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The Scouting Academy: My Experience

Dynasty Nerds own @ffb_Vern shares his path to creating better dynasty fantasy content by taking us through his time at @TheScoutingAcademy

The summer flew by in my time spent with the Scouting Academy. It was grueling, awesome and tested my patience, my brain, my own misconceptions about the sport. I can not understate how it grew my ability to communicate about players, watch football, and understand what it all means. It is an experience I would recommend to anyone looking to create content about the sport. You will help your readers more effectively with this knowledge. 

The “Why”

There should always be a good “why” when you embark on any new venture and a “message from God” is as good as any. This may be “whatever” for some of you. But, sitting in the church focused on the sermon then having a vision (not imaginations of what could be) of writing about football is what started me on this journey.

After this, I put some serious thought into how I could make the transition. I e-mailed an analyst we should all know, Matt Harmon. Matt told me that I need to write habitually, get the reps to continue building up my skills. More importantly, I needed to find my ‘niche’. Thanks, Matt Harmon!

After receiving an inspirational response from someone I didn’t really expect to hear back from I got started with some friends. I tried to focus on DFS and dynasty all while searching for that ‘thing’ that could set me apart or help me stand out.

That’s when Running Back Vision was given birth. Early versions were ‘meh’, but the second iteration was a vast improvement. Now I am equipped with knowledge that will help make it even better!

The Experience

16-week Tape Grind

So what was the Scouting Academy like? To be real with you, it was a humbling tape grind. There were moments of elation as I applied concepts learned to the tape and watched a prediction unfold. There were many more moments of character building frustration as my vast lack of real understanding of the game seemed insurmountable.

credit: washingtonpost.com

You will be watching LOTS of tape. Some of it is tape of players that may not dazzle you with their performance, but that’s where you learn the meaning of the mundanity of excellence. In this, I learned there is often more to learn from boring-looking plays than those highlight type plays.

More than likely you will not master all the positions in one semester without significant experience in the sport. With that said, get an idea of the positions you are familiar with and order the following position groups (RB, WR, TE, QB, OL, DL, LB, DB). You will have to do this upon creating your account, but be ready to be flexible as the academy will vector you somewhat. This is important for your growth as certain concepts in certain positional groups are important foundations for others (e.g. OL concepts are very important to RB evaluation).  

Just to reiterate, this is an investment of time. For me, this meant 20-25 hours per week. Beyond watching tape, this time estimate includes time for reading content and watching instructional videos in addition to writing/revising scouting reports. Time management became very important.

Set Relationship Expectations

Time management wasn’t just about managing my pace for the coursework; it also meant time management for existing relationships. This includes family, friends, other opportunities, etc. Communication about the demands of this coursework on your time with these important relationships is critical. You don’t want to finish a semester of grinding tape just to have a bunch of repair work to do in those relationships important to you.

If you have a spouse and/or children please have a conversation with them. Explain that you understand the cost of this to them. Ask them to partner with you in the pursuit of your dream, so that one day you can do the same for them. My wife and I came agreed that the weekday evenings were committed to coursework and the weekends were committed to her (My stepkids are grown so I’m not sure how this works with young ones).

I had to miss some really key events in the lives of some very good friends of mine who are geographically separated. That part is tough knowing that I can never really recapture that, but there is a cost to everything. Right? That’s the point I am trying to portray. Ensure you are considering the complete cost and impact of doing something like this. People won’t necessarily treat this like the more understandable concept of a full semester of college because it’s about football, but essentially that is what this is.

Home Office and Recommendations

Your environment must be set up to facilitate your success. For me, I started in my dining room, which was challenging in an open concept home. After two weeks, I knew I needed an area away from all the ambient noise of conversations, TV, and things that could distract me. So I set up a small desk space on a folding table in my bedroom. I elevated my extra monitor for film watching. Grabbed my noise-canceling headphones and made sure I had plenty of space to write with several notebooks. Finally, pens of at least two different colors. Getting all this organized helped a lot with the learning to come.

credit: unfspinnaker.com

What did I learn?

You know the saying, “the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know”? If you are at a fan level of understanding like me (never played the sport myself), then you may feel like this as you learn about the game and the various positions. Don’t get discouraged, and know when to reach out for help. Reaching out for assistance, making connections, and assisting others where you can, will help you succeed.

Position Modules

I was unable to cut right to the chase for my goal of learning running back, as the journey started with the exciting world of wide receiver. I knew there were some nuances to the art of route running. But I was blown away with the number of details they have to process and respond to on the fly. The WR – DB matchup is a fast-paced game of chess involving body-position, speed, strength, quickness, toughness, and mental processing. 

Offensive line (OL) was not my second choice, but I was vectored to it as it was a necessary foundation to truly understand RBs. Without understanding blocking schemes and how linemen succeed in their blocks, RB evaluation is likely to be boiled down to athleticism (which is incomplete, to say the least). This module was great as now I have an understanding of how to do the root cause analysis of failed offensive plays. There is no doubt that you will have a newfound appreciation for the trenches.

Finally, I made it to the RB module: my original goal for the semester. There were things I thought I understood like Vision and Burst; two things most people focus on for RB prospects. These two factors are still a high priority in my evaluations, but now I can evaluate the quality of these factors. Additionally, with concepts like Finish, I now see the value of the different ways a ball carrier can close the play. This aspect can be applied and evaluated across RBs WRs and TEs.  

The Importance of Context

Context, just like for sentences in any book, provides perspective. Without context included in your player evaluation, your conclusion could come out as something strange to others. You know when you pick up a “random” phrase out of a nearby conversation and you are baffled, stunned, or confused as to why those were the words of choice? Oftentimes if we had the context of the rest of that conversation the overheard phrase makes complete sense.

Player evaluation is exactly this way and this is why a 10-yard rush is not equal to every 10-yard rush, especially when considering 1st and 10 vs 3rd and 30. Context helps us understand a little better what a player should look to do in a given situation. You will want as much context as possible, and the academy helps us to develop the habit of gathering this type of information.

The Importance of Humility

This cannot be understated. You must not enter this as a stubborn mule. It is imperative for your success that you admit to yourself that you don’t know/understand something. Don’t look at this situation as an obstacle, rather an opportunity. It is an opportunity to ask someone. 

Asking someone may feel hard, especially if you are an introvert like myself, but it’s also a great starting point for new relationships within the community. The only reason I made it through the OL module was because of this first step in reaching out. I was blessed with one of the best football community relationships I enjoy right now (Thanks @CoachPLFootball).

If you happen to be of the mule variety and you aren’t knowledgeable in this sport already then I imagine this course could break your brain. It’s okay though; lay down your pride and open your mind. It’s worth it.

The Benefits

There are many ways that your tuition fee will benefit you. If you approach this diligently and with a humble spirit, you will gain a lot. Most of all you will gain football knowledge. You will also learn the elements of the scouting process such that you can personalize your approach later. Your film watching will be significantly enhanced, especially if you weren’t considering the proper context before. If you take the humility portion above seriously, you will generate some entry-level networking skills. 

The coolest benefit is the fact that you (and your work) get exposure to people in the industry and your work (scouting reports) could get exposure to potential decision-makers for career opportunities. I have been blessed enough to have two of my reports posted on the 2019 Summer Showcase; something I never expected, but sure shot for this summer.

What Now?

Now it’s time to forge ahead with this newfound knowledge. The goal is to bless the community with what I have learned and perhaps help others to learn about the game. 

Specifically, with the new knowledge I have at the specific positions I learned, I can now start working on Running Back Vision 3.0 for the next draft season. 

For now, I will continue writing quality dynasty articles for you at DynastyNerds.com and help you win your league.

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