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The AAU Junior Olympic Games

AAU Jr Olympics

The Ancient Olympics featured not only sporting events but also artistic competitions and religious celebrations.  They were held in honor of Zeus and thus when Rome imposed Christianity as the state religion the competitions were suppressed for a time.  According to myth, five brothers—Herakles, Paeonaeus, Epimedes, Iasius and Idas—raced at Olympia to entertain the newborn Zeus.  Thus, Zeus declared that every fifth year competitions would held at Olympia in his honor.  The first Olympics recorded took place in 776 BC, held every four years in Olympia.

Starting in 1896, the modern Olympic Games have taken the idea of coming together in peace and sporting competition every four years and turned it into an international multi-sport event.  The Amateur Athletic Union, who also worked closely with the Olympic movement, also took up the Olympic ideal with the first AAU Junior Olympic Games in 1967, held in Washington, DC.  With over 523 athletes, national champions were determined in swimming and track and field, and 18 AAU records in swimming and 3 in track and field were made.  The AAU holds their Junior Olympic Games every summer in cities across the United States, known today as the largest national multi-sport event for youth in the country.  Since its beginnings, the AAU Junior Olympic Games have been conducted in 19 states and 30 cities, Tennessee having hosted six tournaments.  Representing all 50 states and several U.S. territories, their theme “There’s nothing junior about it” proves true.  This year, the 47th Junior Olympic Games were held in Des Moines, Iowa from July 22 – August 2, 2014 with more than 14,000 athletes and 20 sports.

Now the largest, non-profit, volunteer sports organization in the country, the AAU got its start in 1888 establishing standards and uniformity in amateur sports.  They are dedicated exclusively to the promotion and development of amateur sports and physical fitness programs. With 500,000 members and 60,000 volunteers nationwide, the AAU offers over 34 sports in 57 AAU districts.  In the past, they worked closely with the Olympic movement to prepare athletes for the Olympic Games.  After the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 and the establishment of the NCAA and US Olympic Committee, the AAU focused its efforts on providing sports programs for participants of all ages beginning at the grass roots level.

The first AAU Junior Olympic Games were preceded by state track and field competitions where national champions were determined through telephone and mail entries.  The AAU began sponsoring meets for pre-college athletes and the first live national meet took place in 1949 in Cleveland, Ohio.  The effort continued sporadically until AAU leader Laurine Mickelsen decided to make it a priority in the organization.  Since the first national meet in 1967, the AAU Junior Olympics has provided yearly off-season competition for thousands of young athletes.  “Formerly rivals of the AAU for athletic talent, college coaches now use the junior program to scout and recruit players for their teams,” wrote Robert W. Ikard.  Magic Johnson, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Kerri Strugg all made their mark as young champions in the AAU Junior Olympic Games.  This challenging tournament provides memorable experiences for all participants as they compete against individuals nationwide as well as those involved with the AAU from Puerto Rico, Brazil and Canada.

Next year, the 2015 AAU Junior Olympic Games will be held in Hampton Roads, VA.  So, while you enjoy a nice vacation in Virginia Beach check out some amazing youth athletes compete in everything from basketball, gymnastics, cheerleading and martial arts. Spectator admission tickets are available for purchase at all competition venues and online.  Wristbands are non-transferable and strictly enforced.  Those 6 & under attend free of charge.  Daily passes are $12 and passports for the entire length of the games are only $40.

2015 AAU

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Author: Melanie Carbine

Melanie Carbine has lived in various parts of the world including Micronesia and the United States.  She currently writes for several education blogs, vlogs about her travels, and teaches middle school in the DC Metro Area.

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