One thing all sports scouts have in common? Passion.
While scouts for sports teams arrive from a wide variety of backgrounds, they all are passionate about their occupation and the sports they follow. That is why many of the scouts have played the game they scout at a high level or they have coached at a high level, but there are others who simply have made themselves experts through years of studying the game they love.
Most scouts are affiliated with a specific team, but there also are scouting positions affiliated with services that then sell their information to teams.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps scouting jobs with coaching positions and estimates that there are 217,000 people employed in these positions in the U.S.
Because scouts must possess the ability to evaluate talent in young players, they must have extensive backgrounds in playing the sport, typically at the college or professional level, coaching at a high level, or many years of following the sport.
The position of scout typically requires extensive travel to see players in action, first-hand. The scout then evaluates the various skill sets of a player in relation to other players to help determine if the player could one day play with the professional team. College recruiters also scout high school talent but they’re typically coaches with the college team.
At the professional level, most scouts evaluate young players to try to determine if one day they will be able to contribute at the professional level. The scouts also help determine at what level the team should invest in a given player. This investment includes the decision on whether or not to draft a player, how high of a pick to spend on a player, and how much money to invest in a player through a signing bonus.
Scouts develop relationships with coaches from high school and AAU teams to try to stay on top of the best players.
Other professional scouts concentrate on opposing teams and evaluating other players for purposes of match-ups when the scouts’ team faces the opponent. This evaluation also helps the team determine the ability level of players a team may consider acquiring through a trade or free agency.
Scouts perform key services as a team tries to improve its level of talent, which of course will pay dividends in terms of wins and losses, long-term.
Most scouts are former players from the sport they work. Others are current or former coaches with years of experience following the sport. College is not necessarily a requirement for people who have played at a high level and then developed a keen eye for talent.
Of the scouts that have not played in the sport, many have spent years following the sport to establish their expertise. Others have developed new methods for evaluating talent or organizing their information in a way that teams desire.
There are opportunities in the media as well, at sites like Scout.com.
Many scouts are, in fact, self employed and are paid for individual scouting assignments. Other scouts work part time in a particular area or region for a team. As they build a track record of success, full-time jobs covering larger territories or coordinating other scouts are an option. Some scouts advance to scouting director jobs with teams or other various administrative positions, like general manager.
While the market for sports scouts is expected to grow faster than the average career in the next decade, the job features a high level of competition for the top scouting positions.
Because many sports scouts work less than full-time, the salary averages are low. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary earnings were $26,950. The top 10% of scouts earned more than $58,890 annually and some earned much more.