For the Love of the Game -- Part III: AAU basketball and summer camps

The price of playing AAU can be very costly. Consider, at a minimum, paying to play AAU for just a summer at these prices: about $40 a tournament per player, about $20 for a hotel room (based on about 4-to-a room for a one-night stay), $120 for gas, and food for the weekend at approximately $25 ($5 breakfast, $10 lunch, $10 dinner). I don't think you need to be a math expert to figure out that it can cost in excess of $250 a weekend just for one athlete to play, and remember that this is just for one AAU outing.

These figures don't include the cost to a parent who might travel and stay the weekend to watch his son or daughter play. Many parents also travel with other siblings, which creates all kinds of additional expenses. How can the average family with a modest income afford this year after year?

How many contests does and AAU team go to each summer? Well if I took a guess, I'd say, at a minimum, four tournaments per summer. Once again, let's do the math. It looks like $1,000 a summer.

Some will certainly argue with me about the figures, but I believe that for those programs without sponsors, this approximate figure is what participants are facing. By the way, I didn't list the fee some team charge for uniforms and other incidentals.

Now what are you getting for your money, and will it payoff in the long run? Some will say "Time will tell," but for many parents, they can judge for themselves. Evaluate your kid and be realistic about whether he or she is going to play at the "next" level.

How do you evaluate? Look at the kids your sons or daughters play with and the kids they play against when they go to each competition. You can gauge the level of your kids' skills by how well they do against the best teams, and how consistent they are from week to week. You might want to reconsider whether you really want to shell out that kind of money when you honestly don't believe your kid is a top-tier player.

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