The AAU circuit is headed in the wrong direction

Photo courtesy of

The AAU circuit is headed in the wrong direction
June 13
01:00 2019

Over the past few years as a reporter for The Chronicle, I have witnessed quite a few AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) basketball games. During that time, I have noticed quite a few problems permeating through the AAU system and I see it getting progressively worse as time goes on.

I am also a basketball referee, which gives me a firsthand perspective of how many of these teams act and perform and let’s just say, many teams leave a lot to be desired. What I have observed is the players are not to blame, it’s the parents, coaches and this new sense of entitlement instilled in the kids that is my biggest problem.

When I was a kid, there were only a handful of AAU teams around the city; nowadays there are too many to count. There seems to be several new organizations popping up every year, but there are only so many quality coaches to go around, so that leaves many teams with unqualified head coaches at the helm.

Many of these coaches do not have the knowledge to develop these young players, but they are entrusted to instill the necessary skillset to make them better.  Another issue I have seen is the bad sportsmanship shown by many coaches. I have seen coaches almost get into fights, use profanity on the sidelines, and belittle their players on the bench. Someone please tell me how this is supposed to teach their players the beneficial values of playing sports.

Another issue I have noticed with coaches is the tendency for a team to have a father and son combination on the team as coach and player. Now this is not a new issue, but recently more and more of these situations have led to a team’s demise. I recently was a referee at a tournament where the father was the coach of his son and instead of benching his son, who was totally ineffective, he continued to let him shoot, which in turn caused them to lose the game.

I was amazed at the arrogance of this father. Yes, his son was talented, but everyone in the gym could see the kid was off that game. If I were another parent of a player on that team, I would be irate.

My last issue with the coaches is some are out for their own glory, instead of highlighting the skills of their players. I have heard of coaches poaching kids from other organizations or bad-mouthing other teams for their own gain, just so they can put another victory in the win column. This is really sad.

Some of the parents are just as bad as some of the coaches. I hate to inform you, but hardly any of you reading this knows the rules of the game of basketball. There are six rules about the jump ball alone that most people don’t know. It’s annoying when parents are yelling calls from the stands that are totally incorrect. My only suggestion is for them to read a rulebook.

Let’s all remember, kids emulate what they see, so if they observe you being totally out of control, using bad language and having a bad attitude, more than likely they will do so as well. I blame that on the sense of entitlement many kids have today. I did not grow up with that entitlement issue. I grew up thinking I had to put in the work to be celebrated for my talent and effort. Some of these kids think they deserve a parade for putting on a jersey the right way. That mode of thinking must come from the home.

The disrespect and bad attitudes I have seen from some of these players are appalling. As a ref, the things I have heard come out of these kids’ mouths are unbelievable. As a child I could never imagine speaking to an adult in that way, let alone someone who is an authority figure on the court. I never saw the point of arguing calls; it’s not like the ref is going to change his mind because you cursed or yelled at them. It seems illogical.

I hate to say it, but we need to cut some of these organizations, because it has watered down the talent pool too much. I recently saw a team lose by 70 points and there was a running clock in the first half. That sort of defeat can totally kill a child’s confidence. 

My hope is that something is done quickly to change this downward spiral. I used to enjoy watching the young men and women play for the love of the game, but I don’t see that much anymore. Let’s get back to the old days.

About Author

Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

Related Articles


  1. Mpeltier1911
    Mpeltier1911 June 16, 13:11

    I agree on some of your summations. Although, there have been instances That their are referees who are New and still learning, that go and call games for Financial gain. These AAU teams are doing the same. You will have some teams that are far talented than others. Yet, I would prefer these kids doing something productive, than hanging out and committing crimes or even being single out as a threat. I am agree that the environment is changing. We have to evolve with the the changes.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Anthony Teel
    Anthony Teel June 15, 16:20

    I agree with this young man whole heartedly. I teach Olympic Taekwondo thru the AAU and you do not see these types of shenanigans in the sport of Taekwondo especially from the kids mainly more so from the parents and adult black belts but those shenanigans get dealt with extremely quick, so I applaud you sir you have spoken nothing less than the truth.

    Reply to this comment
  3. TomB
    TomB June 15, 09:12

    Thank you for writing this as it needed to be said and needs to be done. This is my son’s first year of AAU basketball after years of competitive soccer. The level of coaching and play we witnessed was dramatically inconsistent. We had good match ups some of the time, but in quite a few tournaments one team was clearly in the wrong bracket. Caused coaches pushing their teams into higher level of play then they are ready. Youth soccer has a system that doesn’t allow the egos of coaches to push their teams into demoralizing matches AAU needs to better police their program.

    Secondly,over half the coaches and parents need a big dose Positive Coaching Alliance training. Our soccer club mandates it for all coaches AND parents. If a parent doesn’t take it, their player doesn’t get their player card. Youth soccer has licenced coaches that are trained. AAU needs the same program.

    Reply to this comment
  4. rpatterson7878
    rpatterson7878 June 15, 00:24

    Very true statement. These kids are very disrespectful on and off the courts. And us as parents are not helping by yelling out doing the games. Most parents knows nothing about the game of basketball. The should never be coaches and sons or daughters on the same team period! My opinion tho

    Reply to this comment
  5. Pops
    Pops June 15, 00:13

    You are very true about everything you have just said. It’s very sad and disrespectful how these kids act nowadays. On and off the court. And yes us parents do need to stop yelling out calls, most of us really don’t know the game. It’s just natural to say something if it’s not going our teams way. And coaches with there sons on the team should not be allowed. Last, a team should have a experience coach coaching an AAU team. That’s my opinion tho

    Reply to this comment
  6. BamaRef
    BamaRef June 14, 20:11

    I have been a basketball official for about 9 years now. I HATE calling AAU tournaments, I love the game and I love to officiate. AAU and summer ball in general I see as a joke but it’s the biggest thing in recruiting now. About 2 weeks ago a player said my call was bull s*it so I gave him a technical. Then he gave me the finger and said F*ck you in front of his coach and everyone. I gave him another T and sent him on his merry way. The coach went insane! Saying I couldn’t give him two technicians and defended his kid for his actions. He stopped the game and called the administration over, made a big scene. It’s that kind of stuff over and over and over.

    Reply to this comment
  7. June 14, 19:09

    Ref, and i thought it was just me seeing the ignorance of the parent/ peanut gallery, trying to over rule the referee call are make.a better call then the much foolishness. When i go to my sons game a find the most isolated spot to set from these self proclaimed referee. That have no clue, they’re having visions of their child making then 😢

    Reply to this comment
  8. Coach Jerry
    Coach Jerry June 14, 18:59

    Great observation! It is a crazy world on the AAU circuit for sure

    Reply to this comment
  9. Butch
    Butch June 14, 17:43

    I was just having the same discussion about these same topics! I thought I was trippin when I see how the Circuit is run now but reading this makes me feel validated. Well written.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Slatyr
    Slatyr June 14, 15:13

    While I agree with almost all you’ve said I have a bone to pick with the way the games are officiated.
    #1 with the increase of games we now many referees have no clue what they are doing. They think because they have certification they know all. Certification should mean something it’s way too easy to become certified and to maintain it. I can’t stand a referee who won’t explain a call or who treat the court as their personal kingdom. Way too prevalent today.
    #2 this is not a referee issue but I guess an organizer issue. AAU games dont call anything. There is a reason people get their emotions going. My son is a PG and I’ve literally thought about not letting him play AAU anymore cuz he gets so roughed up in games and nothing is called. He has gotten concussions, terrible bruises, more scratches than I can count and even his jerseys stretched because of holding and that’s just this year of 8 AAU tourneys! On one hand he needs those kinds of games but not all the time which is what it’s become. It has become dangerous. Some more than others. Call the game the same way it is during season. I dont care if it takes longer. Coaches would pay more for a better product and kids wouldn’t learn bad habits. For coaches who really care this is maddening!

    I hope these issues are only in my area of East Tennessee but from the little I’ve been out of the area and what I read online it isn’t.
    I agree this is just going to get worse. Given where our society is going. The sense of entitlement etc.
    We no longer recognize what is right and wrong just who yells the loudest, not a good standard for basketball.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Nuffsaid
    Nuffsaid June 14, 14:53

    Also, with the growing number of teams (and fewer qualified coaches and less talented/developed players), comes more games and less qualified officials. The lack of quality officials is evident, and this contributes to, and escalates, the frustrations of the coaches, players and parents alike, who investook time, money and effort (and a lot of times travel), just to have subpar officials who think the game is about them, or that folks have paid money to come watch them officiate.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Pepsgirl
    Pepsgirl June 14, 14:36

    I totally agree with this article,AAU just isnt the same anymore. My daughter plays AAU volleyball. It use to be for kids that had good ball handling skills and wanted to compete on a higher platform to be even better. Nowadays we have AAU coaches and organizations taking people’s money and making promises/deals with HS coaches that they will prepare scrubby kids with no ball handling experience to play for the upcoming HS varsity season. This is a sham, disgrace and unfair to the paying parents whose kid(s) have potential, ball handling skills and paying lots of money to see their kids play on a competitive platform. Parents travel with their kids, paying thousands of dollars only to be DISAPPOINTED by the decisions AAU coaches make over and over and over. How about this, you fill your teams with talented, paying customers and stop robbing parents and students but most of all do your job…

    Reply to this comment
  13. Lawrence Smith
    Lawrence Smith June 14, 12:09


    Reply to this comment
  14. Coach
    Coach June 14, 11:51

    As I have been an AAU coach since 1991,I agree completely. The influx of tournament operators, so called trainers and others who are making a living off of kids sports has caused the decline. While its fair to say that there are many unqualified and undertalented players what’s worse is the referees. Their arrogance, lack of hustle and low character shows up more than anything. So many refs think the game is all about them. So AAU has problems but for many kids it’s still works and helps them a ton

    Reply to this comment
  15. Melly
    Melly June 14, 11:45

    Totally agree my husband is a head coach my sons’s talented He would sit him in a heart beat because actually it help him to refocus!!!dream team Aau 2017
    We need to develop coaches it’s all about profits now.

    Reply to this comment
  16. Nicole
    Nicole June 14, 11:00

    So what about the referee, don’t leave them out cause they do a hell of a bad job themselves!

    Reply to this comment
  17. Hap
    Hap June 14, 10:51

    That’s like saying all refs r terrible. I have coached for 20 yrs have many kids who have went on to play college ball. I’ve never cussed a kid or stole a player.there r some bad ones I’m sure but a blanket statement shows your ignorance. Greg Harrison Alabama blazerd

    Reply to this comment
  18. NC Zay
    NC Zay June 14, 09:49

    I feel everything you said is off your bad experience. You are correct there are alot of AAU basketball teams, but look how many kids there are that want a chance at a career in basketball. With fewer teams, you telling kids at a young age they not good enough for AAU, and really it suppose to be different. That team that got beat by 70 probably didn’t feel they wasn’t good enough, they just realized they wasn’t working hard enough. Just like Some father son team duo works and some don’t. It just depend on the coach, the whole article, the most critical part is the coaching. As a coach if i get beat by 70 that’s an insult on me.

    Reply to this comment
  19. Hard2Guard 4life
    Hard2Guard 4life June 13, 16:24

    I would have to say the biggest deciding factor of this problem is the parents, they don’t understand the process or have patience for it, therefore as soon as they feel their child should be starting and is not, or playing more or a position and are not they jump teams or form new ones with inexperienced coaches.

    Reply to this comment
  20. Bahta78
    Bahta78 June 13, 16:01

    I totally agree with you. However I also have to say that with the influx of teams it has also thinned the talent pool for officials as well. It takes skill to referee a game. It boggles my mind at a lot of my daughters tournaments how bad the officiating is. They cannot maintain control of the games in some cases. That to me is their main job.

    Reply to this comment
  21. STICKS
    STICKS June 13, 15:58

    Spot on Mr. RAMSEY. Unfortunately youth sports is a 9 billion a year industry so it attracts capitalists not basketball people. The travel is as ridiculous as the coaching. Hakf court offenses amount to three point contests.

    Reply to this comment
  22. JD
    JD June 13, 15:50

    I agree with most of your article. However, I don’t believe the circuit is going in the wrong direction. I believe that AAU needs to add more rules for the kids to abide by. If a ref hears a kid swearing on the court, the ref should be allowed to kick the kid out of the game. Also different programs start at different times which allows some teams to be a lot better than other teams. There are some bad coaches and some horrible parents, that we can agree on. However, kids get softer every generation and that is just a fact of life that we have to deal with.

    Reply to this comment
  23. Concernedcoach
    Concernedcoach June 13, 15:42

    I love this article but being on both side a ref and a coach I also see that the Refs are getting lackadaisical and letting kids get injured I recently saw a girl get knocked down right in front of a ref and no call was made when asked why no call he said he did not see it.

    Reply to this comment
  24. Concerned AAU Parent
    Concerned AAU Parent June 13, 15:18

    I agree with this article except for the parent part and not know all the rules. I have been to many AAU games with ref that are just there for a paycheck. Some aren’t watching don’t want to be there all day etc. Keep the ownership on all parties, especially the refs. The organization that hires the refs for the tournament need to keep them on their game.

    Reply to this comment
  25. Rooster
    Rooster June 13, 15:03

    This is so true

    Reply to this comment
  26. Scott
    Scott June 13, 14:49

    I have been in AAU basketball now for five seasons. I loved your article except for the fact that you did not hold the refereeing accountable for any of the problems. Bad players are allowed to reach, block, and walk because if it were called it would interrupt the flow of the game. Referees have the power to make all sports better by holding players accountable within the rules. How are players supposed to learn the right way when the referring is never consistent with the rules and always changing? Basketball has been allowed to pkay more like Rugby and then everyone wonders everyone gets upset. Thank you

    Reply to this comment
  27. Websonary
    Websonary June 13, 14:33

    Great article, I agree with you. I have noticed that tournament organizers don’t ensure that all players are placed in the appropriate age groups. AAU doesn’t ensure that these rules are enforced. I would like to offer a solution to provide all of the players with identification that would show the age of each player. At the beginning of every game, the referees should check the IDs and then begin the game. Like you said we leave this responsibility to the coaches and the parents, but it is obvious, we aren’t doing a good job at all.

    Reply to this comment
  28. Shawntice
    Shawntice June 13, 14:23

    I 100% agree I’m dealing with this situation as we speak as long as the parents of the kid’s who get the short end of the stick continue to allow it to happen instead of sticking together to get rid of the bad couches because at the end of the day it’s the parents money that run these organizations.

    Reply to this comment
  29. Sports Fan
    Sports Fan June 13, 14:09

    Finally somebody said it. I go to tournaments to watch my sister play. The number of parents who don’t know basketball but think they do is ridiculously high. Like you said, coaches who just go find talent but don’t know how to coach are just as bad. Kids are totally out of control. And like you also said, it’s because they’re entitled. I would just like to add that there are too many games per day. Kids are also getting hurt now more than ever. I think these tournaments need to get rid of pool play and just invite the best teams and do an old school tournament. One and done. That raises up the level of play and will result in better games. I hate to say this but the parenting thing will only get worse because parents are starting to look at the attention and fame Lavar Ball got and now they’re going to try and copy what he did. I also think college coaches need to put more attention on school ball. I know it’s hard because high school and college start right around the same time, but I think they can do it if they add more scouts to their teams.

    Reply to this comment
  30. Big-heat77
    Big-heat77 June 13, 14:01

    I am glad someone else sees what I am seeing also. These bad coaches, and all we do is win organizations are messing our kids up. It’s a wonder why more and more nba players are being drafted out the US. These kids are being flaunted around like they have made it to the nba and have a contract. I hope this article is read by enough people to make a change in aau basketball b/c if not the nba will no longer be

    Reply to this comment
  31. Coach G
    Coach G June 13, 11:29

    I agree with you!. But the tournments directors needs to be accountable. These tournments are operating without security, medical personnel and tournment personnel identity( not knowing who’s a tournament worker).
    Directors not checking rosters of eligible players. It doesn’t matter if a kid is not playing in its proper age group.

    Reply to this comment

Write a Comment


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors