This article is for the serious soccer coach to whom getting the best out of the team is important. For the competitive team coach the goal is to win the championship. For the recreational league coach there may come a game that you’d like to win, perhaps to go undefeated for the season, to come in first, or to end on a high note after an otherwise disappointing year.
In this article we will review one aspect of serious season or game preparation: scouting your opposition.
Scouting is more than talking to someone who has seen the opponent play, it is more than watching them play yourself. Scouting is about collecting valuable data that will help you develop a game strategy for playing this particular team. The data and the strategy must be shared with your team to get their acceptance and to give them the tools to implement your strategy.
There are two ways to get the data. One is to go and watch the opposition play, and if that’s not possible, get a video from the game and analyze it. I believe personal attendance is still the best. There are small things you can see that video may not capture – goalkeeper warm-ups for example. If you can afford to see the game in person and bring someone else to get the video, or obtain the video through other channels, go for it.
I suggest you keep careful notes of your observations. Below is a link to a scouting template we have developed that is fairly comprehensive. It covers team formation and strengths/weaknesses of each part of the team – goalkeeper, defense, midfield, attack. We have filled out the template with some examples so you can see the type of information you need to record. Use this template as is or use it to get you started on your own.
Imagine the coach’s advantage from knowing the weak spots of your opponent and being ready to exploit them. Happy Scouting.