, Newburyport, MA


December 17, 2013

The art of scouting on the hardwood

Local coaches will have opportunities to see opponents over holiday break

Tom L’Italien is the type of coach that needs to scout an opponent with his own eyes.

The Newburyport boys basketball coach knows he’s the one making substitutions during a game, he’s the one designating defensive assignments, and he’s the one designing plays to attack the opposing defense. So, there is no one else he’d rather have draft a scouting report than himself.

“It helps when you go and see it for yourself,” L’Italien said. “You’re the one calling the shots during the game with matchups. Any time I can get out and get a look at a team, I’ll do it.”

Christmas break will offer local coaches plenty of opportunities to see future opponents. It is the one time during the winter sports regular-season when the schedule changes from the typical Tuesday and Friday evening games. Holiday tournaments offer rare scouting opportunities such as mid-day games and multiple games at the same venue on the same night. In addition, most teams practice in the morning over Christmas break, giving coaches the rest of the day to find games involving future opponents.

“I’m actually in the coaches’ room writing down the holiday scouting schedule right now,” L’Italien said yesterday. “We try to get out to see teams right after Christmas, it’s our No. 1 priority. There are tournaments with multiple Cape Ann League teams. That’s a bonus scouting opportunity.”

Unlike L’Italien, Pentucket girls basketball coach John McNamara delegates his scouting responsibilities. He relies on his assistants to see future opponents, and even calls in favors to friends who follow basketball closely.

“A lot of times, a head coach can’t get out to everything because of practice commitments and game nights,” McNamara said. “I have people who scout for me, and I really trust and value their opinions. If I can see it, it makes me feel better. We do it both ways. If I have people I’ve used before, they know what I’m looking for.”

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