Youth: What Scouts Look for in Upcoming Soccer Talent

May 7, 2020

Many young and talented soccer players dream of gracing the professional pitch someday. Of course, only a few will make it. For those who have serious potential, getting noticed by high-level scouts is the first step to making that dream a reality. Those who pique the attention of scouts are a rare breed of player, possessing the right mentality and skill.

Could you fall into that camp?

It’s helpful to know what scouts are looking for so that you can demonstrate the qualities recruiters are looking for. This piece reveals what talent scouts look for in young players, and what players can do to deliver their best performances.

Technical Chops

Like any sport, success in soccer is highly dependent on having some fundamental technical skills. And no, dekes aren’t sufficient enough to get you looks from scouts. You need to develop the basic skills - dribbling, shooting, heading, passing, first touch and tackling ability.

Of course, some of these skills will matter a bit more or less than others depending on your position. However, skills such as a refined first touch ability is important for any player.

You should practice your core skills every day with the appropriate drills and exercises. The repetition increases your motor ability, making these movements feel effortless.

Tactical Chops

You also need to have a high “football IQ”, which is a casual way of saying tactical awareness. This is the ability to read the game and respond with the right plays and decisions. A player with high tactical ability knows where to put themselves and when to do so. Scouts are watching when you are on the ball as well as where you are when you don’t have possession.

They want to see how you handle opponents who are closing in on you, or whether you’re drawing defenders away from the ball to create space for your teammates.

Here’s a word of advice: seriously work on your football IQ when you don’t have the ball. Scouts may pay more attention to this aspect of your game than you may realize.

Just like technical ability, you can strengthen your tactical chops with drills and exercises and other techniques such as vision training.

Physical Attributes

Your physicality can determine whether a scout sees you as a potential fit or not. Your physical size doesn’t matter as much as it used to, although some characteristics can serve as an advantage (such as being tall for goalkeepers).

Nevertheless, you still have to show a degree of strength, agility, balance, and poise whether you have the ball or not. Your conditioning should be up to par as well - good endurance and an ability to take hits from other players will put you in a scout’s good books.

Ultimately, if you can withstand the ever-changing pace and intensity of a game, your physique won’t be an issue.

Weight training, conditioning drills and neuromuscular warmups (such as FIFA 11+) can help you maintain and increase your physical performance for scouts to see.

Personality Traits

The right personality traits are the selling point for many soccer players. And we don’t mean personality in the sense of being a reality show star. Scouts seek out players who demonstrate confidence, poise, calmness, and determination.

How does that look on the pitch?

A poised and confident player makes good tactical decisions, not hurriedly or hesitantly, both of which can suggest nervousness. A calm player can get upset at a bad call or an opponent’s illegal tackle, but doesn’t get angry to the point of verbally or even physically attacking someone else. Determined players play with a consistent intensity even if they’re losing a match or being heckled by the opposing team’s fans.

And here’s a quick word on aggression.

Scouts look for it. It’s a tricky one for players to develop though because it’s easy to be too aggressive or too passive. Too much aggression leads to illegal tackles, troubles with referees and an increased risk of injury. Too little aggression leads to underperformance and poor decision making.

Scouts are looking for just the right amount of it. You’ll have to learn, through trial and error, to find that balance.

If you can display those character traits, you will be a top contender for scouts. So work on yourself not only as a player, but also as a person.

Whether it’s through meditation, deep breathing or some other means, there are many ways to help you train to keep your emotions balanced.

Good Pacing

The ability to maintain a good pace throughout a game is an “icing-on-the-cake” skill. If you demonstrate it along with the other skills and traits above, then scouts may very well approach you.

Good pacing is demonstrated by both your speed and your ability to slow or quicken the tempo of the game when you have possession of the ball. It’s a skill that sets you apart because being able to dictate the game’s pace puts you in greater control overall.

Developing a good pace comes from a combination of possessing the above-mentioned skills and experience. Ultimately, good pacing is intuitive, which means that you have to develop a “feel” for the game (which again, comes from experience).

Shine When it Counts

Many players are eager to play for scouts but lack the chops needed to make a good first impression. If they were to be seen, it would be a wasted opportunity. Always work on your skills including the full range of abilities listed above, so that you’re in tip-top shape as a player.

Have your coach and teammates assess you and give you honest feedback. Go a step further even and have yourself recorded to see where you are solid or need improvement - the camera won’t lie! Continuously refining your skills will give you an edge in the eyes of scouts, or at the very least, make you a great player when you’re not being evaluated.

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