Well, it looks like you guys are ready to go. You've got an area set up that is suitable to your scouting work, and you have lined out many of the supplies that you will need to have on hand. Don't worry if you haven't thought of everything... because you haven't, but you are going to have plenty of time to get the process fleshed out, and what you do have in place is bound to save time and make the whole process a lot more enjoyable. And if the rest of the membership are like me, they can't wait to see the kind of work you are going to do.
So at this point I would like to take a look at some very basic guidelines for setting up your scouting 'system.' There is no right way, only better ways and worse ways, and if at any time you see a method that can be improved on, feel free to outline it in the comments.
If you're ready, I'll meet you below the fold, and I hope you have been playing around with your database software, because that is the first task we are going to tackle.
Setting up your database
The most useful element of a database is using it to sort data, so the biggest key to using it effectively is to appropriately define the data. In the case of your scouting reports, you need to think of the different pieces of information that you are likely to be interested in, and decide in what kind of order you would like to see it if it gets called up. These two parameters will define the nature and style of the data you input.
For example, I find it very useful to see which players are available from certain schools. For this reason I include a "school" category for each prospect. By clicking on the "school" heading I am instantly able to resort the entire database, with each school and its prospects being listed alphabetically. You have complete control over the categories you include, but only limited or nonexistent control over how the data relists in most database software programs. If you find yourself wanting more control in that area, be prepared to learn the much more technical (and expensive) database programs.
For our purposes, we will set up 15-16 categories. While I can't address how every database is set up, I can say that the majority of you will be using software that asks you to name your categories while also stipulating the type of data that category records (general, date, sums, etc.). After you have told it what to do, the empty database is generated and you can fill it in at will. All databases have means for adjusting and changing them at later stages, so you will be able to customize to your particular preferences at any time without having to restart the project. Here are the categories and the order that I recommend:
- Name: Obviously, you need to enter the player name here. I enter it in reverse order, as in: Clady, Ryan. This will aid the sort function.
- Position: I use the following positions: QB, RB, FB, WR, TE, OT, OG, C, DT, DE, NT, OLB, ILB, S, CB, K, P. Two years ago I tried classifying SWR, or slot receivers, but I had mixed results. More recently I classified NT differently from DTs, specifically for Denver's need at the position, but it is possible that would be extraneous as well. I will say that you can't have too many positions, but that the more positions you have, the more 'tweeners' you will end up multi-classifying, which means more work. Make your best judgment call here.
- School: My advice here is to fully spell out the name of the school, starting with its most common incarnation, since that is how you will be sorting them. I personally don't include the name of the mascot (i.e Miami, instead of Miami Hurricanes) to save myself some typing and to help keep my database completely viewable. Some of you may want to list the mascot, to increase your familiarity with certain schools, but you should know that it isn't necessary. The other work you are doing will have the schools becoming second nature to you in no time.
- Status: Senior, JR, Soph, Freshman. It is up to you whether to include this or not, as you might only be concerned with looking at the top 100 seniors. This is a must, however, as your database increases in size, and as you start covering more teams. It is a very significant sorting criteria if you are including underclassmen in your scouting.
The next group of categories are the 'measurables' and if you can play around with your database software to offset them or list them in a different color or something, it is advisable. Most of the year you won't even have any data in these areas, unless you chance upon some specific information about a player getting his 40 timed. And while that does happen from time to time, unless you are in some kind of hurry, you can just wait for the combine and its controlled environment for getting these pure measurables. The exception, of course is height and weight.
- Height: List it out in feet and inches. Even if you are in Canada, most of your readers are probably not going to understand how tall a 1.8 meter player is, and no one likes to go through the trouble of finding out how many feet are in 79 inches.
- Weight: This is another of two categories you will have filled in most of the time. A few years ago I included a third category, which was a standard deviation from average on weight. It provided a lot of info, such as who bounced around a lot on the scales, who was consistently growing, who couldn't keep weight on, etc. But it was a TON of work to keep track of and I was never able to apply it to everyone, just a handful of guys. Add in unreliability of published weights, and you should probably just note a weight at season's beginning, note any newsmaking changes in weight, and then update it at the combine with the rest of the measureables.
- 40yd dash
- Vertical Jump
- Broad Jump
- 20 yard shuttle
- 60 yd shuttle
- 3-cone drill
Besides these categories, I have three additional categories, that you will flesh out slowly over time.
- Projected Round: This is a sorting godsend, but exceptionally difficult to work out. If you are only interested in keeping track of players in one conference, you will not be able to fill in this category until you can view someone else's projections. It is difficult to project where a guy ranks in the top 300 if you don't know anything about the other 299 players. There is a very rough estimate that you can use, which I will detail below, but you may be creating more work for yourself in the long run if you use it. My advice: keep track of the top 300 players, or don't bother projecting rounds until late in the draft process.
- Comments: This is the heart and soul of your scouting efforts. Initially you will be able to fit a decent amount of data and notes in this column, merely widening it to accomodate more notes. But eventually, it will be bursting at the seams, and you will need to create your first scouting report to transfer the information to. When I reach this point, I replace the comments in the box with the exact address of the report on my hard drive. Then I have merely to copy and paste into the search function of my operating system, and within seconds I have the report I need.
- Report Depth: Another category I use to cut back on down time is to rank the depth of my scouting of a player. I do this on a scale of 1-5, with 1 meaning I have yet to do any scouting, and 5 meaning I have seen them many times and have a really good feel for their strengths and weaknesses. I have a final grade (Final) which I use when I am not interested in collecting anymore data, and which I tend to apply in the weeks after the combine. Keep in mind that part of your scouting will involve getting a feel for the player's personality and character, so don't close out any reports until you have done that part. Over 75% of my evaluations were never labelled as Final, so don't think of it as an ultimate goal to be reached. You can always get more info on a guy, but this system allows me to sort out guys that I haven't gotten a good look at, and gives me an opportunity, when combined with other sorting options to better schedule the games I need to see to get the best overview of the talent in the draft.
Its set up, now lets put something useful in it
Now that you have a database that is ready for info, lets do it a favor and find something good to put in it. But what that is depends very much on what your personal scouting goals are.
- Scouting a single conference, or part of a conference: Scan a top 300 list , and make a note of every player that is in your jurisdiction. Then, do some internet searching to find all the qualifying players for the draft on the teams you are covering and list any that you don't already have. Now you could just list all the seniors, but familiarizing yourself with the ones who are considered top prospects is always handy. I think most of you may be trying this method, and it is the method I recommend. It isn't as flashy as having a top 300 list of your own, and you will be beholden to others who have info on top guys who aren't in your conference, but this is the information that is lacking from most scouting websites. A third of the top players ranked by most scouts weren't even drafted in 2008, and many players that were "undercovered," or completely ignored, got a call from a team at the draft. Now we can't know all the reasons (failed drug tests, personal issues) but you have an opportunity to do a better job than average, without sacrificing quality. Then as you watch the games, take a note of any other player that catches your eye. you will be able to find out relatively quickly whether they belong (and are qualified) for your list.
- Scout the top projected talent going into a draft. Take that same 300 player list and compare it with other 300 player lists and get ALL of those names into your database. By the end of the season some of them will have dropped off your list, and others will have replaced them. This method is pretty easy to set up, but time consuming to follow along with through the season. You will almost certainly be doing a lot of legwork to see some of the guys who are playing games that aren't televised in your market. So, while this method starts out pretty easy, it gets hard fast, and you will get familiar with just how big of a number 300 really is...
- Damn the torpedos, I want to scout EVERYBODY! Ahh, the dreamer extraordinaire, you want a challenge. Well, I hope you started four years ago! No worries though, if you have the time, you can play catch up in a hurry. This process begins with getting the incoming class of freshman into your database. The top 100 should be enough, but if you can push that up you will have less adding to do later. You will do this each year, adding spectacular sophmores and juniors and eventually, you'll have culled your very own list of draft eligible seniors from which to draw up a top 300 of your very own. This method isn't recommended for anyone who wants to remain sane, but I won't stop you if you want to give it a try, and have lots of patience. Keep in mind that by the time that senior class rolls around, you will maintaining a database of well over a thousand players, and possibly upwards of 3000-4000!!!! Don't say I didn't warn you!
I would like to note that several of you probably realized as you read these that parts of methods one and three could be combined to create a very powerful holder of prospect knowledge. You have done a great job of identifying the knighted being known as an "Area Scout", and it is quite possible that you have a future with an NFL team. ;)
It's ready to go, but for now, you will have to leave it in the garage
Well, now that you've got your database purring like a lion, you're probably eager to take it for a spin. Patience. That day will be here soon enough, but first you will want to get a few final pieces in place to make sure that it is always ready on the days you want to take it out.
- If you haven't done it already, get the filing system for it organized. I have advocated setting up a separate user account on your computer, and I will give some specifics for that now. First, by setting up the additional "profile" you will be able to boot a unique version of your web browser, with bookmarks and settings unique to it. I use Opera for my browser, and have a bookmark set up that opens every relevant scouting resource link I have, instantaneously. Opera also automatically logs me into any sites that require a login identity, which means I am reasearching within the click of a button. The desktop environment of the new profile is unique as well, and I tend to arrange my major folders right on the desktop surface, making them easy to find. I'll describe the specific files below. Lastly, a different profile can have the actual cpu settings optimized for the work you are doing. I use torrents, which means that I need networking protocols optimized, as well as my best media player I have at the forefront. My sound settings are reduced saving power for other tasks, and my monitors resolution is set at an above average setting: not too large to have trouble viewing most gametape, and not so small that I can't effectively orgnanize a multitude of open windows at any given time.
- For filing purposes I have three folders on my desktop in my scouting profile: The first folder is Scouting Resources. It contains templates for scouting reports, templates for MHR scouting articles, sample databases that I experiment with and any information dowloads that I acquire. It includes a subdirectory with all my torrent downloads and shortcuts to my torrent software. It has an additional subdirectory for random quick notes that I make in notepad or Word, but which I don't have time to file away. When I have spare time, emptying out that subdirectory is a priority. The second folder is Scouting Tools. It contains shortcuts to all the software that I use to scout, including a media player, a screencapture software, utorrent, database software, a filefinder, the Opera web browser, notepad, Word, and an IM program (AIM) that is optimized for my scouting activity, including only the names of people who can help me with my work. I would recommend that MHR scouting services obtain everyone's IM addresses, and have them at the ready, it is always fun to talk about your prospects. (If anyone wants to contact me I am styg50 on AIM, Skype and Yahoo.) The third folder is Scouting Reports and Articles. Inside are two subdirectories, one for scouting reports, one for articles that I am writing up. These two subdirectiories are further broken up as needed by the volume and diversity of the contents, for example, I currently sort reports by position.
- One last thing to consider for the filing system is that you will want to be archiving your data. That is sometime in the future, so you have plenty of time to not only decide what goes where, but what you want to keep as well.
That certainly seems like a lot of ground to cover, and it just might keep some of you busy for a little while. But we still have more ground to cover before we are ready to start breaking down each position, including:
- An overview of torrents, the #1 way to get your scouting information.
- Time management principles to optimize you and your gameday!
- A basic outline for a scouting report
Until next time,
If you have any questions about anything that I have mentioned above, or better yet, if you have some insight to add to this, please comment below, or email me . I have a horrible summertime schedule that involves regular week-long abstination from the internet, but if you email I WILL eventually get you a reply.