Friday, June 26, 2009

The problem with AAU basketball isn't lax defense

Worthwhile article in the Wall Street Journal on the destructive effects of AAU basketball on top youth talent. Kevin Clark writes: "For some time, coaches have grumbled that the AAU’s emphasis on building stars and playing games over practicing produces a lot of talented prospects who have great physical skills but limited knowledge of the fundamentals." Clark cites the case of Michael Beasley, the No. 2 pick overall in the NBA draft last year, who was woefully unprepared to take the step to the pros in one, um, important aspect. "No one, at any level in his basketball career, had asked him to play defense," Clark writes, "And especially not in AAU. “If you’re playing defense in AAU, you don’t need to be playing,” he [Beasley] says. “I’ve honestly never seen anyone play defense in AAU.”

Interesting that we've reached a point where a youth sports program can be knocked for failing to prepare kids to one day play pro ball. That's not exactly the point of the article, of course. But close enough.

I'm saving my disapproval of AAU for all it does to blur the boundaries between kids sports and the pro game - the opposite point. Clark doesn't dismiss this and, in fact, addresses the point in a paragraph deep in the story: "Shoe companies have sponsored AAU teams as a way to develop early relationships with future superstars. Agents and college coaches have flocked to AAU games, where they can get to know players outside the watchful high-school system. The opportunity to travel across the country and play in front of these kingmakers—often on teams with other top prospects—is something high schools can’t deliver."

That's what's wrong with AAU basketball. Not that it isn't teaching defense.


amakice said...

Sounds to me like if defense doesn't matter, neither does teamwork- which would mean the core rationalization for offering youth sports in this form is completely mute. We aren't teaching kids to be team players, we're teaching them to be superstars or lose all their value.

Barry said...

Great post Mark. Problem is we aren't teaching these kids about life outside of basketball. Well maybe we are, but what lessons are we showing them. So few kids really continue on to the next level. AAU could have a much bigger profound affect on these kids outside of the field of athletics. Scouts are often the worst culprits. No offense to any reading this of course :).