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The high school vs AAU basketball debate: How does it apply to girls' basketball?

The X’s and O’s of Basketball blog posted an ESPN Outside the Lines episode the other day about the growing tension between club basketball and high school basketball. 


OTL: AAU Vs. High School Basketball (via ESPN)

The argument is that AAU is essentially competing with high school basketball because AAU tournaments are starting to get more visibility due to NCAA recruiting rules. I actually appreciate that ESPN did this little piece because it does seem to be a growing fact, it seems worthy of a documentary (can you imagine what Hoop Dreams might have looked like with an AAU element included?).

As an educator, this is of particular interest to me because I find the behavior of adults in youth sports to be sickening at times.

For example, at one point in the video above, a high school coach tells a story about how some of his players who need summer school cannot attend summer school because their AAU coaches are demanding they attend summer tournaments, thus jeopardizing their ability to play high school ball and find a way to college if they do not receive a scholarship for whatever reason. That’s ridiculous…and I would even go as far to say reprehensible.

When you consider the numbers regarding how many high school basketball players actually make the NBA, it is just silly for an adult to suggest that a teenager should ever prioritize basketball over his education. I suppose we could even go one step further and say the problem is not even the coaches – it’s the corporate entities that sponsor this industry of youth semi-pro-masquerading-as-amateur sports that’s the problem.

Surely one could argue that in Europe, men’s basketball players like Ricky Rubio are also encouraged to make basketball a lifestyle at an early age. Fair enough. But he’s also actually making money to do so. Far too often, adults are asking U.S. youth to play amateur sports on a semi-pro schedule without any compensation and to the detriment of their education…and that’s where it gets absurd to me.

Anyway, this made me think about the impact of club basketball on girls’ high school basketball. I know very little about girls high school and club basketball…but I wonder -- with the WNBA creating the opportunity for girls to aspire to playing professional basketball in the U.S., has there been a parallel increase in importance of club basketball? Are we seeing a similar situation where girls are forced to choose between playing for a high school team and an AAU team in their quest for visibility?

Given that there is considerably less money involved in the WNBA (and women’s sports in general), I would assume that the stakes are not quite as high for girls’ basketball players.

Hopefully the adults involved are able to keep things in perspective.

Related Articles:

As all-star tournaments gain momentum, 'AAU football' begins (nice summary of the harms of boys' AAU basketball...and how it could spread to football)