How to Start a Select Basketball Team

Connie Harrington

In recent years, basketball has reigned as the #1 team sport in the U.S. According to Sports Business Daily, more than 60 million people over age six play the sport. And 20 million youth between six and 17 play basketball.

Due to the sports’ immense popularity, many people are wondering how to start a select basketball team to grow the game in their area.

Starting a select youth basketball team requires passion and dedication - and a ton of time. But the rewards of seeing young players improve skills and build confidence can make it all worthwhile. Follow these steps to get started!

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    Choose the Focus of Your AAU Program

    When you first form a select basketball program, you probably have big ideas. You may dream of traveling across the country to compete in national events. Or you may want to build a competitive high school basketball program in your area by helping to develop players early. 

    Those long-range goals may take years to reach. At first, you need to make decisions about team or club structure. If you plan to register with the Amateur Atheltic Union (AAU), you should know you’ll be setting up an AAU club. In the AAU structure, a club can consist of a single team or many teams. Note that there are three levels of AAU club membership that range from $30 to $300.

    Also, you should know that there are other select basketball organizations besides AAU. You can look into the National Travel Basketball Association (NTBA) or regional travel leagues in your area.

    You need to ask yourself some critical questions as well:

    • Are we focusing on one age group or multiple?

    • Are we offering both boys and girls basketball?

    • What do we hope to achieve in three years, or five, or 10?

    • Will your program be based in one community, or an entire region?

    • Do I want this to be a volunteer run program? Or do I want to have part time employees coaching and running the teams?

    These focusing questions and others will help you scope your initial efforts and plan for the future.

    Build a Brand and Promote Your Basketball Program

    Once you have an initial overview of the program you want to start you need to start promoting the new organization.

    The easiest first step is to name the organization and create a social media page on either Facebook or Instagram. No need to try to do too much at first, just create a social media page for your teams and announce yourself to the world! You can post the initial goals of the organization and potential tryout dates, age groups, etc.

    You should also get a high quality logo for your program. Nowadays you can get access to professional designers easily using services like Upwork or Freelancer. Just create an account and post a simple task for logo or branding creation, and you’ll get applications from designers to work on your logo for you. You can probably get a nice logo created for around $50.

    A logo will go a long way toward establishing credibility for you club and getting interest from potential players.

    Set Up a Website and Online Payments

    When you’ve named or organization and created a logo, setting up a website for your basketball program can also be a simple process and will be a credibility builder for your new organization.

    A website should serve as the central location to post information like rosters, coaching profiles, your Mission Statement, and organization history. You should also use your website to register players for tryouts and collect club fees, post tournament schedules, and list event recaps.

    As your program grows you can also list organization accomplishments - like tournaments won, college commitments, and academic achievements as your club progresses.

    Depending on the software provider you choose for your program, you can also run online registration and communicate with parents through your website.

    A website is a great tool to promote your basketball program throughout the year, and also manage all of the administration for your teams.

    Form Your First AAU Basketball Team

    After you’ve established your initial focus, you are ready to form your first team. You’ll need to secure a coaching staff first.

    Parents with high school or college playing experience or current high school players may make good coaches. If you can find like-minded parents that have experience playing or coaching, you might be able to build a coaching staff for your team quickly.

    Once your coaching staff is in place, it’s time to select players. You’ll want to hold open tryouts to find the right mix of players and aim to recruit a few standouts. Try to work with the local high school programs or recreational youth programs to get the word out about your organization.

    Getting your roster set is a huge step. Tell everyone to register for an AAU membership if you plan to participate in AAU basketball tournaments. Make sure your team is signed up with NTBA if you want to take part in that league’s events.

    Secure Locations and Set Up Schedules

    Now you are ready to start holding practices. The advantage of having a select team is that you can choose practice times that work for everyone involved. 

    Keep in mind that select basketball is a big commitment. And that youth athletes need time for rest between practices and games to avoid the risk of overuse injuries and burnout. According to NBA youth basketball guidelines, players age 11 and under should have at least two rest days per week, with athletes age 12 to 18 needing at least one rest day. The NBA also recommends the following maximum weekly limits for young players:

    Make sure not to overwork your players. Practice time should be limited to a couple of days per week, especially if they haven’t entered high school yet.

    In choosing a practice location, put safety considerations first. The AAU facility checklist offers excellent tips, such as:

    • Make sure the playing surface is in proper condition

    • Ensure the playing area has proper markings

    • Make sure lighting is adequate

    • Ensure that facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms are in good condition

    Often, secondary schools or recreation centers are good facility options. You’ll need to consider available space, times, and costs in selecting your practice venue.

    Select Events and Calculate Costs

    After you’ve established your team and practice schedule, you can start researching events. On the AAU website or Exposure Events, you can search by age, state, event type, and more. Youth basketball tournaments take place across the United States, nearly every weekend of the year. However, you’re likely to want to stay closer to home during your first seasons of select basketball.

    Keep in mind that tournament registration fees can add up quickly. And travel costs can add up for families too. According to cost data from USA Today High School Sports, playing on a very active team that travels most weekends can cost families up to $5,000 for two seasons of play. If your team can secure sponsorships, you may be lucky enough to lower those costs down to as little as $500 annually.

    Start Growing Your Select Basketball Program

    For many talented athletes, a select program is a better fit than rec basketball. If your community doesn’t yet have a select team, why not consider starting one? Elite teams help top players improve basketball skill levels and develop their talents.

    Select basketball is a big commitment for parents, players, and coaches. But select teams offer young athletes a chance to compete at elite levels. And some tournaments offer exposure to college basketball recruiters. You can play a significant role in helping a gifted player maximize potential by starting a select basketball team.

    Additional Resources

    The 6 Top Youth Basketball Drills for Coaches

    How to Build a Website for a Youth Sports Program

    The Best Tools for Nonprofit Sports Organizations

    How to Find Companies that Sponsor Youth Sports

    How to Apply for Grants for Youth Sports