Scouting – “The Great Chess Match” for Coaches and Players

5 Feb

I have always been fascinated with scouting. During my coaching career, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to serve as scouting coordinator at the highest level of high school basketball during my 10-year tenure as an assistant under Coach Stu Vetter at schools such as Flint Hill Prep, Harker Prep and St. John’s Prospect Hall.  During that 10-year run, we played in high-stakes championship games against opponents like perennial powers St. Anthony’s, Oak Hill, Mater Dei and many more.


As I moved on to become the head coach at Bishop McNamara, scouting took on an even bigger role while competing in one of the toughest leagues in America – the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC). The league has traditional powers DeMatha, Gonzaga, St. John’s and Bishop O’Connell among others. To compete in this league night in and night out, you had better invest the time to scout your opponents and prepare your team to compete. It was through scouting, preparation and execution of the game plan that gave our teams the opportunity to be successful.


One of the greatest coaching experiences I’ve had is being selected as an assistant coach and scouting coordinator for USA Basketball’s Junior National U16 & U17 Developmental Team for two years.  The position afforded me the chance to learn the international game and rules, and the different playing styles of each country we played. More importantly, it allowed me to become even more of a student of the game.


My USA Basketball coaching experience came on the heels of the “Redeem Team” – the U.S. Senior National team’s run at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  My access to that team through USA Basketball permitted me yet another unique opportunity to learn, understand and watch the international game up close and personal, thus making scouting easier, more efficient and more effective. The combination of our talent, preparation, understanding of the scouting report and execution of the game plan allowed our Developmental team to win two GOLD MEDALS!


Now in my first year as an assistant coach at George Washington University, I continue to enjoy scouting, or what I like to call “The Great Chess Match.”  With as much technology and software available (Fast Scout, Fast Draw, Synergy, Sports Code, digital filming) to us at the highest level of college basketball, one must be careful not to get bombarded with information overload.  Information overload can and does render players helpless because they have gone from an instinctual athlete to a player who is thinking too much and trying to process too much information.


Therein lies the dilemma for the coach doing the scout – how much information is too much information? I have come to realize that the answer to that question lies in four areas:

1. The overall basketball IQ of your team.

2. The amount of information to be processed.

3. The amount of time to process the information.

4. How many different ways can we teach it: visually, written, verbally and kinetically based on different learning styles.

I believe that coaching staff’s scouting reports should contain all the necessary information that fits the head coach’s style. This is very important because it allows the head coach to become comfortable in developing a better understanding of the opponent. The head coach becomes confident in the game plan and better able to motivate and prepare his team to win.


The player’s scouting reports, in my opinion, should be considerably smaller in size, simpler with quick-hitting key attributes/weaknesses, and clear do’s and don’ts to eliminate gray areas.  I also believe the scouting report and the presentation of the scout should reflect the personality of the coach in charge of it. This makes the scouting report that much more believable to the players.


Scouting is “The Great Chess Match” because it allows the coaches to compete and play the game mentally after their time to physically compete and play passes with time and age.


The “chess matches” continue as coaches get up early and stay up late trying to find anything they can to give their team the best opportunity to be successful. Basketball is a game played like checkers, but requires the thinking of chess!


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