Before diving into this article, the main subject of this article is basketball but it can also be carried over into sports that have club teams (soccer/volleyball) and the majority of sports that have different off-season all star teams (football is the main sport that does not have this). So even if you see that I may be talking mostly about AAU teams, this information can apply to a number of other sports.
First off, the key is timing and that makes it very difficult for athletes to get on teams. While there are still tryouts for a number of these teams in all states, the majority of the sports (basketball and volleyball for instance) kick off their season early in the spring. As a note, I must say that I am mainly talking about 16, 17, and 18 year old AAU and club teams. I don’t plan on delving any younger just because playing at that young of level will do little to help you with the recruiting process. What really matters is after your sophomore and junior years so keep that in mind.
When these teams do have tryouts, I am willing to bet that the majority of them already have a solid core of players that they know will be making the team. These players amongst the core may have already been playing on younger versions of the team and will be making the move up to the older level this summer. Not all players are asked or invited back so there obviously will be opening for players that are good enough.
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Most of the top AAU basketball teams that I am aware of do not have tryouts. Their coaches take the time to travel to games, jamborees, State tournaments, and anything else in their area that can help them see the top players in action. They also usually have a very trusted network of people around their area that can help them find excellent athletes. This really helps them finding players throughout the entire process.
So how do I go about finding out what teams have openings? The first thing you need to have knowledge of is the teams that are currently being run across your state. While you can look outside of state borders, the first and likely easiest place to search is those that are close. If you are a high school basketball player who is a junior, you honestly should know exactly who the top AAU teams in your state are. You should have heard about them or read about them many times by now. If you don’t know, ask your friends. If they don’t know, then search AAU teams in your state (or club teams as well).
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Once you have found as many teams as you can, then you will need to go about contacting them. You can either email or call them. What you should honestly do is tell them a little about yourself, your accomplishments/stats, and then ask them about tryouts or what needs to be done for you to be evaluated. Many coaches will tell you about the tryouts or they may say they are full. If they are full, you spent ten minutes of your time looking into something that just didn’t come through. No big deal there. You should also ask about being an alternative on the team as well. Finding out as much information as possible is extremely helpful.
Again, the sooner that you do this, the better. Most club/AAU coaches want to have their teams finalized as soon as possible for the upcoming spring/summer season. They don’t want to be hoping for a bigman to give them a call two weeks before their first tournament. For basketball teams, they usually practice as soon as the majority of players have wrapped up their season. Some even have practices in the same city as the State tournament. While the players at State won’t be playing, the others will get a chance to practice together.
You should also look into potential new teams. While they may not be as reputable, it could give you a fresh start. You can’t blame politics if it is a new team! Again, taking the time to do this can be a major boast to you during the recruiting process. In these sports, college coaches want to evaluate your abilities first hand and not on tape (especially basketball). So getting on a quality AAU team with good players can help.