As I've gained knowledge and experience, I'm fascinated with how much quicker I'm able to interpret different aspects of the game. This weekend I was out scouting and recruiting players, and in years past, it's felt like a massive headache. So many kids seemed to be on the bubble, and I wasn't sure if they were at the required level, or below it. Or I'd follow a player, and one game he'd seem to be a class above everyone else, and the next he'd be a turnover machine.
This weekend, it felt like the kids that stood out actually had something different to the rest. A couple things I've started to consciously (and unconsciously) notice a bit more:
- when the play is stopped for a throw in, free kick, etc., what do they do? Are they scanning the field, moving into space, or just picking their nose?
- what's their reaction/attitude on the kickoff following a goal for or against them? Are they still locked in, and hungry on the next play?
- where they'll fit in to my team. They should fit a certain role right away in my head. If I find myself trying to shoehorn them in somewhere, it often isn't a great fit.
- how they shape their body and foot when they strike the ball. It's not the best comparison, but the best player's wield their foot almost like a paintbrush. They are capable of painting with heavier strokes, or caressing it more gently. It's not just important for them to have the ability to do so, but recognize when to use each tool.
- if they have sound decision-making. Watching each play unfold, whatever they end up doing should make sense to me. This goes for decision on the ball, and off the ball. Their pass and run selections, who or what space they choose to cover defensively... their should be evidence of a risk-assessment decision occurring. More than one or two "What the fuck was that?" moments is a major red flag.
- how they react when they find out they're being scouted/recruited. It's a little cliche, and easy to put too much weight in to, but the personality factor is hugely important. The ability of a player to transfer into a new environment is a huge factor. You can get some insight speaking to them for the first time, and if they can make eye contact, if they speak back to you in sentences longer than a few words... Their reaction when they finally are with your team is important too. The kids that I've found to be a good fit don't need to be babysat and have their hand held at all. This does NOT mean they have to be boisterous extroverts either!