The Travels and Travails of an AAU Basketball Parent
I would like to share my perspective on AAU Basketball in Boston, MA–specifically as a divorced father whose only child is currently a participating athlete. A handful of childhood friends encouraged me to write this article; more “brothers” than just friends, as we shared challenges in common from growing up in the same Boston, Massachusetts ‘hood in the 1970s.
My buddies and I agree that raising a child in today’s society can be an immense burden. Our kids need us not only as parents, but as coaches and mentors as well. We are tasked with paying special attention to the manifold factors that feed the development of our children, both as youthful athletes and budding participants in the greater world. Before we know it, our charges will have to navigate the ups and downs of various systems on their own. We are among their first front-line role models.
Am I the perfect AAU parent? My son, his mother, his coaches, and even I myself would agree that I am not. But LilRob and his teammates would certainly agree that I provide unflagging support from the sidelines. They have come to expect my voice, cheering them on, even slipping in a tip or two in the face of whatever problems they encounter on the court. It is my strong belief that my presence and participation have helped the kids to play at a higher level.
Surely there are challenges that intervene, such as scheduling issues that can affect my ability to get LilRob, to practices; work conflicts that complicate my ability to get him to games, particularly when they are out of town; coordinating schedules with coaches, referees, and even parents on the opposing teams. Nonetheless, I pride myself in being an involved parent, deeply invested in LilRob’s progress on and off the court. Fortunately, I have a supportive work environment with coworkers who understand the reasons for my sacrifices. They are an extension of my son’s network. That said, other forces–sometimes those that are the closest to me–don’t understand the enormity of my tasks as a “sports parent”. It’s all too easy to be critical of my decisions and choices, while being unwilling or unable to provide viable options of assistance. Oh, well.
So travel challenges are indeed a big deal. We must take into consideration the most comfortable mode of transportation for LilRob’s growing frame (at only 16 years old, he’s over 6′ tall and rather broad), relative to the distance of the trip.
There are also financial matters–time away from my job, with the attendant loss of money and the added expense of lodging. And after all of this, I still have to pay exorbitant fees to sit down and watch the game. Although I realize that AAU sports are a business, I can’t help but feel somewhat exploited and taken advantage of. But my son needs me by his side, and I am all too happy to oblige.
Admittedly, I am sometimes my own worst enemy. It’s not uncommon for me to create logistical and practical snags for myself. Surely I’m not the only one. But I’d like to think that the benefits that come from allowing LilRob, to strive in a game he loves far outweigh the missteps I make along the way.
All things considered, I do my best to block out the obstacles, proceeding with the plan for my son. Good games, not-so-good games–I’ve learned to accept both. Either result is a vital life lesson for him. My responsibility is get him through it all, then deposit him back home safely. Once those missions are accomplished, I resume my personal grind as best I can.
In the final analysis, all I can say to LilRob, is this: “I hope you’re happy! My empty pockets and I wish you continued happy balling.
Such is the life of a basketball dad.