Sports scouts are responsible for evaluating both professional and amateur athletes for talent and skill in a specific sport. They often work in sports like football, basketball, hockey and baseball, and are employed by both professional organizations and colleges or universities that have amateur teams. It is often difficult to break into this career field, though candidates who have playing or coaching experience in the sport that they wish to scout may be able to find opportunities. In addition, job growth is expected in the field through 2018--so those who are interested in becoming sports scouts should seek out entry-level positions as an experienced scout’s assistant.
Sports scouts identify talented athletes as potential players for their team or organization. They scout for talent by reading local newspapers, consulting high school or college coaches and alumni and watching videos of players’ performance. Scouts will also attend live sporting events to evaluate players’ talent and skills, and may meet with players and their families to get a better sense of their background and character. They usually interview players’ current coaches or teachers as well. Scouts may also attend professional sporting events to provide feedback about players that a team is considering making a trade for or signing to a contract in the off-season. After watching a player, scouts will then report back to the organization's management and provide an analysis of the player's potential value to the team. Professional sports teams may also employ advance scouts, who attend games played by opponents that their team will play in the future in order to provide information about opposing players’ strengths and weaknesses.
There are no specific education requirements for scouts, though some complete a bachelor’s degree in sports management, human resources or communications. Many sports scouts are former players, so they are familiar with the sport that they are scouting. Others have experience in coaching or managing, which provides them with the necessary insight to spot talent. Those who are interested in going into the field may start out as part-time scouts, who search for athletes in a particular part of the country. Some experienced scouts may apprentice inexperienced workers in the field, using them as an assistant so they can gain experience.
Sports scouts usually work irregular hours, including weekends, nights and holidays, because they must attend sporting events. They must travel regularly as well, trying to find talented athletes throughout the country. Scouts may also be exposed to inclement or cold weather, as many sporting events are held outdoors. In addition, they often work under a great deal of pressure, as their jobs depend on whether or not the athletes that they recommend succeed for their team. Some sports scouts run their own businesses, and provide freelance services for various companies or teams.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wages for sports coaches and scouts were $28,340 as of May 2008. The highest 10 percent were paid more than $62,660, while the lowest 10 percent were paid less than $15,530. The middle 50 percent were paid between $18,220 and $43,440. The highest-paying employers for sports scouts and coaches were colleges, universities and professional schools, who paid median annual wages of $39,550.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment for sports coaches and scouts will grow by 25 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is a much faster rate than the average for all occupations. Despite the expected growth, competition will be fierce for scouting jobs, especially for professional sports teams, because there are limited positions within each organization. Experienced scouts who have a good track record of finding talented players should have the best opportunities.