It’s that time of year when aspiring basketball athletes, young and old, get that itch and start dreaming about professional basketball. Some call it an itch; others refer to it as a fantasy.
The bug actually bites in March during the annual obsession of NCAA basketball tournaments. Remember the three weeks of continuous games that culminates the first week of April? When we think we have a break, the NBA regular season ends and it’s back to the races. Another month or so of professional basketball ends in mid-June, if we’re lucky.
There’s no more basketball until November, or is there? Summer always brings “pick-up” games, recreational leagues, and camps, but one highly anticipated event is the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union)/ http://aauboysbasketball.org/ program for boys, which will be showcased in Louisville, Kentucky next month. All the “wanna-bees” and talented gents will be there to demonstrate their athletic skills with hopes they get a special invitation to the Gold Super Showcase, and maybe more in 3-5 years.
July 2009, by coincidence, I had a client and nephew both vying for the attention and respect of the represented coaches in Las Vegas. My husband and I were both there for professional reasons and it was humorous that the cab driver thought we were parents of an AAU participant. Probably because our hotel was near UNLV, he assumed incorrectly; however, when I visited the campus days later, the hoopla of AAU was gone. Mixed emotions about the experience were expressed by my client; didn’t get feedback from my nephew.
The concern with AAU programs and “prep schools” is the vulnerability of some of the high school students and parents who get caught in the fantasy of dreams that will not be fulfilled. Yes, we all dream of endless possibilities, but at what point do we “wake-up” and realize that our expectations might jeopardize our well-being. And to what expense should one follow these dreams?
The Chronicle of Higher Education featured an article, “Basketball Academy’s Empty Promises,” March 30, 2014. ( http://chronicle.com/article/Basketball-Academys-Empty/145597/) Kingdom Prep Academy in Des Moines, Iowa was the program of controversy and many families were disappointed about the education and basketball programs their sons did not receive, as promised. Many academies claim to help academically challenged athletes fulfill their high school graduation requirements or improve their marketability for college, by offering support with admission test prep, educational achievement, and related criteria. Some students at Kingdom Prep realized and regretted their mistake; they left their home and school and traveled far for unfulfilled goals.
Several years ago, I remember as a school counselor that NCAA issued a warning about some of the “prep schools” and noted the concept lacked supervision. I shared the information with my student athletes and several of the varsity coaches.
Personally, NCAA’s intervention was a welcomed relief; considering, I had a basketball athlete, in the late 80′s, stop by my office to tell me his prep school wanted me “to clean up his transcript.” My reply was, “And exactly what does that mean?” He explained, as he had been instructed; he had to inform the prep school, “it wasn’t going to happen.”
One of my favorite cliché’s, keep it in proper perspective, best describes the developmental path of college and professional basketball for aspiring athletes. I also like, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Unfortunately, scams are universal and the master-minds know how to prey on the most vulnerable souls. Basketball is fun to watch and play. However, not every guy who spends a week at AAU or attends a basketball prep school will achieve the success of Michael Jordan or Lebron James; and that’s okay.