How We Scout

In our league coaches are allowed to scout and film their opponents. We first started scouting 2 years ago when we were coaching 5th/6th grade; at the time it was illegal to scout at the 3rd/4th grade level.

We try to gather as much game film on an opponent as possible. At a minimum we want a single half from a game the week before we play them, but ideally I like to have two full games to review. Coaches will sometimes hold back against a weaker opponent, or will use different adjustments against different defenses, so having variety helps me see tendencies to better prepare our team. Unfortunately many of the games we need to scout overlap with our own games, so we sometimes need to get creative in order to get film. We use several strategies:

  • Offer to trade film with the coach. We usually just swap DVDs, but online tools like Vimeo can make this easier.

  • Get a player parent, friend, or a family member to go film the game for us. Sometimes we'll lean on parents of injured players that aren't as concerned about seeing our own game (because their child won't be playing) and are willing to help out the team.

  • Work with the other Sherwood coaches at the same level - it is possible that they play the same team that season, or that the team we want to scout is playing a future opponent of that coach so there's a win-win situation.

Once we have the film, I'll usually watch the footage twice - once to get an overview, a second time to do detailed charting and analysis. For defense I look for defensive line alignment, potential weaknesses, and linebacker reads and steps. This can greatly influence our play-calling, usually leading us to focus more on an inside (off-tackle, ISO, and trap) game or an outside (sweep, counter) game.

I'm much more thorough in looking at the opponent offense. I sketch every formation as I review film, and identify every play that is run. I also track down and distance, yardage gained, and side of play (right / left). My goal here is to identify the 5-7 plays that can cause the most harm and to detect tendencies that we can exploit. For example, there may be a specific trick play that will be run from a particular formation, and they only use that formation for the play. Some teams will also feature a single "stud" player that gets a very high percentage of carries and catches. This might present an opportunity to spy the player with one of our inside linebackers or the free safety.

Once I've sketched all of this on paper, I go to the USA Football site to enter the playbook in their tools which will allow me to print out decent copies for the other coaches and for us to use during scout offense work in the coming week. I wish the tools would let me produce a PDF version directly from the site, but unfortunately I need to print each play to PDF then combine them into a single file using Combine PDFs. I uploaded a sample scouting report from last year.