Reflection as a Scouting Optimizer

This essay adapts the Ignatian Pedagogy, a teaching philosophy developed by the Jesuits, to illustrate how scouts can use reflection to enhance their learning and improve their processes.

Reflection as a Scouting Optimizer
Photo by Ashkan Forouzani / Unsplash

For six years, until I was 16, I attended a secondary school established by the Jesuits, a Roman Catholic order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. Mine was one of over 2300 education institutions they ran across the globe – each one built around a common teaching philosophy called the Ignatian Pedagogy.

While I only resolved it in the years after graduating, it was there that I first accessed reflection as a tool for directing the development of the self.

Specifically, the Jesuits characterize this pedagogy as processes that "allow for a transformation of peoples' habitual patterns of thought through a constant interplay of experience, reflection and action."

I have found these principles especially useful in my football acquisition and will discuss how a few targeted questions can help optimize one's processes.

The lists in this essay are non-exhaustive. 

It's established that coaches and athletes practice reflection. These are integrated into post-match reviews and one-on-one sessions with players. Nevertheless, they aren't the only ones whose processes are optimized from such practices. Scouts, analysts, other detached-professionals, and enthusiasts can also do the same.

A Venn diagram with three overlapping circles labeled "REFLECTION," "ACTION," and "EXPERIENCE."
Ignatian Paradigm – culled from Archive (30)


On Experience, Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach reads:

"Create conditions whereby students gather and recollect the material of their own experience in order to distill what they understand in terms of facts, feelings, values, insights, and intuitions they bring to the subject matter at hand." (28)

The first step is to assess and organize what you already (think you) know. This involves reflecting on prior experiences, observations, and insights. By putting your experiences into clear brackets, you can identify what tools you already have and where there might be gaps that need filling. I personally use a live notebook and regularly download my Twitter/X archive to timestamp my thoughts.

Understanding, in the simplest terms, your existing knowledge base is crucial because it sets the foundation for further analysis and decision-making.

Guiding questions (for a scout):

  • What do I already know about a player/role/region?
    • This might include their physical attributes, technical skills, tactical awareness, and psychological traits. Consider previous matches, training sessions, and informal interactions you consumed or used to make inferences.
  • Where did I get the data from?
    • Did it come from direct observations, statistical data, video analyses, reports from other scouts, a Twitter scroll, or an article? Sometimes, you might need to dig deep to recall exactly where you got it.
      • This step is crucial!
  • Did I arrive at these conclusions myself or rely on another's inference?
    • Distinguish between your own analyses and those influenced by others.
      • If the conclusion was yours recall the steps you used to arrive at that conclusion.
      • If it was someone else's, revisit their chain-of-thought, if any, and evaluate each premise. Do you agree with each one? If not, what are your critiques.
    • Consider any content you might have passively consumed. Social Media is full of opinions which, without strong discernment, can easily influence your own inferences.


On Reflection, Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach reads:

"Here, memory, understanding, imagination and feelings are used to grasp the essential meaning and value of what is being studies, to discover its relationship to other facets of human knowledge and activity, and to appreciate its implications in the continuing search for truth." (28)

One goal of reflection is to unravel epiphanies ('aha!' moments) and gain deeper insights from your experiences. Reflection involves discerning what you are currently experiencing or have experienced. This can be achieved through various methods, such as writing, pair-scouting (similar to pair-programming), and sharing your work online.

Reflecting on these experiences with the intent to obtain meaning allows you to recover any misplaced ideas and unravel epiphanies. You can identify patterns, make connections, and derive valuable insights that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Here's what I say about this process in another essay:

Our minds are too fallible to reliably retrieve and compare multiple memory instances for gaps that epiphanies fill. Journaling, meanwhile, helps me keep track of what I’ve already unraveled and what I am still dawdling over. It helps me trace previously concluded solutions for discrepancies and make updates. If fate is so kind, it can also help explain why certain pains and worries still linger. Such is the kind of bliss and torture that writing bleeds.

Guiding questions (for a scout):

  • Did I make any projections?
    • Any prediction or forecast you made about a player’s development, team dynamics, or match outcomes. If you haven't made any, you are doing something wrong.
  • Has it yielded yet?
    • Did your projection come to fruition: compare your expectations with actual outcomes to identify any alignment or discrepancies.
    • If so, did it yield for the exact reason you posited?
      • This step helps you validate your initial assumptions and logic.
    • If not, what kind of error did you make?
      • If your projections did not yield the expected results, categorize the type of error that occurred:
        • A logic error: perhaps a flaw in your reasoning.
        • Overestimation
        • Underestimation
        • Environment error: perhaps external factors or changes in the environment influenced the outcome.
      • Then, revisit old footage and evidence you considered to find where you might have missed the loop.
        • A high-value yet fun activity is to find youth games of now-established players and try to make an abstracted projection of their potential.


On Action, Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach reads:

"See that the opportunities are provided that will challenge the imagination and exercise the will of the students to choose the best possible course of action to flow from and follow up on what they have learned. What they do as a result under the teacher's direction, while it may not immediately transform the world into a global community of justice, peace and love, should at least be an educational step in that direction and toward that goal even if it merely leads to new experiences, further reflections and consequent actions within the subject area under consideration." (28)

Action is where the insights gained from experience and reflection are put into practice. As you will soon see, I hypothesize that it gets to a point where you need to consume and watch less and test more to make any progress. The goal is to sharpen your observational skills and analytical abilities so that you can apply and test your knowledge more frequently without relying heavily on external inputs. This means engaging in active scouting, testing hypotheses, and iterating based on outcomes.

By doing so, you can identify knowledge gaps more effectively and address them through targeted learning and further reflection.

Guiding Principles for Action:

  • Watch Less, Test More
    • Move from passive consumption to active application. This means spending less time watching games or reading reports and more time practicing with and reconciling your tools.
  • Gut Everything Out
    • Detail every step of your tests. Talk to someone. Publish essays. This makes it easier to continue the learning loop with Experience.
  • Use Reflection as a Precursor to Action
    • Let reflection guide your actions. By thoroughly revisiting your experiences and insights, you can identify the more effective courses of action and avoid repeating past mistakes.
    • Reflection also helps ensure that your actions remain purposeful and informed.

What does any of this matter?

It doesn't.

If you are a passive consumer and football is simply recreational or an escape, you need not indulge in any of these practices. It would help, but you are no worse without it.

If, however, you intend to create more meaningful work or reliably synthesize knowledge in this (or any) field, having a framework to consolidate learning and unlearning is crucial. Moreover, any serious collaborator would want to know how you think, how quickly you acquire new paradigms, and how complex or trained your instincts are. What better evidence is there than to write and share your processes online?

Finally, it allows us to lean off junk. It's so tempting to keep consuming articles, essays, threads, and games while feeling like you're acquiring useful information. You likely aren't. For this point, I highly recommend this essay by Gurwinder titled 'The Intellectual Obesity Crisis.'

Here is a snippet:

"Eventually, the addiction to useless info leads to what I call “intellectual obesity.” Just as gorging on junk food bloats your body, so gorging on junk info bloats your mind, filling it with a cacophony of half-remembered gibberish that sidetracks your attention and confuses your senses. Unable to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant, you become concerned by trivialities and outraged by falsehoods. These concerns and outrages push you to consume even more, and all the time that you're consuming, you're prevented from doing anything else: learning, focusing, even thinking. The result is that your stream of consciousness becomes clogged; you develop atherosclerosis of the mind."

Where this essay was birthed.

Archive from April 23, 2024

What Next?

If you enjoyed this, consider subscribing to BallerzBantz, following us on Twitter, and sharing this with someone. By subscribing, you will receive one synopsis each week.

Join us to stay ahead and contribute to this burgeoning community.

Who is the Writer?

Joel A. Adejola is an undergraduate at the University of Kansas (KU), studying Engineering and Philosophy.