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Interview with former youth football scout

Football scouts watching children play

What do youth football scouts look for?

Our community often get excited about the prospect of being ‘scouted’ to play for an academy or club. Perhaps a ‘lucky’ few might get picked, some great players might not. Is it simply a case of right place, right time or is there more to it?

We interviewed Mark Dass, a former Academy Scout for Leicester City Football Club, on his experiences. He gave us some useful tips for parents and players that we wanted to share with you.

Q: What attributes is a youth football scout looking for in a child?

This can vary depending on many factors, such as age or even what the recruiting club is specifically looking for. However, from a general perspective, especially at a young age, good movement skills are key; balance, agility and coordination. This plays such an important part in what a player can do on the ball, as well as what they are physically capable of without it. A player who is technically sound, able to manipulate the ball in tight areas, even when under pressure, is a big 'plus'. Also, having a clear 'super-strength' is always eye-catching, so if a player is extremely quick, or can strike a ball exceptionally

Q: What can parents or coaches do or say to prepare kids for this process?

Enjoyment is always key for players at a young age, so the added pressure of trying to directly impress a scout is inevitably not easy to contend with and can often have an adverse effect. Coaches and parents play a big role in providing the necessary support and encouragement, but the players should be given the freedom to express themselves and show what they can do, in their own way. 

Q: How often do scouts watch matches and when in the season is it most likely?

During the season, scouts are always out at games every weekend, but it is impossible to be everywhere! Possibly the most likely opportunity of being 'scouted' would be in tournament or festival settings, where scouts are able to cast their eyes over a large volume of players all in one setting. Towards the end of the season, these tournaments seem to be most frequent. 

It is very common to get the recurrent 'are you a scout?' question from players, who are very keen to make an impression. Although, parents who come and stand next to you on the side of the pitch, and try to highlight whenever the player does something well, can be quite distracting!

Q: Can you share an example of a success story?

At a youth tournament, a good 8-9 years ago now, there was an Under-7 who was playing on an Under-9s pitch and was absolutely electric. He scored a ridiculous number of goals on the day, and was absolutely everywhere on the pitch, so it was hard not to take notice of his ability and potential! There were probably scouts from 4/5 different clubs who were unsurprisingly interested off the back of his performances and invited him in on a trial. Fast-forward to today, and he is still going very strong - turning out some excellent performances for one of the leading Category One Academies in England at the age of 16.

Q: If you could give 3 pieces of simple advice to a child hoping to impress a scout, what would you say?

  1. Play your own game! Each player is different and has their own strengths; not all clubs look for exactly the same thing. 
  2. Be patient! I know plenty of players who have had their opportunity come later down the line, as each player develops differently.
  3. Keep working hard! Train to your maximum and work with your coaches. This will help to develop your 'weaker areas' and make your strengths even more positive. 

We asked the same question to Sam Jones, grassroots coach for the Tower Hill Vixens U8's, and he said he tells his players 3 key things.

  1. Relax, the scouts are there because they are interested already so don't try too hard!
  2. Put the hours in off the pitch; practice the basics until they are second nature and the game becomes easier.
  3. They are looking at how you play in a team, so remember you can't do it alone!

We’d love to hear your experiences of the scouting process. Head over to our Pitchside Parents Hub on Facebook to join the discussion.


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