About the AAU and Its Basketball Programs

How Young Men and Women Can Join

StandinBoys/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

The Amateur Athletic Union or AAU

"AAU" stands for "Amateur Athletic Union" -- a nationwide non-profit organization dedicated to promoting athletics and fitness programs. The AAU was founded in 1888 to establish standards and uniformity in amateur sports. During its early years, the AAU served as a leader in international sport representing the U.S. in the international sports federations. The AAU worked closely with the Olympic movement to prepare athletes for the Olympic games. After the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, the AAU has focused its efforts into providing sports programs for all participants of all ages beginning at the grass roots level. The philosophy of "Sports for All, Forever," is shared by over 670,000 participants and over 100,000 volunteers. 

Mission Statement

To offer amateur sports programs through a volunteer base for all people to have the physical, mental, and moral development of amateur athletes and to promote good sportsmanship and good citizenship.

Vision Statement

To offer amateur athletes and volunteers opportunities to develop to their highest level through a national and local network of sporting events. Through participation in AAU, we achieve our dreams as athletes and as valued citizens of our communities.

AAU Programs and Basketball 

Programs offered by the AAU include: AAU Sports Program, AAU Junior Olympic Games, AAU James E. Sullivan Memorial Award and the AAU Complete Athlete Program. In addition, the President's Challenge program is administered on behalf of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. The AAU has 33 national committees to organize its activities in particular sports.

The AAU offers basketball programs for both boys and girls. In basketball, AAU teams have risen to great prominence as powerhouse programs in big cities attract rosters full of blue-chip NCAA recruits. Performance in AAU play may be more important to those recruits than their own high school careers.

Here is information on how young men and women can join the AAU basketball program.

A Cautionary Note

In the 1970s, the AAU received growing criticism. Many claimed that its regulatory framework was outdated. Women were banned from participating in certain competitions and some runners were locked out. There were also problems with sporting goods that did not meet the standards of the AAU. During this time, the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 organized the United States Olympic Committee and saw the re-establishment of state-supported independent associations for the Olympic sports. As a result, the AAU lost its influence and importance in international sports, and focused on the support and promotion of predominantly youthful athletes, as well as on the organization of national sports events.

Unfortunately, the world of AAU basketball is also full of sharks looking to exploit young players. The adults associated with AAU programs often wield tremendous influence on their young charges -- and have been known to use that influence to steer their most talented players to certain college programs or pro agents.

Sports agent David Falk -- who managed the NBA careers of Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and others -- recently told Darren Rovell of CNBC, "... we're dealing in a world where agents are splitting fees with AAU coaches all the time. And it's getting worse."