury, frustration and a decrease of player performance. Rest and recuperation are very important components in the development of athletes.

In my opinion, if we want our kids to become better basketball players – we need to have a mix of high school structure, AAU programs exposure, and better communication between parents, high school coaches and AAU coaches. Additionally, player need to play against better competition either nationally on clubs teams or locally at community/recreation centers, playgrounds, college campuses again older, bigger, stronger, faster, more talented players. There is no substitute for competing against superior experience. College coaches want to go see a bunch of different players all at once be evaluated against true talent vice local high school games against inferior opponents – where players are playing out-of-position. High school programs can provide a student/athlete with the structure needed to mirror academic success in college. Yet, AAU programs can provide players an opportunity to play nationally against the best competition in the country – boarding a player horizons and self-confidence.

The San Antonio Basketball community need to set-up a mechanism for bridging gaps between high school coaches, AAU coaches, game officials and parents by building positive informational-based relationships. Let’s move away from trying ruining the game we all love so dearly by controlling our players lives – each of us can be our own worst enemies at times. What solutions do we have to offer? What about a mandatory pre-season conference/tournament per district? One day can be devoted to seminars for/given by UIL officials, game officials, high school coaches, AAU coaches discussing principles and policies, rules and behavior, recruiting, etc. Communication is a key element in keeping everyone on the same sheet of music so no major issues arise from sweeping negative generalizations. I would rather see our local players graduate with their high school diploma or playing in spring/summer basketball tournaments than being involved in drugs, violence, alcohol, dropping out of school and getting into trouble with the law. There are so many great high school and AAU programs doing all the right things – less get over ourselves and build something unique and positive for our young San Antonio Ballers!