This is a question that is often repeated and goes through every football player’s mind. What is it that scouts want to see and how to get them to notice you?
1. Football skills
Having a good technique is a must but often technique and control are mistaken for flashy dribbles and escapades. One of the most important aspects and qualities of a player is their first touch. It sets them up for their next move and it often proves crucial. It shows that a player thinks ahead and can give them time for a pass or a shot.
Pulling of exquisite tricks shows a player is capable and brave enough to do them but it all comes down to the end product. If it helps to beat an opponent and aid your team, tremendous, if it stalls your counter attack, well that’s unacceptable. Scouts look for players who are capable with the ball at their feet. They can use their technical ability for their own and their team’s advantage.
2. Tactical awareness
Tactical awareness means how players move across the field and recognize different situations. Some even call this football IQ. It’s not just what they do with the ball that’s important, what they do without it means just as much. How they close down space and opponents in defense and how they move to draw defenders and open up space for their teammates in attack.
They have to be aware of their teammates and their position on the field and the same goes for their opponents. Roger Skyrme, the Fulham scout described his methods by saying: “You’ll rarely see me with my eyes on the ball during a match. I’ll be busy looking at things like player’s position on the pitch, and whether they’re prepared to get stuck in and help their teammates out.”
Physical attributes such as speed and size are qualities that are given by nature and can hardly be trained. Although being tall and speedy are welcome attributes, they are not the most important. It depends on the position you play and your other traits. Look at Mathieu Valbuena for example. He was cast aside as a youngster for his small stature but proved himself through the lower leagues and made it all the way to the French national team.
While you can’t influence your growth you can work on your stamina and balance, or your ball control. Nowadays, the bigger clubs test players at a young age to see how tall they will grow. This becomes more important if the player is a goalkeeper.
Scouts look for a lot more in players than their football skills. They need to assess the mental makeup of a player. They need to see how the player is under pressure and if he can keep his emotions in check for the sake of their team.
They look for brave, enthusiastic players who have the drive to keep going and lead the team forward. Sometimes clubs invite player’s families for further insight into the player’s background and upbringing to assess their temperament. They look into the player from all angles but Arsenal’s scout Gilles Grimandi still maintains it can all be seen on the football pitch: “The pitch doesn’t lie. When you see a guy 20 times … and when you see a kid warming up, you understand many things.”
The most important thing to remember is to always give your best and assume there are scouts watching. As Tony Lepore, Director of scouting for the US Soccer Development Academy, said: “It’s hard to hide good players. If you’re a good player we’ll find you.”