AAU basketball has long been a lynchpin of American amateur basketball. The majority of NBA players and the biggest names in professional basketball have played for AAU teams. This included Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant, and many others. So if you’re wondering how you can be in the thick of things, perhaps as a team sponsor or a coach, this article will guide you on how to start an AAU basketball team.
Before we go into all the details, let’s know a little history about AAU. AAU stands for Amateur Athletic Union, and it was founded by James E. Sullivan and William Buckingham Curtis back in 1888. AAU oversees amateur sports, but it’s more famously known and equated as a weekend basketball tournament, even though basketball is just one of the events that the Union supervises.
What is AAU Basketball?
AAU basketball is an organization where independent groups of amateur basketball players form teams and compete against each other in tournaments sanctioned by the Amateur Athletic Union.
The history of AAU basketball began not long after basketball was invented by Dr James Naismith. Basketball was created in 1891, and in the same year, AAU took over YMCA basketball. The first Men’s National Basketball Championship sanctioned by the AAU was in 1897, and it was won by New York City’s 23rd Street YMCA.
Women’s AAU basketball was organized first in 1926, which was won by Pasadena Athletic and Country Club Flying Rings. A strange moniker for a basketball team, but they made history by becoming the very first women’s AAU basketball champions.
Currently, AAU basketball tournaments allow kids as young as 7 and as old as 19. Some tournaments are played the whole year, but most of them go from February to July. Participants are often divided by age (7-under, 8-under, and so forth), grade (2nd grade, 3rd grade, and so on), or by high school level. High school level competitions in AAU basketball are from ages 15 and under up to 19 and under.
Tournaments are played in every age group and level. Teams can also qualify in a tournament for the national championship.
How Many AAU Basketball Teams are There?
According to AAUboysbasketball.org, there are already around 700,000 members affiliated with AAU basketball. That includes non-athlete members, though, so it’s difficult to tell how many players are there as well as the number of AAU basketball teams. Memberships increase by the day, making it complicated to track.
However, one source indicates that in the Southern California area alone, there are already 922 AAU teams. Southern California is only a part of one district, and there are 56 districts in AAU basketball. A district can be one whole state (such as Georgia, Colorado, Iowa, and Arizona) although more populated states can be divided into two or more districts. An example of this is Texas, which is divided into five districts, one of which includes the whole state of New Mexico.
What are the Requirements to Start an AAU Basketball Team?
It’s actually pretty easy to start an AAU team, much easier than you would think. (Maintaining a team or building a youth basketball program is a whole different ballgame, though, but that’s a story for another day.) You just need to have a coach, enough players, some cheap uniforms and have the money to register the team and pay for tournament registrations.
As soon as you have players and a coach, they have to buy an AAU membership card. This membership card costs $14 for the athlete or the players and $16 for the coach (as a non-athlete member) for one year of membership although you can opt for a two or three-year membership.
Other costs included team registration ($25) and insurance. A generic insurance certificate costs $30, but if the church or school district your team is practicing in requires their name on the certificate, you will need to purchase what is called Third Party Insurance Certificate for an extra $35.
When your team is now registered, you can now enter any AAU-sanctioned basketball tournament. Just look for your age group and find tournaments on websites that allow you to do so. If you’re a dad that has a son who doesn’t have a team, following these steps is easy enough to follow. You may recruit his buddies and have fun competing AAU basketball.
What’s the Average Cost to Start an AAU Basketball Team?
If your roster has eight players plus a coach, membership fees will cost you $128. Team registration is $25, and a generic insurance certificate is at $30, raking the total to $183.
Keep in mind that this does not include tournament fees and travel expenses, which you have to shoulder if you want to start an AAU basketball team. Typically, with every expense included for the whole season, an amateur basketball player could pay up to $500 individually just to be a part of an AAU team. Some even have to shed $5,100 to $5,800, including out-of-town trips on tournaments that are held in a farther place.
While we are talking about starting your own AAU basketball team here, these real-life experiences of the individual cost of AAU players will give you an idea of how much it would cost if you really are serious about it. If you are going to go about this with less than a hundred per cent dedication, it’s all just a waste of time and money.
Yes, AAU basketball may be all worth it at the end because of the lifetime friendships that it forges, the experience, and fun of playing competitive basketball. Still, it will ultimately be up to the parents if they want to invest their hard-earned money on something else.
Building Your AAU Basketball Team: What to Look For?
Starting an AAU basketball team is a straightforward process, but building a team from scratch is much more challenging. It also depends on your goals: Do you want to be known as a winning coach as far as win-loss records are concerned? Or do you want a reputation as a character-builder? In any case, here are some things to look for in building your AAU basketball team:
- Set goals. Before assembling who’s going to be on your team, be philosophical about the whole thing first. Sit down and contemplate on what type of group you’d like to build and what tournaments are you trying to enter. As soon as you figure that out, you can now start building the team.
- Start with a small core group of players. It’s always best to start with a group of players that you already know. That way, you are already familiar with their skills and how to use them in a game setting. If you already have a small core group, then attracting other players will be much easier. Typically, a reliable basketball team allows you to go up to 10-man deep, so if possible, see if you can get that many players that you can trust. This will protect you from unforeseen circumstances such as players missing events, injuries, or foul trouble.
- Hold AAU basketball tryouts. Try this if you don’t have a set roster. By holding a tryout, you may discover some diamonds on the rough, which could take your campaign to another level. Run drill in your tryouts as you do in real practice and conclude with a scrimmage. If possible, put the guys on your tryouts against your core group and see how they will do.
- Set practice time and rest days. After selecting your players, you can move on to bigger things, which is choosing a practice schedule that works best for everyone. Also set rest days, and if possible, the younger the kids are, the more rest you should give them. According to the NBA and USA Basketball’s Youth Basketball Guidelines, kids 7-8 years old are recommended to have only one day of practice no more than an hour in length. Also, kids 11 years old under are recommended to have two days of rest.
- Be flexible on your schedule. It would be best if you leave some flexibility in your team’s schedule depending on how well you do on your team’s first season. You can seek out easier tournaments or more challenging ones. This process is not too easy, but it shouldn’t be disheartening, either.
Things to Consider When Starting an AAU Basketball Team
AAU basketball is more than just team building, holding practices, and other basketball stuff. The majority of the skirmish happens outside the arena and way before the opening whistle blows. Here are some things to consider when starting an AAU basketball team:
1. Count the cost
Practices and games cost a lot of money, as well as tournament fees and travel expenses. You cannot possibly pin the cost down to the last dollar, but you should have an idea of what the ballpark of the price falls. Are you only able to play in one league or can you join in two? Of course, joining more leagues expose your team to better competition and more scouting eyes, but can you cover the expenses?
2. Ask yourself “Why am I starting an AAU basketball team?”
If you’re just trying to make a quick buck off the team or the kids in the long run, then you’re going to get unmasked sooner or later. But if your answer to the question is about developing and helping the kids get an education or you just have a passion for coaching basketball and making an impact on a young player’s life, then the door is open.
3. Check out the competitive landscape
Chances are, you are probably not building the best AAU basketball team ever, so it’s probably not a good idea to subject your rookie team to the proverbial baptism of fire. That will mess up their confidence for the whole season, and possibly, for life. Examine which competitions or tournaments are best suited for newer teams and go from there. If you can, sit out one season so you can watch the playing field, so to speak. From there, you may be able to ascertain what type of preparation your team needs.
4. Be ready about the Ls
Unless you have the next LeBron or Kobe on your team, do not put primary emphasis on winning especially if you are just starting out. At this stage, you need to put the process over the results. There are no shortcuts to everything, and that includes basketball. There are going to be nights where the other team is just better, bigger, and more athletic. Be ready to absorb the losses in the record and prioritize the kids’ development over winning.
5. Quantity does not always equate to quality
If you have held tryouts or implored the community for support and help just isn’t there, do not be discouraged. See this as an opportunity to be more up close and personal to the two or three kids interested in joining the team. If you happen to inspire improvement from these kids, support will eventually trickle in.
6. The ultimate goal is to make the game fun and enjoyable.
Again, it’s not about the wins or individual improvements. The most effective barometer to the team is, at the end of the season, did they enjoy the experience? If you mostly get NOs, then consider it a failure. Try to make basketball competitive, but more importantly, make it fun!
Wrapping Things Up: How to Start an AAU Basketball Team
Starting an AAU basketball team is an easy process. All that is needed is a coach, players, uniforms, money for registration, money for insurance, and tournament fees. However, the biggest thing for everybody involved is the level of commitment they will put to the team.
Of course, if you are thinking of starting an AAU basketball team, there are more things other than the cost that you need to consider. Why are you starting a team? How am I going to build the team? Is my team going to be ready for the competition? Are they going to be OK psychologically if we happen to bump into a better, stronger team? Those are some of the things that you need to ask yourself and contemplate on.
Speaking of building a team, it is always best to figure out your coaching philosophy and the style of basketball you want your team to play. From there, you can round out your roster to at least 10 players. It’s always good to start with a core group and perhaps, hold tryouts to complete the team. And as recommended by USA Basketball and the NBA, do not overwork the kids and just let them have fun.
Yes, there are hundreds of wannabe coaches and team owners out there who are asking how to start an AAU basketball team. It’s easy to register and create one, but it takes another level of commitment to make everything work. If this is your passion, we encourage you to go ahead and do it. Who knows, you may be on to something more significant soon, perhaps building a youth basketball program and things of that nature.
If you found this post helpful, take a look at some of the other basketball FAQ articles here.