How Football Scouts Leverage Data Science

“Now is All”

It’s FIFA 2022, and there is no denying the fact that it has been the most awaited tournament this year. 32 top national teams compete against each other to win the most coveted World Cup trophy which is the epitome of football accolades for a nation. 

And for the teams to reach this stage to compete and become the world champions is no ordinary feat and takes a lot of effort, training, and planning to field the best players to bring the trophy home. But, have you often wondered how the teams pick up the best talents for their game? How do players like Messi, and Ronaldo, get their initial games to prove their talents?  Read on below to find out.

Two players facing each other on a football field

Have you heard about the term football talent scouting? The term scouting might be new to many viewers in India but is very common internationally. Talent scouting is nothing but finding the right players to fill in specific positions on the field, and the professionals who do this activity on behalf of the football teams are called talent scouts.

What does a talent scout do?

A talent scout travels places, meets with coaches, attends games, and interacts with players to find the right talent for the vacant positions. Remember the famous movie Goal! The Dream Begins (2005) – the greatest football-related movie ever made? The movie is based on a real-life event where the extremely talented Santiago Muñez is spotted by a Newcastle United scout and given a chance at professional football.

A coach giving advice to his players

And that’s how talent scouting really works. But in the early days, there was scarcely any technology present for scouts to leverage to make decisions and they had to be physically present in each and every game and shortlist talents. This alone did not give the scouts a complete overview of the player’s capabilities and talent.

But thanks to the rise of technology. It has given talent scouts an option to leverage data-driven insights from sensors to identify and shortlist the right talent for the position. This activity helps coaches, and scouts, with statistical analysis of a player’s performance and improves decision-making processes across the club

Once the scout finds a hot prospect, he/she is invited for trials and various assessments ranging across physical, mental, and emotional fitness. The player activity is recorded via a range of sensors and high-quality action cameras, and then analyzed on an overall basis. The data recorded ranges across technical, physical, and mental attributes, and a few additional parameters based on the position one is trying to fill as listed in the table:

A player’s attributes being recorded with sensors
Physical Mental Technical
Natural Fitness Decisions Free kick taking
Jumping reach Anticipation Heading
Stamina Leadership Passing
Dirtiness Positioning Crossing
Acceleration Off the ball First touch
Injury proneness Flair Finishing
Strength Aggression Corners
Versatility Teamwork Long throws
Agility Work rate Technique
Pace Composure Technique
Adaptability Bravery Tackling
Balance Off the ball Long shots
Consistency Determination Penalty taking
Important matches Vision Long shots
Hidden attributes Concentration Marking

And once these attributes are recorded, the software is used to derive meaningful insights from them. 

Will technology replace manual scouting?

There is never a threat to manual scouting as leveraging data scouting is only an add-on and not a replacement. 

The data analysis is used to shortlist potential players for each position. These players are then watched, either on video or in person, and their attributes are compared with other potential recruits and with players the club already owns in the same position.

This process of leveraging both physical and data-driven talent scouting reduces the chances of error and helps the scouts and teams make informed decisions.

Technology used in sports to analyze player performance

Technologies used to analyze player performance:

  • Video systems based on multiple semiautomatic cameras (VID)
  • Local positioning systems based on radars (LPS) 
  • Global positioning systems (GPS)
  • AI-based advanced cameras
  • Sensors to record vitals

Concluding thoughts:

Day-by-day new technologies come into the industry, which makes the work of coaches and scouts easier to spot rising talents. And what’s more interesting than just reading about such technology is to be updated and upskilled in the domain, which can increase your chances of moving up the professional ladder. So what are you waiting for? Upskill in technology and become a future-ready professional. 

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