This post is more informational than anecdotal; remember that one of the objectives of this site is to share our experiences hoping that you find them useful in the pursuit of your soccer (aka football) goals. That said, if you find any content presented herein or any of our other social media platforms useful, we always welcome a shout-out. We are better together and supporting each other, we can get “there” faster; wherever “there” may be. We see absolutely NO reason why other families should stumble upon the same challenges the Gomez’s did. We genuinely feel that if we ever aspire to grow the sport in this country (and within CONCACAF) to a world class level, change starts with us together (and not exclusively for the benefit of our own children). It is indeed a competitive world of sports where the slightest advantage over somebody else can be the difference maker; however, communication is fundamental and information sharing is free and after all, an excellent first step in becoming more educated in different aspects of the game. Informed parents tend to make better decisions; thus, below is our small contribution to that end.
Today, we’ll be writing about agents and scouts as it relates to the first time a player/family interacts with them. See, in numerous occasions, football families have approached us with a gamut of questions regarding the roles of agents and/or scouts to increase their football player’s chances of professional success. There’s so much to share in that regard, especially as those two terms are often misused interchangeably. So, let’s start off by trying to describe each one in some level of detail based on our experience. Note: differentiating them may take the bulk of this post and that’s why this is only part #1 of several to come. Here we go…
Wikipedia defines an agent as “...a legal representative for professional sports figures such as athletes and coaches. They procure and negotiate employment and endorsement contracts for the athlete or coach whom they represent“. Let’s start by saying that football agents make a living off of placing players (under contract) at professional clubs. With a growing number of US based players seeking professionalism, domestically or internationally, the agents’ main objective (at least initially) is to convert as many amateurs into professional players in the shortest possible time. Ultimately, a football agent could be the person with the right connections at various clubs who can open the initial door for a player (sometimes the hardest to crack).
In our US youth (younger than 18 years of age) football setup, a football agent, interested in representing a player professionally, often has the ability to first assist amateur players (and their families) by providing FREE advice/guidance without compromising the players’ amateur status (more on this topic later). As the player-agent relationship gradually grows, the agent will try to convert the player to a professional status as that conversion inevitably will translate into a source of income (one-time or continuous). Therefore, agents view players as personal investments and thus their motivation to pass out FREE advice initially is part of establishing rapport and credibility. Beware, most agents are eloquent, articulate and well-trained in the form of praising players; however, not all are competent and/or honest to reveal your player’s improvement areas.
Agents may have different potential professional paths for your player; thus, leverage the free advice/guidance from as many agents as possible, without signing any legal paperwork or becoming a professional (paid) player. Why is not signing any legal paperwork important? In the US, once a youth player “signs any type of legal paperwork with/for an agent/agency”, the player likely loses NCAA/NAIA/NJCAA eligibility (the ability to play football in most college/universities as an amateur) and potentially leaves significant football scholarship money on the table. College is expensive so make the decision about signing carefully!!!
In general, agents come from different backgrounds, some of the most successful ones have no knowledge of the game via their own playing careers, others mostly watch the beautiful game at the youth level, others are active participants of online youth football forums which they use to validate their own player assessments/opinions, others are businessmen/lawyers who entered the profession for the lucrativeness and yet others are a hybrid of the above. Incidentally, their expertise is usually adequate to assess your player’s chances for a trial at a particular club of their choice. Unfortunately, most agents are only able to provide a very black/white evaluation of your player; therefore, do not ever expect a thorough (ex. physical, tactical, technical, emotional, etc.) assessment of your player as that’s not what agents do best and their potential high player/agent ratio may hinder having the time to perform such evaluation (more on this player/agent ratio in a future post). Also, their knowledge of the game is centered around youth and focused on very specific geographical markets.
An example of this is the attractiveness of the German market for US youth players. Aside from that European market, very few agents have the necessary connections (relationships), desire, cultural knowledge about other European football markets. Similarly, agents don’t really *discover* players; nowadays with social media (ex. YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, player forums, player databases, etc.), players are so hyped by fans that agents have become excellent online talent “hunters”. Thus, agents end up competing with each other to first engage the player (and their family) and ultimately route players from team A to team B. Once they succeed in placing the player, it’s natural for that relationship to deteriorate a bit as the primary goal for family and player has been achieved. Let’s be clear, football talent identification is not an exact science either; the little discovery agents do perform is indeed difficult if one considers the massive pool of players. My advice to parents is that if you need a genuine talent evaluation of your player (ex. opportunity areas), find yourself a scout who in general is better equipped to provide unbiased assessment and is trained to evaluate your player in different aspects of the game.
Conversely, Wikipedia defines a football scout as a person who “…attends football matches on behalf of clubs to collect intelligence”. Agents usually work for themselves, their agency or have an immediate ve$ted intere$t in recruiting players/families; scouts usually work for somebody else (ex. a club) allowing them to be more thorough and genuine in their player evaluations. Scouts tend to attend the games physically while agents do a lot of their work virtually. Scouts report their technical findings back to their club (employer) along with a recommendation. The club’s technical staff then decides whether there’s enough interest to continue monitoring the player in upcoming competitions. If the player continues to excel, the club may decide to invite such player for a trial. Otherwise, the player may go into the team’s database. If the player is invited to a trial, the player will be further evaluated thoroughly (ex. physically, technically, emotionally, tactically) relative to current club players both individually and collectively with the team. In general, scouts come from different backgrounds but unlike agents, the majority of scouts either played or coached the game at a high level. That said, scouts are not necessarily trained in the art of public relations; they can talk “football” forever but their interaction with parents sometimes can be awkward. For example, we wouldn’t expect agents to know the laws of the game; scouts, on the other hand, can probably recite them all.
As you can see from above, we have had more experience interacting with agents than scouts. In future posts, we are going to scrutinize the most common questions posed to us and provide an opinion on how we tackled specific nuances ourselves with the boys. Remember that the use of an agent or scout does NOT necessarily turn your footballer into a professional player. However, once your player decides to turn professional, then, the selection of an agent/scout depends on a lot of factors which are good to break down in future posts. Some are listed below.
Caveat: each player/family situation is unique so what may have worked (or not) for us may not for you or vice-versa. Some factors to consider while selecting an agent/scout are player’s playing/academic aspirations/expectations, club situation (depth chart), multiple nationalities, multiple players in the family, family connections, agent/scout reputation, family ties, agent/scout network, family finances, etc. Each player’s journey is different. Above all, select an agent/scout who really cares about your player as shown by their actions and not just their eloquent words.