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Everyone tells me I am good at football, so why can’t I get scouted?
Most boys around the world that consider themselves to be decent players must wonder the same thing. You are the best in the school year, even good enough to play for the year above, score regularly, so why are scouts not asking me for a trial?
This is not about what to do to make it like a pro, that is the academies job, you just need to get noticed first.
Let us look at why and what you can do about it. I will start with the reasons why you have not been looked at and will delve into what you will need to do to improve your chances later.
- You are not good enough.
- You are no better than what they have currently.
- Scouts have not seen your potential.
- They have a certain type of player they are looking for.
- You have talent but a poor attitude on the pitch.
You are not good enough – not something any of us want to hear, but it is probably the biggest reason. Let us consider the following. Every school will have a player that is best in their year, every club will have a player that is best in their team.
Let us look at the U10 age group in Hertfordshire where Premier Skills Academy is based.
The following is not accurate but will be near enough for illustration purposes.
250 U10 teams x 10 players per team – 2500 players in Hertfordshire area alone.
Now any professional club is not restricted to one county only. Watford, for example, will have Hertfordshire, Middlesex, London, Surrey, Berkshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and parts of Essex, bringing that total number of players nearer to 23000 boys.
So, you may be the best in your town, but in all those areas listed, you may be number 200. It is tough out there.
You are no better than what they currently have – this could mean that they have considered you, but after watching a few times decided right now you have nothing additional to offer.
Scouts have not seen your potential – this could be due to you not playing well on that day or they simply have not been to your club. This is easy to fix and will give you more info later.
They have a type of player they are looking for – the academy manager may say he is looking for something specific and wants a creative midfield player and if that is not you, you are not getting picked.
Talented, but a poor attitude on the pitch – it takes a lot more than talent with a ball to succeed in the professional game. Great players want to learn, they do not give up and they show respect. Walking off the pitch when your team is losing, does not show any scout that you have the mental strength to cope with failure. The world is full of talented players, it is down to you to work harder than the rest.
What can you do to increase your chances of getting a trial at a professional football club?
Let me say this right now, the best academy players will already be ahead of you, more likely to receive better coaching and more of it, as well as play matches at a far higher level than you will have done, so you will need to work and work and work.
The easiest way is to go either to a trial arranged by a professional club, or you can pay a private company that will hold events with scouts in attendance. This will give you an idea of the talent out there.
Paid for events can be 1 day or longer that will include professional coaching. Sometimes these events can attract players from overseas, especially if you are 17 or older.
I can list some obvious things such as work hard and often but let us go beyond that and look for specifics that may give you the edge.
First, you need to know what a scout is going to be looking for. This will depend on the age of a player, but the basics must be done very well.
What does a talented 15-year-old player look like?
If you watch boys already in the academy system, the basics are easy for many, they can control a 40-yard pass in the air and they can hit a long pass with some degree of accuracy. Other traits will include:
Fast feet, comfortable with the ball in tight areas, ideally two-footed.
Fantastic 1st touch.
Makes more right decisions.
Sees things quicker.
Can take instruction and enact on them.
Wants to learn and will work outside of the academy.
Has excellent movement, speed, agility, balance, some players glide around the pitch, others trundle.
Gives up – never. You will have setbacks throughout your career, it is how you deal with them that sets you above the rest.
Willing to make sacrifices. Going out with your mates may have to come 2nd, you need to work hard, eat well and rest. Messi left his friends and moved to Spain in pursuit of his dream.
Coaching and coaches.
So now you are ready to get to work, but what is it you need to do? Find yourself a football coach to work within a one to one environment. Now it will cost more, but having that expertise is exactly what you need to identify your weaknesses and improving your strengths. Be aware that most football coaches are not strength and conditioning coaches. So, if one of your weaknesses is speed, does a football coach have in-depth knowledge, most will not, so you must find a suitable coach. Pro academies will have specialist coaches, so another reason to get one.
The 1on1 sessions must be challenging, realistic and fun. Does your coach set up practices but rarely talks about the finer details, for example, how do you plant your feet, where is your non-kicking foot, the angle of approach? If his main words are unlucky, find a new coach quick. I would suggest trying out two and decide after. Your coach will give you work to practice and you must put the hours in, remember you are trying to catch up those already in an academy, who will be training and playing matches most days of the week. Many in academies are having extra lessons as well.
Club team and coaches.
Now you are happy with the 121 coach, what about your club coach? Most coaches at amateur clubs are volunteers, usually more focused on the result than individual progress, especially at the older age groups, where training will be based on possession above everything else. You should have seen a big difference in the standard of coaching between your 1on1 session and your team session. Is your team giving you a chance to get noticed? Has the coach allowed you to express yourself in training, what are his beliefs?
Find a team that has excellent coaching and plays at a higher standard. Depending on where you live and your age, it is possible to play in leagues that are aimed at players of a higher standard. JPL, District and County level football is all a great standard. County football is tough to get in, if you can find a way into that, then you are on the right path. It does not replace a Sunday team though as county football is not weekly. Do not stay at a club that does not meet the criteria, you must play at a better standard to prepare and scouts are more likely to attend JPL, District and County football.
How you train is essential.
We know you need to train a lot more than you currently do, but how do you train if others around you are not as committed? Picking the right team is essential for your future success. You need to be tested in every session, no wasting time with teammates messing around, you are in catch up mode, remember the boys in academies are training hard every week. You must treat everything you do with the professionalism; be the best you can be all the time. Take this into your daily life, real winners want to be the best at everything and that includes school.
Ask questions, coaches love it when you show enthusiasm, so many boys hate to ask, is it seen as a sign of weakness or embarrassed to ask? Whatever it is, change your mindset, you are committed to getting a trial. Scouts will attend training sessions, if you are the one asking questions, trying harder to learn, that gives you an edge.
With the homework from your 121 coach, now go and find a partner to train with if you are old enough. Using YouTube, look for ideas on ball mastery, kicking etc so you can practice together and push each other hard. This is a great way to learn, no pressure, it’s a place to make mistakes, slow down and try things that you may not get a chance with elsewhere. Arrange with your mates to meet up for a game down the park if possible, keeping it enjoyable is still important, this gives you the chance to try out any skills you have been working on in a more realistic environment and if you mess up no one cares.
YouTube your age groups academy level. For example search for Chelsea U12 academy, you will be able to see the standard of boys in an academy, do not underestimate them, it can be misleading to think they are not better than you, but the standard is a lot higher. Watch them closely, look at players that are playing in your preferred position, study them, what are they doing differently. Do they scan, are they comfortable with the ball, do they make runs off the ball that you do not, bring that into your game. Educate yourself at every chance you have.
Now its time to put all that practice to good use. Don’t waste it, every match is a showcase, every game is your chance to show what you can do. Your one to one coach may have said your 1v1 skills need to be worked on, this is your chance in a real match situation. Mistakes will happen and you must accept that and try again. A scout is not looking for perfection, they will look at things like your ability to find a pass, keep the ball in tight areas, make runs off the ball and your decision making. They may have come down to look at you or casting an eye over both teams, which means you will need to stand out.
You may not know if a scout is watching, so how can you catch his attention apart from sublime skills? Talk and talk a lot, do not complain at anyone, just encourage, give information and ASK for the BALL. The last thing you want is for a scout to not notice you, or only notice a different player.
You may still not be good enough, but if you don’t put everything into catching up with those in the academies you will never have known. Whatever happens, play with a smile on your face and GOOD LUCK!
The idea for this post comes from the excellent keeptheball.wordpress.com I have added diagrams and stats on current free kick success rates in the EPL.
When watching TRULY great players in any sport have you wondered how they seem to be able to recognise and assess a difficult situation, and respond quickly with the correct decision? This immediacy of judgement is neither luck nor a divine gift – it’s been acquired from learning their sport in a practical, realistic way.
Luis Suarez. Now with Barcelona, the Uruguayan is no longer in English football. But, when he was, he was a fascination. Why? Because he’s something virtually unseen in English football – a player who is unorthodox, to say the least, and who often crosses the line; a volatile mix of unpredictability and creativity. It’s hard to deny that there’s something remarkable about Suarez; a quality rarely produced by English football. The question is, will that always be the case? Will English football ever develop a player like Suarez?
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results!"
Read more: What Could Happen If Pro Clubs Stopped Academies?
Making it as a professional football player, at any level is an achievement, There is some luck involved usually, but the majority of players will have had to work extremely hard. It does annoy me when fans call players useless, however it also annoys me when we call players world class (meaning the best), who are obviously not. So I have added a category, to differentiate players. I wont be getting into a debate on who is legendary or not, its my opinion and you will have your own.
The building of a house is a good example of planned progression. The customer’s vision of the property is set out by an architect on drawings. From those drawings the development methods to be used to construct the property, its costs and the time to completion, must be planned in a careful and organized manner or mistakes to the structure and delays will be incurred.
For most of us, our parents are our first coach. Lots of us can remember chasing after Mum or Dad in the garden or park whilst they dribbled around you until you did not see the funny side of it anymore. Finally, they passed you the ball, and you would set off on a somewhat shorter dribble before they nicked the ball back off you! You were getting your very first insight into the game with no formal coaching - just learning on the job so to speak.
Today, the emphasis in almost all education is on change – making things different, so that students don’t get bored. But, in football, it’s important that coaches are not swayed by the belief that every session needs to be different. For how can you master a topic in one week? Long term learning, and ingrained skills, are not established overnight.
What a great sport football is! Look at any public park at weekends or summer evenings you will see kids kicking a ball about. The weekend junior leagues are full of earnest enthusiastic youngsters playing their hearts out under the direction of well-meaning volunteer coaches and managers. Any winter Sunday morning there are thousands of sometimes overweight under skilled but always enthusiastic adults playing all levels of Sunday football.