With school vacation time just around the corner, much attention will turn to AAU sports.
Travel ball, if you will.
And then there’s a number of specialty summer camps. Man, there’s a lot of them!
That’s the time of the year when parents get an opportunity to dig deep in order for their kids to develop more skills in travel sports, with hopes of being noticed.
Well, AAU is a business. A profitable one at that. I’m guessing some coaches at various camps will tell you what you might want to hear about the potential of your son or daughter.
Don’t mean to sound so negative, but . . .
Recruiting youngsters has as many opportunities to fail as it does to succeed. Actually, the negative outweighs any positive in such a situation. No one knows how a kid is going to develop over that time period, both mentally and physically.
Remember when the story broke about LeBron James’ 10-year-old son being recruited four years ago by colleges? Glad that the man some call the King of the NBA condemned it. Pronto! You might say he slam-dunked that idea.
Some say they cannot blame those college coaches. He is the son of the man believed to be the best basketball player on the planet. And the youngster certainly has good genes. LeBron James Jr. enters high school this year. And he likely remains high on the college radar list.
But how good could he have been at such an early age?
I could only shake my head in disbelief when I heard about that.
Pass the aspirin, please!
The bigger question here is, along with the physical skills needed, are such young kids mentally equipped for the AAU and / or recruiting pressures?
These young kids need to play video games, go to sleep-overs and develop normal childhood memories.
There are parents willing to spend money to send their kids to some of these specialty camps, but there are equal chances of hitting the lottery or being a 1st-round draft pick.
Kids in junior high, too, have been noticed by coaches and colleges and are followed extensively by scouts. Some have even been offered scholarships at such a young age.
Two that come to mind are Trey Lyles and Zach Gunn.
Lyles, of course, attended Tech High School where he was selected the 2014 Indiana Mr. Basketball. He’s now in the NBA. He received an offer from IU as a 7th grader.
Gunn, an Indiana All-Star in 2017, left Hamilton Southeastern as the school’s all-time scorer, surpassing 2012 Mr. Basketball and now NBA standout Gary Harris. Gunn received an offer from IU as an 8th grader. He ended up signing with Ball State.
Still, for every Montana or Brady or MJ or Magic or Bird or Tiger there are thousands of just regular kids.
The odds are stacked way against any 10-year-old, or even other young AAU players, for that matter.
When the game quits these young players, they don't understand why all the attention went away. Most of those young stars likely have been sheltered and they don't understand failure and can't process it when it happens to them.
Hey, the growth of AAU is huge. No denying that.
You might also say that with the growth of AAU and all of the specialty camps, it has relegated many kids to a one-sport athlete.
Really sad in my opinion.
Many coaches will tell you they think kids should play more than one sport.
“I made sure that my son played two sports and he is happy he did and he has fond memories from both football and basketball,’’ said a friend of mine, a high school All-American in both football and basketball.
“This is why a few smart parents push their kids to play multiple sports. Create memories of many different things and have something to fall back on if one game quits you sooner than the other,’’ he added. “Trust me, I know first-hand. THE GAME eventually quits everyone.’’
It would seem to make a great deal of sense why some of the smarter parents encourage their kids to play multiple sports . . . to create those memories of many different things and have something to fall back on if one game quits them sooner than later.
As you can imagine, many kids today will likely never get that opportunity.
So, is AAU getting closer to becoming more important than high school sports?
I hope not, personally. But there are some folks who believe that AAU offers more than high school sports.
After I wrote a column a few years ago about AAU and parent involvement (sometimes for the wrong reasons,) I received this response from a reader:
“AAU offers so many advantages over high school that . . . it's simply not funny,’’ he said.
Another of those spirited conversations a lot of folks could have. Something like football vs. basketball, maybe?
Again, pass the aspirin, please!

*—Mark Morrow, a Hall of Fame Indiana sportswriter, has resided in Hamilton County since 1989. You can follow him in The Times, and on Twitter at mmediamarko12. He can be reached at mediamarko5@gmail.com or by calling 317 460-8018.