Feeling that football scouting is your vocation? Today, I am going to talk about how to become a football scout.
Many people underestimate the challenges of scouting and think that anyone can enter the National Football League to hunt for talent. If you also share this attitude, then you are deeply mistaken and will fail if you don’t reevaluate your views.
Let’s get started without further ado! Below, I will talk about the skills necessary for scouting and also what you need to do to become one.
What Makes A Good Football Scout?
Now, do you have what it takes to become an NFL scout?
Not everybody has the right mental profile and the skills to become a football scout. And while there are some hard skills involved – such as knowledge of football – scouting requires some soft skills that cannot be easily developed.
Every one of us excels at something unique – some people are great football players but terrible coaches, others have zero success in the league but become great GMs, while the rest excel as scouts.
With that in mind, you should set your expectations right and understand what you are getting yourself into.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s have a look at the key hard and soft skills that an NFL scout must have.
Excellent knowledge of football
This one is a no-brainer. To be able to identify talent among dozens of high school football players, you need to have an excellent understanding of football.
In fact, you need to understand much more than any player on the field.
Each football player knows his role and what he is supposed to do to neutralize the opponent. Football positions have their distinct purposes, and every player needs to have an in-depth understanding of their tasks on the field.
Scouts are different – their expertise isn’t limited to just one position.
As a scout, you will be watching individual players make moves and commit mistakes. Based on that and on your comprehensive knowledge of football strategy, you need to be able to accurately identify talent.
Scouts take a step back and have a look at the field from a more general, more global perspective. And needless to say, this requires a whole another level of knowledge of football.
Eye for talent
Next, you need to have an eye for talent.
It’s very easy to point your finger at a great player on the field and say that he’s good. This is just stating the obvious.
However, how about identifying outstanding potential among the grey mass of college or high school players? Do you have what it takes to pinpoint a player who has the skills but needs some polishing to successfully play in the National League?
This isn’t all. An NFL scout also needs to be able to project the skill set of a football player onto the philosophy and situation of his team.
Gut feeling plays a huge role in identifying skill as well. Great entrepreneurs have an eye for business opportunities and are capable of investing money where it needs to be. Likewise, great scouts have an intuition that lets them pinpoint unique strengths and talents in seemingly unremarkable players.
Patience is extremely important for an NFL scout as well. You may wear rose-colored glasses all you want, but football scouting actually is a very intensive job mentally and time-wise.
You will need to watch through hours of match footage and make notes, documenting every significant move, mistake, or offense of every player in the team.
Merely analyzing a game is going to take hours and hours of your time. Not only that, but not every game will give you prospects to recommend to your team’s management. You’ll need to have the patience to plow through dozens of games to find just one outstanding talent.
Ability to present yourself
So you’ve found a John Doe that seems like a very promising candidate for your football team.
Having a reliable gut feeling along with comprehensive football knowledge is a must, but you also must be able to convey your thoughts and ideas to your team’s management.
If you cannot articulate why your John Doe must become a member of the team and if you cannot stand behind your choice, your ability to identify skill will be rendered useless.
Your “people skills” hugely matter as well. Scouts often have to work in groups, so having good communication skills is crucial if you want to excel in this career. Constructive interaction with your peers and supervisors is a prerequisite for success in the league.
Dependability and punctuality
Finally, you need to be dependable and punctual. Here, administrative and time-management skills would surely come in handy.
Scouting involves a lot of travel and writing. Being on the road a hundred days a year is a normal occurrence for scouts. You will also often have to write dozens of reports, and the management will frequently want them by the next Friday.
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How To Become An NFL Scout
So yeah, as you can see, football scouting is quite an involved job, and it is much more demanding on soft skills than hard skills.
Now, given that you are willing to become a football scout, where do you get started?
In this section, I’ll give you a general overview of a scout’s career path.
1. Get involved in football
First up, you should get involved in football. Although you aren’t required to have played at a high level, having hands-on experience with football is necessary for identifying skill.
Being a student manager or playing yourself can provide you with a unique insight into football and will allow you to understand the game better.
2. Get educated and certified
A degree is not a must-have for NFL scouts, but it is highly desirable. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, scouts that do have a degree usually have a bachelor’s in sports management, business, marketing, or sales.
Although a degree may not be a prerequisite for becoming a football scout, a sports management or sales program will introduce you to some key hard and soft skills. These are going to be exceptionally useful for an aspiring scout.
Aside from a degree, consider completing a scouting course. The Scouting Academy is perhaps the best place to start.
The course fee is quite hefty $950, but the comprehensive curriculum along with an experienced team of instructors comprised of former NFL head coaches and GMs offers an unparalleled opportunity for learning.
3. Build connections
Many football scouts have made it into the career by knowing the right people. Building valuable connections and getting in front of other scouts along the way can be very helpful for an aspiring scout.
In this sense, having played in a football team can be insanely valuable because you will already know some people. Others will have to network at places like the NFL Scouting Combine held every February in Indianapolis.
4. Get a scouting internship
Many local high school teams offer scouting internship programs – these are the perfect opportunity for meeting new people and gaining experience in scouting.
Then, you may also up your game and seek an internship at an NFL team. You will have to build some considerable skills and experience to make it into the NFL, but if you are passionate about what you do and work hard, you should be able to do it.
Make sure that your job materials – letters and resumes – stand out. Among other things, recruiters value attention to detail and passion in football scouts. Former pro scout Daniel Kelly got into the league by writing a 350-page draft guide and sending it out to every GM, head coach, and personnel director in the league.
As Kelly admits, it was not the quality of his evaluations but the passion demonstrated by his hard work that got him into the league.
5. Be passionate about what you are doing
Football scouts usually start low. Often, people engage in scouting as a side gig in addition to their full-time job.
Passion is key in football scouting. This isn’t the kind of job where you would make hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for minimal effort. You need to be ready to invest in scouting without expecting much in return.
Some people won’t make it – however, this should not dishearten you. Along the way, you may discover other ways of connecting your career with football.
How Much Does A Football Scout Make?
No matter how passionate one is about scouting, they will expect monetary compensation for their efforts. Well, how much does a football scout make per year?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of sports scouts and coaches as of May 2019 was $34,840. The highest 10% earned more than $78,890, while the lowest 10% earned less than $19,040.
Furthermore, in colleges, universities, and professional schools, the median salary was $46,140. In contrast, in elementary and secondary schools, the median salary of sports scouts and coaches was $29,960.
Succeed In Football has also carried out a survey among NFL scouts, determining that scouts with 6-10 years of experience mostly make from $50k to $100k per year, while scouts with over 16 years of experience mostly earn $100-$125k.
So as you can see, an NFL scout salary is nothing too exceptional, and this certainly isn’t the kind of job you’d switch to earn a lot of money.
4th & 10
Don’t underestimate scouting and overestimate your skills – there is a lot more to this career path than you may be thinking.
For some final tips, I recommend that you read Daniel Kelly’s insight into what it takes to become an NFL scout on Hogs Haven. I borrowed some of my points from there, but Kelly goes much more in-depth into the psychological profile of a pro scout.