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Playing Travel Basketball

Choosing to play on an AAU travel team is not always an easy decision regardless of the sport. 

You can find many arguments for and against AAU travel programs and I’ll do my best to give you some sound advice.


The AAU travel ball experience is different from the one you get playing on your own school team.  In most cases the athlete’s role changes. You might be the best player on your school team, but quickly find yourself having to step up your game for the starting spot on your travel team. If you’re the biggest player on your school team your AAU travel coach may play you in other places due to a bigger pool of very good athletes.  This allows you to develop in other areas and forces you to push yourself more.

Most AAU travel programs, and/or club teams are made up of different age groups having multiple teams. They are coached many times by former school coaches, parents or former players who know the game well. AAU travel teams normally are limited to one or two practices per week as kids are usually busy during the week with school, family or other activities, making it hard to have weekday practices.

When looking for a team, find out what separates one program from another. Do your research and find a program that offers good coaching, and a positive environment. Don’t be fooled by travel team advertisements. Ask questions of the organization or others who have played within it. Remember just being on a team will not make you a great athlete; I’ve always said great athletes are born in their own driveways not in school gyms.  Working on skills is an individual responsibility!

Pros of AAU travel Basketball:

1. More gym time - Spending more time in a controlled gym through practicing and structured games can have a huge effect on developing skills.  In addition to working on your basketball skills I recommend playing on a team and in refereed games where there is structure. It’s important to combine the skills you practice in a game setting.

3. Making new friends – Being on a travel team bonds players with new friends who share the same goal.  You can make lifelong friends from your travel team that will go on for years to come.

2. Exposure – Believe it or not playing on an AAU travel team exposes athletes to others that would not have normally noticed you.  It’s crucial for players who are looking to play at the collegiate level to be seen by college coaches and travel basketball helps you get that exposure.

Cons of AAU Basketball:

1. Quality of Coaching – No one wants to get on a team only to find out the coach struggles to know what they are doing.  Although it is rare to find an AAU coach who has a poor coaching background or communications skills, they are out there. 

2. Playing Time – Some AAU programs are for making money and thus the more kids playing the more income that comes in.  Some programs will not make cuts but rather add additional teams resulting in a poor quality team.  Now this is fine to get more kids playing but make sure you are comfortable with this for your athlete. Know and understand the program you’re getting involved with.  Ask questions.

3. Expense – As with any travel sport you have the fee to play in addition to traveling to practices and games, hotels and eating out, etc.  Make sure that you are ready to make this commitment and understand what is involved.

I have personally coached both youth travel teams, high school teams and organized travel teams, so I have been on ALL sides of the fence.  All in all I feel getting involved with a travel team is crucial in developing a good solid ball player, but parents must do your homework first.  Good luck!


Good luck with your game,

Coach O

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