Lions, Tiger and Bears. Oh My!

I get around — (ahem!) all in the name of ball, of course.

This beautiful game has given me the opportunity to travel and coach/observe all around the world. As I do, I’m continually reminded about the importance of being concise and efficient with your words when teaching.

This is especially true when working with athletes who speak another language from your own. (Hey… if you want to become a better coach, do a coaching stint in a place where their first language isn’t yours. You’ll learn a lot. After coming back from coaching in Quebec, Canada, I’m recommitting to tightening up my French and being ready for the challenge again next time. — Je reviendrai mieux, Québec!).

This post was going to be titled: “Losing My Virginity!”

I thought that one rather risque. Either way, that’s what I felt like a few weeks back when I attended my very first AAU tournament in the US.

I was in Evanston, Illinois which is about 40mins outside of Chicago, completing the video production process for PGC Basketball. I had a great time with Lyndsey Fennelly and Tyler Coston pulling it all together. And, as Lady Luck would have it, the day I flew in was the final day of a major AAU tournament taking place about a half-hour’s drive from where we were. When asked, I jumped at the opportunity to see what all the hype was about.

I mean, this is ‘The Model’ that pumps out USA’s elite basketball players. And, just like the top American basketball players, the top Canadian ballers flock to these events to live out their hoop dream and get seen.

I tell ya… my hands were sweating from eager excitement as I walked into the gym.

What made this event special, was that this particular weekend was the only (or last, I should say) viewing period for NCAA coaches prior to summer. For those who are not familiar with the US system, NCAA coaches are restricted from observing recruitable athletes outside of very specific windows.)

Caged Animals at the Zoo

The only thing that I can relate this experience to is going to the zoo..! It’s a mad house of athletes, parents and coaches caged into a small space. At this particular tourney, there were over 200 teams playing out of 5 multi-court facilities (with each team paying $600+USD for participation!!!). Not to mention, hundreds of NCAA coaches attend these things and they’re also charged an inordinate amount of money for their attendance.

Forget the arguments on ethics and athlete development, talk to me about where that money goes. Crazy. The only obvious conclusion for me to make, as I was overwhelmed by the scope of this event, is that I’m in the wrong business. (Read: sarcasm).

I’ve had some time time to process things and am going to elect to withhold judgement of the AAU circuit as I’m still learning all about it.

With that in mind, if you’re interested in another’s take on it, ESPN’s Outside the Lines examines the power struggle between club and high school basketball in the US in this interesting piece below.