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Creating scout reports that work with Aaron Henworth
Football scouts are a vital cog in the wheel of the beautiful game for many reasons. Among these reasons is the scout report which is an assessment of a player, players or team. Aaron Hensworth has scouted for Wolves and Stoke at academy level, and Mansfield at first team level. We discussed his journey and the process of creating scout reports that work.
How did you get involved in scouting?
Just applied for a job at Wolves like you would in any other sector - went on Indeed, sent my cv across and attended an interview. Had to do a trial report (which was the worst match I've ever seen to this day) and luckily impressed enough to carry on.
What sort of report was it - can you recall how it looked?
Yep, back then I had little idea of what was meant to be included. I went with the basic premise of the FA's "4 Corner Model" to guide me, for those that aren’t familiar it's a coaching framework that makes sure you cover the social/technical/physical and mental factors in a session. It helps segregate and highlight the different qualities and aspects, the building blocks of each player. The report was a preset template on Word, I gave in a 20 odd page document on an U16s game and got told to tone it down for being over eager to impress.
What changed in your scout reports after that first "feedback"?
I found myself condensing points a lot, ie; a lot of the tactical points being made weren't really relevant to individuals at youth level so could be scrapped. There’s wasn't a lot of public work out there during this time (2017) so you had to learn on the job rather than look and see what others were doing for guidance/inspiration. My mentor at the time was fantastic and gave me tons of advice though, and I still speak to a few of the team to this day, we were all new to scouting and finding our feet so it wasn't too intimidating.
I observed what others were doing while out watching games. Eavesdropping conversations from HOR's, asking questions. This gets you vital information and saves time describing the player if you have a name. Searching for youth players names is tedious at the best of times
A lot has changed indeed since your first role. You mentioned using a Word template back in the day, what are your go-to tools for reports now?
It depends whether doing club work or independently. With clubs you'll generally have a tried and tested bespoke template, with certain criteria needing to be met. It's very restrictive especially at the top level, generally the lower down the pyramid the more creative you can be with your work. A lot of clubs use some form of Microsoft Office template, Excel/Word/Powerpoint. Simple enough to use but basic, generic and difficult to make your work stand out. I use a variety of tools for independent work such as Canva, a free Graphic design app with endless potential to craft your own style. I'm gonna sound like a salesman here but I really do recommend it for jazzing up reports for your own portfolio. Below is a sample team lineup you can knock up in minutes.
image: Aaron Henworth via Twitter
I have basically no coding experience so manually craft passmaps if I have the benefit of footage. If need be, I then link each pass to a video clip of the pass so you can click straight through. I made an interactive PDF for a French agency via Canva and InDesign that visually looks great and have had good feedback on. It just gives reports that extra punch rather than the standard black text/white background combo
How long did it take you to pick up Canva?
And how would you advise budding scouts to go about their report creation process?
It’s easy even for the anyone who struggles with computers and new software. Takes a matter of mins to knock something up and just hours to master all the features. Any scouts (esp independent/unaffilliated ones) should look to get an edge wherever possible. This app in itself is a great resource in that there’s tons of creative people showing their work each day, to help compare and contrast. The amount of stuff I've saved in my bookmarks and just haven’t got round to reading because more stuff is constantly added on top is ridiculous.
Curate your follow list to highlight your favourite work. @Gegenpressing91 (Marius Fischer) and @DomC0801 have impressive porfolios of work for inspiration. Marius' experimental Excel work shows you don’t have to show data in boring tables. Doms dashboards are concise & aesthetically pleasing.
The PFSA academy scouting template (attached below) guides scouts on what to measure. Data gathering, especially when video of the game is not available, can be especially difficult. How do you advise scouts gather data to improve their reports?
image: PFSA Scouting Template (via thepfsa.co.uk)
Notational analysis can be difficult, especially with no team sheet to do half the work for you. If you are scouting an individual and not a team, there’s an app to manually plot a heatmap called HeatMap Sport on Android.
Depends what level of detail you want in your reports as you'd obviously want the 'classic' scouting material such as notes on technical ability to be at the forefront.
For opposition analysis, take a picture of how the team lines up on set pieces before and after the kick is taken. You can spot the runs and put the pic in the report with an arrow to show the runs taken, and annotate the pic with who is marking who (back post duties, late run from out the box etc.) Saves having to mock it up on a tactics board app later on.
You can also pinpoint defensive structure and transitional play. If you are going in depth and tallying passes, tackles and such, put the data in a radar chart afterwards (search 'geography field work' for a website that enables this) and export the graph with a transparent background to add viz to your work.
To do the actual tallying up, there are apps available (not sure of the names but search 'scouting app' in the app stores to find 'clickers' that you press for each match action to automate the process) similar to the NACsport dashboard.
A lot to unpack from this chat. Was delighted to find your profile on Behance. Where else do you look for design inspiration?
Aside from Behance, here on Twitter is the perfect base to start. 'Scout Twitter' has grown exponentially over recent times with artistic innovation flowing out daily. It doesn't even have to be from the field of football, I've borrowed ideas from advertising and graphic design communities. I'd advise any budding scout to learn a coding language early on, if only to automate the process a tad more and save endless hours of manual plotting, plus clubs are looking more and more for that in job specs but for the freelance/unemployed scouts I'd say keep a record of all of your work as a marker of progression as time wears on. Your own work improving over time tells you more than anyone else can. Experiment and be creative!
In closing, can you give us your all-time 5-a-side?