How to Use Video to Craft the Perfect Opponent Scout

Why is video essen­tial to unlock­ing your opponent’s game plan? Allow fel­low coach­es to explain.

How to Use Video to Craft the Perfect Opponent Scout

Why is video essen­tial to unlock­ing your opponent’s game plan? Allow fel­low coach­es to explain.

Scouting is essen­tial­ly a giant game of Jenga. You try to force your oppo­nent into uncom­fort­able sit­u­a­tions that will ulti­mate­ly lead them to choose the wrong piece, send­ing the entire tow­er — their game plan — crum­bling down.

Imagine how much eas­i­er Jenga would be if you had a scan­ner that showed the struc­tur­al integri­ty of each block in the tow­er. You could view the prob­a­bil­i­ties of suc­cess asso­ci­at­ed with each poten­tial move. That val­ue is what video pro­vides in scouting.

An effec­tive video break­down reveals your opponent’s strengths and how they like to attack, but also uncov­ers their weak points. This infor­ma­tion helps you keep them out of their sweet spots and put them in uncom­fort­able situations.

Here are our top ele­ments of a pow­er­ful oppo­nent scout, with guide­lines to top­ple the oppos­ing strategy.

Find the Tendencies

The first thing any good scout does is iden­ti­fy what the oppo­nent does best. Identify their top play­ers, where they get their shots from and how they pre­fer to defend. Just ask Andre Noble, the head coach at Imhotep High School (Philadelphia, Pa.), which fin­ished the 2016 – 17 sea­son ranked No. 2 in the nation accord­ing to MaxPreps. 

First I’m look­ing for what they’re try­ing to do and what we’re going to take away,” Noble said. That’s to me the biggest thing. We would look at the film and say, This is what they’re try­ing to do when they run this set.’ Or, When they call this, this is the for­ma­tion.’ We want to give the play­ers all that infor­ma­tion up front. They’re not going to remem­ber every­thing as the game is going on, but if they see com­mon sets, they’re going to get famil­iar with it.”

Brett Norris, the head coach at Hilliard Bradley High School (Ohio), said his staff dis­sects each game like a foot­ball coach, search­ing for even the small­est ten­den­cy that could cause the oppos­ing offense to fissure.

We’re look­ing for align­ments for any keys that we can gath­er that will help us rec­og­nize their play pack­ag­ing or any­thing sig­nif­i­cant to the way they’re suc­cess­ful,” Norris said. We’re also look­ing at what they do defen­sive­ly and what tends to trig­ger their defen­sive packages.”

Review the First Matchup

Teams often face each oth­er twice in a sea­son, either in tour­na­ments or con­fer­ence play. Take advan­tage of this oppor­tu­ni­ty. You’ve seen exact­ly what your oppo­nent wants to do, but only from the sideline.

Rewatching the first game’s video gives you a sec­ond set of eyes for the matchup. You’ll be able to clear your mind of the emo­tions involved in the first con­test and see the game from a whole new van­tage point. You’ll notice things you may have missed the first time.

When you go back and watch the video, you see some things open up,” Bob Rickman, the head coach at Alton High School (Ill.), said. Just the sim­ple fact of see­ing that from above as opposed to look­ing through the play­ers on the side­lines makes a tremen­dous difference. 

One of the most valu­able things for me was the abil­i­ty to go back and look at that video from the pre­vi­ous game and see what we did, what they did, and how we can make adjust­ments to fix some­thing that was giv­ing us a problem.”

Trust the Data

The say­ing, The num­bers don’t lie,” may not be 100 per­cent true. But when stats are linked to video, they’re prac­ti­cal­ly unas­sail­able. Instead of sim­ply look­ing at a list of num­bers, a sin­gle click pulls up all avail­able video asso­ci­at­ed with that stat.

I watch a lot of video and it saves you time where, This guy is aver­ag­ing 18 (points), but how is he aver­ag­ing 18?’” Jimmy Lallathin, head coach at St. Xavier High School (Ohio), said. Instead of watch­ing four or five games from begin­ning to end, I can just real­ly quick refresh and go.”

Share with the Players

You can gain the great­est insights in the world, but it’s all for naught if they’re not effec­tive­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ed with your ath­letes. Be care­ful not to over­whelm them with infor­ma­tion. According to Noble, it’s all about find­ing that right bal­ance of shar­ing enough with­out them think­ing too much.

You can’t take away every­thing (from an oppo­nent),” Noble said. You don’t want to over­whelm your team. So you look for the key empha­sis points. We know things as a staff, but we try to get things down to our kids in small phras­es. We don’t want them think­ing about 50 things. We want them to be small, sim­ple phrases.”

Try to keep your video ses­sions to 30 min­utes or less — any longer and you risk los­ing the ath­letes’ atten­tion. Another effec­tive strat­e­gy is hold­ing ses­sions with just three or four play­ers at a time. You’ll get through the infor­ma­tion much quick­er and the ath­letes will ben­e­fit from more direct instruction.

Video unlocks ele­ments of scout­ing you didn’t know exist­ed. These tools allow you to view the game in a total­ly dif­fer­ent way, expos­ing trends and ten­den­cies you may miss if you sim­ply scout a game live. Get a head start with more resources.

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