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Sports scouts attend sporting events and record their findings for pay. They may travel from city to city watching other teams from their league play, or they may attend games for the purpose of recruiting players for their own team. Scouts are an extension of the coaching staff of a team, and in many cases, assistant coaches have scouting responsibilities.
There are two general tasks assigned to scouts. One is recruitment, the other is to gather information about an opposing team. Recruitment scouts attend high school and college games to look for talented young players. Coaches or general managers from professional teams may inform scouts about specific personnel needs. For example, a basketball coach may need a guard who can handle the ball well and shoot jump shots. A scout attends numerous college games and then returns to the coach with a list of players who meet the description. In most cases the list returned will rate the individual players and include some additional information, such as the players' ages, heights, and weights. Notes or impressions from an interview the scout conducted with the player would also be included. Recruitment scouts may attend a game to see a particular individual play but will also make notes on other players. Scouts may see 10 or more games a week, so they must keep detailed notes. Scouts must also be comfortable with statistics, both compiling and understanding them. Scouts examine statistics like earned run average, yards per carry, and field goal percentage in order to assist them in their deliberations concerning players.
A scout may need to see a player more than once to determine if he or she has the ability to play at the next level. Scouts report their findings back to the coach or general manager, and it is up to that person to act on the scout's recommendations.
Recruitment scouts need to see numerous games so that they acquire the ability to accurately assess talent. Scouts need to distinguish between players who have sound, fundamental skills and an understanding of the game and players who are natural athletes but have not yet acquired the finer skills.
Many professional sports leagues have minor leagues or developmental leagues in which players not yet good enough to play at the highest professional level hone their skills. Professional baseball has minor leagues, or a farm system, that consists of players who have talent but are still maturing or learning skills. Many scouts are assigned to these leagues to keep a watchful eye on players as they develop. For example, a Major League Baseball team may employ both full- and part-time scouts, most of whom concentrate on players already playing in the minor leagues. They also receive a daily report compiled by the Major League Scouting Bureau (MLSB). The MLSB is a professional scouting organization that is overseen by the Commissioner's Office of Major League Baseball. It employs approximately 34 full-time scouts and 13 part-time scouts. Other professional sports leagues have similar systems. For example, the National Basketball Association has a developmental league. Sports scouts are also assigned to these leagues to evaluate talent.
Assistant coaches and scouts often attend opponents' games to find out about players' abilities and team strategies. They watch the game, diagram set plays, and note players' tendencies. During practice the following week, scouts share their findings and, when possible, detail plans to help offset an opponent's strength.