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Career Transitioning: the Basketball Scout Option

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When you think about your basketball career, you think about coach Rudy Tomjanovich. You were the same height and played the forward position. You both held records in rebounding in college. He was drafted second by the Sand Diego Rockets (now Houston Rockets) in the 1970 NBA draft. You were drafted third.

In 1977, in a game between the Lakers and the Rockets, a fight broke out. Kermit Washington of the Lakers threw a solid punch at Rudy Tomjanovich’s face sending him down the floor. Players didn’t wear mouthguards then. And even if they did, it would not have mattered. Tomjanovich’s face was severely broken, and he did not play for five months. You suffered a knee injury while going for a rebound and you got sidelined as well. The difference between you and Tomjanovich was that he was able to recover. You didn’t.

Still, the parallelism seems to persist. Rudy T. became a scout before rising to the head coach position in the NBA. You’re now a scout and love what you do. What could you share with other players whose career has been cut short by an injury or other illness that prevents them from playing? How does one become a scout?

Economic Outlook as a Scout

According to the US Department of Labor, more than 290,000 coaches and scouts were employed in 2018. The annual median salary nationwide is just below $34,000. The number is much higher if you work in the NBA, where salaries range from $58,400 and $65,000 per year.

There are instances, however, where scouts don’t charge for their services in the hope of being noticed by the NBA and eventually being offered a job. Advanced NBA scouts can go northwards of $500,000 per year.

Understanding Scouts

basketball players

A job in the NBA would probably be the pinnacle. But you can be a scout in a youth league, the AAU, high school, and college level. Expect a lot of traveling and notes-taking when you become one. You scout for any of the following reasons and more:

  1. Because you’re recruiting for programs or teams at the high school and college level
  2. Because you’re drafting players as in the case of the NBA
  3. Because you want to prepare for your opposing team

Scouts are also looking for skills like shooting, rebounding, and passing. But they are also evaluating for attitude, work ethics or trying to find the right fit with a team’s program.

What It Takes

You might need to have a lot of instincts, that’s true. But you also need to use plenty that grey matter between years quite rigorously, especially when the games today are heavily laden with statistics and data. Here’s a useful checklist:

  1. Get a degree. This is particularly true if you’re coaching and scouting at the same time in college. You need to have at least a bachelor’s degree, where you can get an accurate understanding of the fields of exercise science and nutrition as well as techniques on how to provide instructions and how to scout.
  2. Player and coaching experience. If you’re targeting the NBA, you must have been at least a player and then a coach. You’re able to leverage your own experience as a player and coach when you’re evaluating prospective players.
  3. Build a track record and network. Remember the point about working for free? You must gain experience and build your track record, either by working independently or through a sports agency. Get to know people and create your contacts list.

So do you think that you can become a scout?

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