club vs aau vs school

Club vs. AAU vs. School Ball

So many times players and families must choose between playing for their school, playing AAU ball, or playing for a club basketball team. It’s tough. All of them provide a variety of pros and cons so making that decision is a big one.

How should you compare Club vs AAU vs School Ball?

Here’s a take on each of them.


For this article, we consider AAU to be more of a localized league. This can be different in other parts of America. Where you live, it may be called something else entirely. It may be Y-ball, i9, Upward, or some other private organization.

For this scenario, each team is selected based on a tryout amongst kids living in their specific high school boundaries (there are leagues for 5th-9th grade boys and girls). The seasons run about 10 weeks, including 8-10 games and a post-season tournament. Teams are allocated 2 practices per week for 1-1.5 hours and are told they cannot practice outside of that time. It costs about $185 per player and you also purchase a $12 AAU card. Because players purchase an AAU card, we label this AAU Basketball. Other groups may do it differently.


There is a structure set up and the league helps get teams their practice times and organizes the games and officials. Since the players are all in the same school district or live in the same area, it can help to facilitate chemistry between those players, a benefit to the high schools if those players all continue to play and end up playing varsity basketball. It is also a nice safety net that players can fall into if they do not make a club basketball team.


The reality is that the coaching, in terms of player development and teaching the game, is fairly weak. While there are a few exceptions, generally the teams are coached by moms and dads that don’t have a lot of experience but want their child to be able to play. It is better than nothing.

Club Basketball Teams

Over the last 10 years, club basketball has become more established. Some clubs have been around for more than 20 years while others are more “Mom and Pop” teams that were put together by parents and are not intended to be sustainable. Generally speaking, the younger club basketball teams (3rd-7th grade) try to operate year-round while the older teams (high school) work around the school ball schedules. The price can range from $75 per month (plus any extra expenses like travel, jerseys, etc.) up to an entire summer for $2,500 (which includes all travel, insurance, jerseys, practice time, etc.).

To see an example of how clubs figure out what to charge, click here for a YouTube video.


Depending on which club you choose the coaching can be pretty good. This is one of the most critical items to consider. Are the coaches qualified? Have they played and coached at a higher level? Do they understand what is important at the player’s age level for their future success? Do they understand the recruiting process and what is best for individual players? At Select Basketball, our coaches have a ton of experience. They don’t have sons or daughters playing on their teams so there is no chance for nepotism.

Some clubs have tryouts for their teams (click here to learn more about tryouts). Theoretically, it puts the best players on the same team. When coupled with great coaching, this can dramatically speed up the player’s development process. For older teams, there is also a coupling effect when it comes to recruiting. If you have great players on your team you are more likely to get more attention from college recruiters, providing additional looks for players that may normally be unlikely to be seen without the other great players on their team.

The other big pro is that club teams generally play in bigger tournaments, giving them more opportunities to play against better competition and in front of more college coaches.


Club teams can often be more expensive than school or AAU ball. One thing that we always encourage families to do is ask some tough questions about the “real” cost of the club team you are thinking about playing for. Several clubs advertise X dollars per month, coming in below other clubs. But that doesn’t cover the cost of travel (hotels, flights, meals), tournament entry fees and purchasing jerseys. Plus, if you don’t feel there is enough structure (i.e. curfews, supervision) for your child to travel alone, how much will it cost you to travel along with them? All are separate charges that should be factored into the total cost.

Club teams do suffer from the impression that they could be operated by unethical means or for ulterior motives. Here is an excerpt from a book that will give you an example. That is why it is so important to consider the coaches and people that are involved with the team and will be interacting with your child. For example, Select Basketball does compensate our coaches. Like any quality employee, their time is worth something. So the question is: do you want a coach that is qualified, passionate, and compensated or one that has nothing to lose?

School Ball

Without a doubt, school ball should not be sacrificed for either club ball or AAU. There is no reason to not try and play for your school. If you have an AAU coach or club coach telling you to not play for your school, you should consider why they are giving you that advice.


There is not a more structured and organized league schedule than your school league play. The schools have access to more gyms and can guarantee practice time. Plus, there is nothing like playing for your high school in front of your peers. And while some schools are now shifting to a pay-for-play fee structure, generally this is the most affordable option available. With A, B, and C teams or varsity, junior varsity, sophomore, and freshman teams, school systems can provide a nice safety net to give lots of players opportunities to be on a team. A lot of high schools now have summer and spring open gym time and there is a decent summer schedule in June.


If your goals are to move on to the college level, the competition at the high school level is generally not going to get you a lot of attention. And with the restrictions that the state high school associations put on teams in terms of the number of games allowed combined with the budgetary constraints that most schools are feeling these days, there are very few opportunities to play outside of your region.

Overall, our opinion is that school ball should be a priority. If you can find the right club team during the offseason, that would be the best off-season (spring, summer, fall) option. If that doesn’t work out then the AAU (or local league) provides a nice safety net for players that want to play but need more experience and time to mature.

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