One of the most confusing things I found for parents is wrapping their head around are AAU Basketball and placement of an athlete from K-8th grade. We constantly hear about AAU teams “cheating” and about kids playing up or down, but a lot of that comes from not understanding.
When first entering AAU Basketball as a parent, I didn’t know what to expect. Entering the unknown, sitting back and observing what others did was a must at this level of basketball. From the sidelines as a fan, we would hear all the negative talk about other teams cheating and about having a child in an older grade on the team. Does it happen? Yes. Does it mean is illegal? Maybe.
So let’s clear the air about AAU Basketball and age eligibility.
Did you know there are two types of age requirements in AAU? I didn’t either at first. Eligibility are broken down like this:
1. Age Based Division
2. Grade Based Divisions
What is Age Based Division in AAU Basketball?
Age Based Division AAU Tournaments are based on the players age within a giving birthday range.
That simple? Yes! Still confused? Here is an example:
Scenario: When attending a tournament you are going in thinking you and your 10 year old 5th grade son will be playing against other 5th grade kids, however, you find out the other team has mostly 6th graders on their team and are already 11 years old. What you don’t know is, that this tournament is based around age. Most likely the 6th grade team has kids who make the age requirement because of birthday.
What is Grade Based Division in AAU Basketball?
Grade based division in AAU Basketball tournaments are based on the players actual grade and not age. If a player who is in an older grade but wants to play down on a younger grade they have to fit birthday requirements. If a player is in a younger grade, they can play up on a higher grade with no birthday requirement.
Taking the scenario above and using it here, if you went to the same tournament and this time the tournament decided to use “grade based division” rules, then the 6th grade team would be considered to be in violation if the birthdays do not match.
How do I know if the Basketball Tournament is Grade Based or Age Based?
Most tournaments are fairly good at communicating if they are an age based tournament or a grade based tournament. I found that most local tournaments in Northern California are using a combo of both age and grade that could make it even more confusing.
One of the most popular weekly tournaments in the San Francisco Bay Area is Bay Area Sports. Before entering your team to compete, check your roster’s birthdays before choosing the bracket to play. Parents, before getting upset about that massive looking high schooler who is actually only 13 playing on a 7th grade team, think about the tournament you are at and the type of bracket you are in.
At the end of the day, it is not worth getting mad or upset at something you cannot control. Cheer on your team and focus on your players and team’s growth. Find a tournament and skill level that can push your athlete to get better and work through the ranks. Work on the fundamentals, teamwork, and supporting each other on the team.