East West

Your Scouts Hate Scouting and Your Data is Bad

Hi, my name is Katie. I like graphs and numbers and trying to make sense of it all. 
So lets talk scouting – I love it, mostly because I love having the data afterwards, and I’m here because I have opinions about how to Get Gud at Scouting.
Most teammates don’t love it and lets talk about this.



Why your scouts hate scouting and your data is bad:


You’re asking for too much data


  • Seriously consider what data you need – Not to assign an arbitrary number but if your scouting form has more than ~25 fields, you’re asking too much.
    • Condense – IE there are only 4 cargo that can be scored on a given level in the rocket – is there a way to combine or re-assign “how many” and “where” so you don’t have 9 different fields?
  • Make input easy and fast – the harder it is to record data, the worse your data is going to be. Scouting sheets should be large enough to be read easily and written in without tiny handwriting. Electronic sheets should have a small number of text-input and required fields.


You’re asking for the wrong data


This is an extension of the previous point

  • Look at the data you collected at your last event.
    • Which columns did you actually use?
    • What information did you wish you had?
    • If their sandstorm is autonomous or not probably has little to no bearing on how your team will play with/against them but how well they drove might be useful if you’re looking for a defender.
  • Asking for data that you are not going to use devalues the work that goes into collecting said data.


You’re scouting for the wrong reasons


So, most teams aren’t picking. An event can have anywhere between ~30 – 60(?) teams and only 8 teams are picking. The other 22-52 still should scout. Why? Match strategy!

  • Consider scouting for your next match more important than scouting for pick lists.
    • If you have to pick between only scouting teams you play with/against or everyone, the former is a better use of your team’s energy.
  • If you’re only scouting for pick lists and you don’t pick, your scouts feel like all that time was wasted. Using the data all the time makes the job relevant and valuable.
  • Your scouts don’t know why they’re doing this, aren’t engaged, and are “alienated from their product”
    • The drive teams know why they drive, same with pit crew, media, and chairman’s – they all see or work with the output of their efforts.
    • Scouting often seeing their efforts go into a database and that’s it – they have no idea if its being used or if its busy work.
  • In general, team members want to add value to the team. If they don’t think scouting is adding value, why would they want to do it?

Scouts should be involved in preparing match strategy and pick lists – everyone should be invited to pick list meetings and the more I practice this the more firmly I stand on my beliefs (with rules, we’re not animals).

“But what about the sim-bucks strategy?” That is effective for 1114 because they came up with it and adapted it over the years and they clearly have a culture that encourages good scouting. Adding gimmicks and games to scouting may improve your turn-out but won’t improve your scouts engagement or quality of data. See the next point.


Your team’s culture around scouting sucks


  • Do you start scout training with “I know scouting sucks but”?
    • Do you even have scout training?
  • Do you congratulate scouts after a match is won?
  • Do you threaten scouting as a punishment?
  • Do you thank your scouts for good data? Or only yell at them for bad data?
  • Every subteam has some perk/reward: what is scouting’s reward? (hint: it’s comfy chairs)
  • Does anyone “important” scout?
    • Do teammates act as though scouting is “beneath them?”
    • Are team adults engaged in the process?


How can we make scouting amazing and awesome? Here is my quick, actionable item shortlist:


  • Everyone scouts at least one match*.
  • Scouts create strategy data dumps for matches.

    • Scouts do this and not strategy/drive team because of the whole “seeing how your work is used” and not having that behind a curtain.
  • Give scouts special benefits – be it treats, comfy seating, or otherwise.
  • Scouts are directly involved in the pick-list process (if applicable).
  • Every competition sub-team gets a genuine shout out before, during, and after the event.
Thanks for coming to my TED Talk!

*I have gotten a lot of feedback on this bullet-point. Let me clarify: if your team has highly trained scouts and a non-scout would ruin the process, this advice is probably not for you. If your team has worksheet scouting that anyone could figure out and issues with perception around scouting, then I recommend this.

You can find conversation on this article here.