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AAU Basketball Is For Players, Not Coaches

Don't Lose Focus Of The Importance Of Summer Basketball

Henry Lake
May 09, 2017 - 2:20 pm

One of my favorite times of the year is spring and summer. Not just because of the hot days and great temperatures, but because it signals another summer of AAU basketball. Me unlike many, appreciates AAU for what it is.  It's an opportunity for young people that may be off the radar or not well known, to be able to showcase their basketball skills to college coaches from all over the country. Critics are skeptical of what good comes out of playing hoops all the time in the summertime. When you're talking about young people being able to play in front of the biggest names in college basketball, that's a draw. When you're talking about being able to create a name for yourself, that's a draw.  Seeing a scholarship opportunity to get into college is a draw.

But most importantly, AAU is a chance for young guys and gals to improve their abilities as basketball players.  You work hard on your game and look to improve.  You do this all while developing relationships with your friends and probably getting the opportunity to travel. It should definitely be viewed as a fun time in your life. 

There is one key person though for these young people, that have the power to make it all fun and worthwhile: the coach. I admire most coaches.  Coaches are often mentors. They try to pass on knowledge to others, in the hopes that they can advance their cause and be positive contributors to their lives. Lots of teachers are educators with their summer off and they want to continue to give back. Me and my co-host Jay Binkley have long talked about how thankless a job of coaching can be at any level before college. Most are in it for the children to have a awesome experience, and not for any financial rewards.

But the point of this conversation for me is that coaches have to remember what this is all about. It isn't about you, it's about helping kids. I covered a tournament this past weekend with co-worker Josh Klingler and we watched some talented kids play. Unfortunately this point was lost on a couple of the coaches. 

In tournaments like this, both coaches and players want to win.  We know this. But an added element to these tournments are the referees.  They are getting coached up themselves, being evaluated by those already in the profession at the college level.  And with that, referees are human and make mistakes. Some games they get the majority of the calls right, others they might be brutal. But the coaches should NEVER let the referees or the calls that they make, get them upset to the point of letting it affect their players.

One case in particular, a coach was all over the referees.  Hell, he was all over his kids. Didn't crack a smile once. Didn't offer up any positive comments to his kids at all. None. I was sitting right next to his bench. Kid make a mistake, just one, he got put on the bench.  Make a turnover or miss a shot? That kid was going to get berated and yelled at in front of the entire gym.  What kid wants to deal with that all summer? I get it, some of us yell to get our point across.  It can be effective. But this wasn't the case in this situation.

This coach looked at the court as his stage and he was the leading actor.  It was his time to shine and perform. Well, down 15 points in the 2nd half, he felt that he would show up the referees and make a scene.  I saw it coming. He went off on the refs yelling, got 2 technical fouls, and ejected from the game.  But that wasn't enough for him, he yelled that his kids were done, they were leaving, he was pulling them out the game.  The kids were stunned, they didn't move. After that tense moment, the game resumed, with the coach gone.  But not so fast.  Five minutes after he left the gymnasium, he returned and literally yelled out that his kids were leaving. It was one of the most embarassing situations that I'd ever witnessed. Why punish the kids by making them leave the court?  Why are you going on a power trip and making this about yourself?

My words of wisdom to any summer hoops coach out there: help all your kids develop their skills, allow them to enjoy themselves over the course of the summer with their teammates, and last but not least, don't take youself too serious. It's supposed to be fun for everybody. It's sports, not life or death.

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