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Published on August 29th, 2011 | by King James


Why Aren’t You Scouting?

You may not know it, but somebody is watching you. They’re trolling Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube for your information. They’re emailing everyone they know for leads, videos, and documents. Who are these nefarious people? Your next opponents. This is what people in the sports business call scouting, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. People feel a certain amount of bashfulness when it comes to seeking out information on their opponents, but if you fail to scout you are shooting yourself in the foot.

Put simply, scouting is just trying to find out about your opponent. Hopefully you started your scouting before your season started. If not, it is time to start! So, you find yourself trying to find information about your opponent, but you’ve never done this before and it may seem a little embarrassing; after all, you don’t want to seem like a creeper. Fortunately, by the time we’re done here you shouldn’t feel like one.

Well-known teams are going to have a plethora of information available, lesser-known teams may take some more work. The best information you can get is the most recent and in person. At a minimum you should be able to find past scores from your opponent’s games. If they have never played a game then you probably don’t have as much to worry about.

So, how are you going to get all this information? The best thing you can do is jump in your car and go watch their games. Better yet, watch it while video taping it if the venue allows it. If you can’t go to the game, then get someone to video tape it and send it to you. If the venue won’t allow you or a friend to video tape the game then find the videos on Youtube,, Facebook, or wherever else they might be after the game is over. Look up the scores, tweets, and Facebook posts about what may have happened.

Once you are at your opponents game there is no point in being bashful. I recommend letting them play their game without the distraction of knowing their future opponent is present, but you should introduce yourself after the game, preferably at the afterparty. Before you hit that afterparty, if the team or venue is filming the game, then find the person responsible and ask how you can get a copy of the game footage ASAP. Be prepared to lay down about 20 bucks for a DVD. After that ask the head NSO or referee to let you look at the stats sheets. Take note of anything interesting. Go ahead and snap a photo of each one with your smart phone.

When you finally get to that glorious afterparty, talk to the players, coaches, and the referees. People are decompressing after the game and will want to talk all about what just happened. Just be sure they know who you are, you don’t want anyone getting in trouble or feeling like you pulled a fast one on them. They are likely to respect your honesty, and respect you as a fellow derby player or coach and speak on a more technical level than if they thought they were just talking with a gushing fan.

You aren’t likely to get any really great information from your upcoming opponent, so move on to the other team once you’ve introduced yourself. Don’t forget to talk to team Zebra! Who got the most penalties? What kind of penalty are they likely to get? Do their jammers cut the track a lot? How many power jams did they get and how well did they exploit and defend them? What was the most effective strategy or play? Who were their MVPs? Who was everyone talking about after and during the game?

Let’s say you can’t get to the game and you don’t know anyone who is going. Just check with the team in question or their opponent via a quick phone call or email. Most people aren’t stingy with information (and really, you shouldn’t be either) and will likely send you the video or a recap if they have one. You can also buy DVDs from tournaments after the fact. Maybe your league will even reimburse you. Keep in mind that if you give information to other leagues they are likely to return the favor. With a free exchange of information between teams, you improve everyone’s game and make roller derby a better sport.

Watch the videos, write down names, plays, strategies, stats, and of course, weaknesses. Make sure you watch the game multiple times if you have it on tape. You’re going to be caught up in the action the first time you watch it. Every time after that you watch it you will naturally be watching for something new. Watch it with a group of people, but not a party. Three to five people is plenty, any more and it gets distracting. After you have watched it share the video and your notes with the players and decide what to do with it.

Is important for us to talk about ethics. You should never do anything you feel is unethical when scouting. If you are putting on a fake mustache or using a fake email address, or misrepresent yourself as “just a fan” you are probably being unethical. If a team is not willing to give you copies of their games and you can’t find them any other way, just let it go. There are other ways to get information, but you may just have to live with what you get.

So what should you do if you get information you probably shouldn’t have? Sometimes former or current players of your future opponent will send you insider information. As much as we don’t want this to happen, it does. I’ve gotten information like this and I usually ignore it for two reasons. First, it is usually just a small tidbit that will have no impact on your overall strategy. Second, you have no idea if it is true or not. If someone is clearly violating a privacy rule you may want to inform the team in question. You would want them to do the same for you.

There is nothing wrong with scouting. Through proper scouting you can prepare your players and team for a better game. You will be better able to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses and apply your own strengths. Even minimal scouting can at least make you feel more comfortable about the coming game. The sport will be improved through more consistent performances, and you just might meet some new people in the community while encouraging openness and sharing amongst sister leagues.

King James is a retired coach for the Tallahassee Rollergirls, and runs in his spare time.

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