AAU (Amatuer Athletic Union), what is it?
Amatuer Athletic Union is involved with many more sports than just Hockey. AAU sports is involved in almost every youth sporting program such as Badminton, Baseball, Baton, Twirling, Basketball, Cheerleading, Diving, Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Hockey, Judo, Jump Rope, Karate, Kung-Fu, Pickleball, Soccer & Futsal, Strength Sports, Surfing, Swimming, Taekwondo, Track and Field, Trampoline and Tumbling, Volleyball, wrestling, and more. At is roots, AAU is a non-profit, volunteer sport even organization that is shared by 700,000 members and 150,000 volunteers across 55 U.S. districts.
If you are playing any sport that is being goverened by AAU then a membership will be required. In order to participate in an AAU event you will need the membership; with the membership is included Insurance for the Athlete, also available is Insurance for Non-Athlete's as well including adminstrators, bench personnel, coaches, instructors, managers, officials, team leaders, tournament directors, volunteers and more.
AAU Hockey, what is it?
AAU Hockey is another governing body option that competes with USA Hockey. AAU Hockey does not have the reach that USA Hockey does and that is why you don't see leagues or teams playing under AAU over USA Hockey very often. At the Squirt and above levels AAU isn't very common; there are teams that play under the AAU over USA Hockey in different parts of the region. In Michigan, we do not know of any AAU teams that are squirt level and above. This could grow over the years as many coaches, parents, associations are not happy with some of the new rules that USA Hockey is implimenting.
Why is AAU Hockey so popular at the Mite Level?
Many years ago now, USA Hockey came out with their new ADM (American Development Model) model way of training, coaching and develeoping hockey players. A lot of things changed; a lot of good research was done to come up with a strong model for the way the United States should be developing players to compete with other hockey nations. One of the biggest changes came at the Mite level of hockey which is 7u & 8u. At this age group USA hockey said no more playing full ice hockey games. We want you to shrink the ice into 1/2; put up temporary boards and play games on both sides of the ice. Along with that came a bunch Mite Rules:
- 4v4 with a goalie
- Blue Pucks were to be used
- Smaller Nets were to be used
- Only face offs were after goals or between periods
- Line changes every 1 minute 30 seconds on the buzzer
- If a goalie covers the puck, other team backs up 1/2 ice and play continues
Those are just some of the game rules that USA hockey wanted associations to follow. The ADM model isn't just about chaning the game rules, it was about getting more youth hockey players on the ice at one time; breaking them up into small groups and running many small stations as we call it in practice. This allows you to keep the ice bills lower because of more kids on the ice. Instead of running full ice drills you are running 1/4 ice drills in small area games. By doing it this way USA Hockey determined players would skate more, carry the puck more, pass more and shoot more. All aiding in more development among youth hockey players.
This model has been adopted by almost association accross the USA. At the same time, it allowed AAU Hockey to step in and say we don't want to do it that way, we will continue to play hockey games at full ice and allow coaches to coach their teams how they see fit.
At this time many rink associations allowed Coaches to create AAU teams inside of their rink; recruit their players that were coming out of Mini Mites or playing Mites and create a Hockey Team under AAU's governing body. These teams were called their Mite Travel teams. Travel at Mites? It turned into travel because these teams would be formed and have try outs and get the better skaters at this time all on one team from each orgnization at either 7U or 8U. Sometimes orginizations would have 2 AAU Mite Travel teams, but that is more rare than common in Michigan. In order for them to play games they would need to travel to other organizations to play their Mite AAU team. AAU adopted NHL Rules for games:
- Full ice
- Black pucks to be used
- Full size nets to e used
- Faceoffs at all 9 dots
- Line changes anytime
- Whistle after goalie covers puck
- Delayed Offsides
Another big misconecption about AAU hockey is the way they practice. Just because they are playing full ice for their games does not mean they are strictkly doing full ice hockey drills. Now this isn't 100% for sure, but the better coaches out there should be doing small area games, small stations with high reps. Most of the AAU teams also share ice with others to keep the cost lower as well; sharing 1/2 ice has a lot of advantages too.
You will also notice that rinks and assossiations will call their USA Hockey teams 1 name, but they call their AAU teams another name. This has to do with rules inside of USA's rulebook. Example: USA Hockey - Troy Sting and AAU Hockey - Troy Hornets.
Can you play under AAU and USA Hockey at the same time?
Yes you can, and many of these teams will do it so they can play in LCAHL (Little Caesars Amateur Hockey League) Mite league, or participate in USA Hockey Jamborees around the state. The coaching staff will have to jump through some hoops but it is done frequently with many orginizations.
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