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Re-Thinking the Club Basketball Model

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

I’ve been a college basketball coach for the last 12 years, the last 10 at the Division 1 level. I’ve watched more AAU basketball, spoken with more coaches, athletes, and parents than I can possibly remember. But throughout all the games I’ve watched and all the involved folks I’ve spoken with, very few are satisfied with their experience. Here are the main complaints I’ve heard:

· The kids don’t get any better

· It’s all-consuming: too expensive and takes up all our family’s time

· Health/injury concerns – overuse has led or will likely lead to injury

· Ethical concerns regarding the coach

This isn’t to say Club basketball is bad – there are some amazing coaches and programs out there who put the needs of the athletes and their families first and operate in a professional way. And club basketball has a purpose – more than just one, actually, but I’ll get to that later. Regardless, the issues listed above are all fair criticism. Most AAU teams/programs struggle with at least one, if not more, of the issues listed above. What follows is a list of the things I intend to change with the new team we are starting up this spring.

1. Switch the Primary emphasis from Showcasing and Recruiting to Development

Club basketball has two main purposes – showcasing/recruiting and player development. Currently, the emphasis in the majority of programs is 80% Showcasing/Recruiting and 20% Development. We intend to invert that to an 80% emphasis on development by maximizing practice time, playing fewer tournaments and maintaining a process focus throughout the season.

2. Allow additional time for Sport-Life Balance

I mentioned playing fewer tournaments above – that’s a big piece here. To reduce risk of injury and burnout, it’s important athletes (and their families) have weekends off to rest/recover, catch up/get ahead on schoolwork, focus on their primary spring HS sport, or pursue other interests. The basketball time we get needs to be focused and productive – but if our athletes are engaged, we can accomplish more in less time.

3. Be Specific and Targeted with Recruiting

Meet with each athlete and their parents at the beginning of the season and discuss goals for their college process. We will play appropriate tournaments to help our athletes get seen by the coaches that make sense rather than chasing the big events with clout.

4. Total Transparency + Focus on Building a Positive Parent Culture

Parents and coaches butt heads at all levels. It doesn’t have to be that way. Parents will be invited to all practice sessions, player/coach Zoom sessions and our coaches will make an active effort to make our culture parent-inclusive. We want parents to know what our focus is with their child, how we’re attempting to help them improve, why they receive the amount of playing time they do, what we mean with our terminology, or any other questions that come up. The more transparency and communication there is, the better we can all feel about what we see on the court.

5. Play Meaningful Tournaments

The main purpose of playing tournaments is showcasing and recruiting. It doesn’t make sense to spend time and money at tournaments that don’t fit the players on our teams. By selecting meaningful tournaments, we can invest our time and money in the most productive way and incorporate sport-life balance by taking weekends off in between.

I’m sure I will learn a lot this season as we try to implement these five elements to our team. If you’re interested in learning more, or have anything to add to this post, please send us a message to get in touch. We’re based out of the greater-Haverhill, Mass area and teams are currently forming now.

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