How RF Young Champs is Leveraging Technology to Unearth Talent
The academy is committed to its mission of providing top quality education to its scholars on and off the pitch. In under a decade, RFYC has become the best football academy in India
However, for any football academy, the ability to be out on the pitch, training and developing its scholars is the most central aspect of its function. Like much else, the Covid-19 pandemic has adversely impacted those activities.
Until last year, RFYC’s scouting process involved coaches and scouts travelling the length and breadth of the country to identify and scout talent. As part of an exhaustive process, scouts would first select players from local regions, and coaches would then go personally to watch them train and play.
The best players from around the country would then be invited to Mumbai for a seven-day training camp for final evaluations, with the final list of selected boys being accepted into the academy.
While adhering to strict guidelines to ensure the safety of all staff and scholars, the academy has been determined to continue its scouting activities across the country.
Enter AiSCOUT. The UK based company uses video based artificial intelligence to gauge a player’s technique, skill, stamina, and overall footballing ability.
Using the National Rating Score (NRS) to quantify a player’s physical performance, AiSCOUT can measure and benchmark performances across various age groups.
When a player downloads AiSCOUT, they first enter their profile details before entering the National Rating Score Trials (NRS). These NRS trials are designed to measure a players core physical competencies, measuring attributes such as Speed, Power, Strength, Muscular Endurance and Coordination. Once this is complete, the virtual trials "unlock", which then allows them to choose the RFYC trials. These trials can include things such as Passing, Dribbling and Shooting.
The NRS, coupled with organisation specific drills and exercises, help scouts to score and rate players.
The true beauty of this process, though, is that it can all be done remotely! Needing nothing more than the AiScout app on a smartphone, aspirants from all over the world can get scouted anywhere.
Speaking to BBC News in February, Richard Felton Thomas, COO and Director of Sports Science at AiSCOUT detailed the working of the platform “What we’re doing is we’re extending the reach. Even at the biggest academies, I think one scout can get their eyes on maybe 1500 players a year. If we can extend that to 15 million and act as a big filtering process for these Clubs based on their needs. Some like power and pace, some people like very good, technical players, some like players with good attitudes as the foremost thing.
We can make sure that the opportunities for the players are not restricted to a manual coach sitting on the sidelines, so we can extend this opportunity to everyone.”
This technology has already seen roaring success at the highest level with elite football clubs like Premier League club Burnley FC, and now, RFYC has brought this revolutionary technology to India.
Speaking about AiSCOUT’s partnership with RFYC, Mr. Felton-Thomas said, “For AiSCOUT, the opportunity to work with the Reliance Foundation Young Champs Academy is incredible. As an organisation, they have a fantastic track record at developing talented players and securing pathways into Professional Football. AiSCOUT's role is to help them reach and analyse more players than they have ever been able to before. We both hope and expect to find some exceptionally gifted young individuals that are just waiting to be seen.”
On May 27th, the academy officially started trials for the latest batch of its u-13 scholars. Aspiring scholars from all across the country have been sending in their videos, and the scouts are hard at work trying to find the cream in an extremely talented crop of young players.
As in the normal process, the selected players will be invited to a week-long training camp in Mumbai, after which the final batch of kids will be selected to train at the Academy.
We spoke with a well-placed source at the academy, and they were extremely positive about the partnership and what it could mean for the future of scouting in India
“RFYC has always endeavoured to nurture and develop raw talent into elite level players. While the past year has been difficult, this unique partnership allows us to move ahead with our plans for the season with minimal interruption. We’ve been itching to be able to get back on the pitch, and we now have the chance to safely cast a wide net across the country and find the best young talent there is.”
*Only players born between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009 will be eligible to be scouted for the 2021/22 season.