Posted On: 06/1/20 8:57 PM

It’s June 1 and the AAU season is here – sort of. Today marks the first day the State of Minnesota has officially allowed youth sports activities to resume following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. Several girls AAU teams seized the first possible opportunity for outdoor training sessions on Monday, and more will get into the action as the week progresses. Although activities are highly-restricted, the players, coaches and clubs we talked to are universally excited about the opportunity to play basketball, even if it is in a much-altered state.

“Everyone is ready to go,” said North Tartan club director Bill Larson, whose top teams will hold workouts indoors beginning on Thursday. Most clubs are starting on outdoor courts and will migrate inside as court space becomes available. Some clubs have access to private schools, private training facilities or residential courts. The usual AAU locations in big suburban high schools remain closed.

“We are operating fully within the guidelines of the state,” said Minnesota Fury club director Nick Storm. “That means no travel outside of the state, the players are at least six feet apart on the court, there’s no defense, no contact, and no more than 10 people on a court at a time. Our focus is on training and skill development, and conditioning activities.”

The clubs we checked with are all taking a similar approach. The Minnesota Suns are splitting their teams into two groups at each session with half of the players doing individual skill development and the other half working on speed, strength and conditioning. The Suns are staggering their start with a goal of having most teams up and running by the end of next week. The Minnesota Stars are taking a similar approach while Minnesota Nice will have its 9th through 11th grade teams on the court beginning Thursday. The MN/WI Force teams are holding sessions outdoors twice a week. Air Minnesota in Rochester was on the court Monday. The Minnesota Comets aren’t planning to commence until June 15. Training is on hold for the teams of 43 Hoops at this time.

The Minnesota state guidelines for the resumption of youth sports are pretty clear:

  • Focus on skill development
  • Keep any ‘play’ or interaction between players contactless
  • Do not intermix groups
  • Do not participate in games or tournaments even if these events are in other states where youth sports and games are supported

Click here to access the complete state guidelines.

When will there be games?

The most common question I have been asked in recent weeks is when AAU games will begin. In truth, nobody knows. It is anticipated, however, that teams will be given the green light to begin playing tournaments in a month or so with many squads making plans to compete in Iowa, the Dakotas and Nebraska even if the go ahead for events in Minnesota is delayed.

There are also plans in the works to establish an AAU league that would see teams compete in weeknight doubleheaders in the Twin Cities beginning in the second half of June if the state’s guidance permits. This would provide additional games for the athletes outside of tournament play.

This is all new territory for everyone involved, of course, but Larson said it is up to the AAU clubs to be flexible. “It’s our responsibility as an organization to adapt, and we want to be able to take the place of what the high school usually provides in the summer which they aren’t able to provide this year – the breakfast clubs, the skill work, the shoot-arounds. We’re adapting to take that on along with our practices so that the kids can have a better summer getting ready for their season next year.”

It’s looking like there will be no viewing period this summer for Division 1 basketball coaches to watch players live. Some of the major national events are in jeopardy. North Tartan competes on the Nike EYBL circuit but organizers pulled the plug on that over the weekend. “There are just too many states that are not free to play yet,” Larson said.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be other events to participate in assuming that the state of Minnesota allows teams to travel in the weeks ahead. “We know we can play in Iowa. We know that we can play in North and South Dakota. We know that we will be able to play in Ohio and Tennessee and Florida,” Larson said. “We will be traveling.”

Top photo: 7th graders from Air Minnesota in Rochester took to the court Monday in socially-distanced fashion. (Photo courtesy of Air Minnesota AAU)