After spending the last four years visiting and sponsoring hundreds of AAU sanctioned tournaments across the country, we’ve got a unique perspective on the state of American youth basketball. In case you missed it, here’s what Mamba recently had to say on the subject:
"AAU basketball," Bryant said. "Horrible, terrible AAU basketball. It's stupid. It doesn't teach our kids how to play the game at all so you wind up having players that are big and they bring it up and they do all this fancy crap and they don't know how to post. They don't know the fundamentals of the game. It's stupid."
Now, Kobe’s certainly not the first to point the finger at AAU. Check out our Alpha @TeamFootprintz’s blog post showing some of the most influential names in basketball loading blame on this 127-year-old institution. While fundamentally in agreement with the message these experts convey, I’m amazed that no one is asking the real question at the root of the problem…
WHO IS THE AAU???
Those who care about the game point fingers at AAU, three letters that have become a symbolic representation of JR Smith going 1-on-5 (BTW, good luck with that LeBron). But, very few actually understand its organizational structure or purpose. You can’t begin to fix a problem if you don’t know who’s creating it.
OK, journalism hat on. Let’s check their site. Here’s what the AAU About page says:
The AAU was founded in 1888 to establish standards and uniformity in amateur sports. During its early years, the AAU served as a leader in international sport representing the U.S. in the international sports federations. The AAU worked closely with the Olympic movement to prepare athletes for the Olympic games. After the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, the AAU has focused its efforts into providing sports programs for all participants of all ages beginning at the grass roots level. The philosophy of "Sports for All, Forever," is shared by over 670,000 participants and over 100,000 volunteers.
As expected…corporate fluff. No help. Let’s dig a bit deeper.
I wonder what happens if I search “AAU Board of Directors.” That should get me some names of people making these decisions and affecting change. Here’s what I found:
Guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I wouldn’t want my name on that masthead either.
But drilling down one more level from here is where it gets interesting. When we scroll from top down in this section to the AAU’s Resources page, we are taken to this page:
(AI on press conference podium voice, please) “INSURANCE?! You talkin ‘bout INSURANCE?! INSURANCE??!!”
Yup – at it’s core, that's what AAU is. A governing body that helps event organizers and tournament operators secure sufficient liability insurance at bulk rate pricing so if a player gets injured or killed during play, they are covered.
So class, what did we learn today. Well, I think it can be summed up as follows:
LIABILITY INSURANCE IS KILLING USA BASKETBALL
Check back shortly for part 2 on WHO IS AAU, where we not only dig a bit deeper into the root of the problem, but even offer a suggestion or two on how we can start the fix.
Until then, see you on the court (with my insurance card in hand, of course)…