I want to thank everyone for the warm welcome I’ve received since becoming the boys basketball coach here at WHS! It has been great to have so many people willing to help. It only reaffirms for me why I believe we will be successful in the coming years.
This is the first entry in my blog. My hope is that it’s a chance to share some of my thoughts on the game and athletics in general and helps provoke thought and discussion from those who read it. Our players who are not playing a spring sport have been working hard as we prepare to play together over the summer. It is great to see so many of our other athletes having great spring seasons and contributing to their teams’ success. I am enjoying getting to know our players and look forward to working with all of them in months and seasons to come.
The topic I wanted to address today is one that has been getting a lot of debate lately – AAU. From what I’ve read, people tend to view this as a black and white issue – either AAU is great or AAU is evil. I believe there is a lot more to this issue. First, our staff encourages as many of our players who do not do a spring sport as possible to play AAU. We do this because we believe it is important that our players continue to play and put themselves in game situations against good competition where they will learn and improve. So from that end, I definitely see value in AAU. However, that comes with a few caveats. First, I think many players make the mistake of thinking that playing AAU is sufficient off-season work to improve their game. This is very misguided thinking. If a player has bad habits in his game, playing AAU is only going to continually reinforce those bad habits. For example, if a player shoots with his elbow out, playing AAU is going to result in him shooting all his game shots with his elbow out, further ingraining that flaw. Thus, it is critical that AAU is complemented by a steady diet of skill work. I believe that for every hour of game competition a player should be doing 3-4 hours of skill work. In some cases playing AAU might work against skill development. If a player is making a major change in his shooting form, he is going to need thousands of shots to develop that new muscle memory. In the heat of competition where he doesn’t have time to focus on his form, he is likely to revert to his old, flawed form, undermining his work. So for a player really trying to makeover his shot, it might be best to sit out AAU for a year in order to develop that new technique. At the very least, hours of skill work are a must as just playing AAU will not develop a player to his full potential. A second issue with AAU is how it impacts players’ views on competition. When you have 4-5 games a weekend, each game takes on a little less meaning. I believe this results in some players not approaching each game with the same level of intensity and competitiveness as would be desirable. Finally, it is important that players and parents know who is coaching their team before signing up for AAU. There are many great AAU coaches who really care about the players and want them to get better. Unfortunately, some players get stuck playing for coaches who have different agendas or insufficient knowledge to help that player develop.
In closing, I believe AAU is a good thing as long as the player views it as a piece of their developmental puzzle. It should be a complement to a rigorous skill and strength development program. Done correctly, AAU will absolutely help a player improve. Done incorrectly, it may end up being largely a waste of time and money. Like any other investment, I would encourage players and parents to thoroughly evaluate their options before making any decisions.
I would appreciate any feedback anyone has and look forward to sharing more thoughts in the future. Thanks and go Demons!