Most coaches develop playbooks. The playbook is a mysterious treatise that generally houses all of the coaches’ strategic secrets, inspirational messages, and detailed instructions for his players.

Maybe it’s my pigskin obsessed bias, but the playbook is usually most associated with the sport of North American football. Now I recognize that other sporting endeavours also invest significantly in the planning and preparation of their game time activities. But I can’t really see a soccer, or European football, team having the breadth of offensive or defensive strategies as the North American sport which also calls itself football. Within the universe of the latter football, the playbook has a special lore to it. Its mythical qualities range from the sheer mass of amount of intel bound within the tomes used at the professional or college level, to the uniqueness of its contents when in the hands of an innovator, or its ability to simplify the complex, yet make the simple complex to deal with. The simple made complex to deal with was the hallmark of the late Vince Lombardi, who gave rise to coaching legend when he once lectured for eight hours straight at a coaching symposium, on a single play! All bow to the famed Packer Sweep.

If you understand the words Run to Daylight, you are a kindred soul who is completely in lockstep with my narrative thus far.

As a young(er) coach I too used to paint my share of X’s & O’s on a 11″ X 8-1/2″ canvas decorated with hashmarks, yard markers, sidelines, endlines, and goal lines. Finishing a playbook for me was like re-writing my favourite novel, but with the unique opportunity to keep the parts I liked, from season to season, and discard those that had fallen out of my favour.

Then one day I stopped. I don’t know why, but my main argument was that I wanted the players to learn, absorb, and understand their plays. When I started seeing them bring their binders out to practice, I realized that memorization was overtaking learning. So I stopped publishing a playbook. Which is significantly different than not creating a playbook.

We still have a playbook. It’s on one page and has approximately 120 plays. I am the only person who has that page.

For my players, they need to write this playbook with a more fertile palette than my inkjet printer. They now use their mental horsepower to depict the deception, direction, protection, and reception of every play. I didn’t intend it this way, but in this digital world, where virtual is reality, so is my playbook.

Like my hero, Vincent Lombardi, I too have a “Packer Sweep”, a go-to play that I feel I can call in any situation. It’s had many codes, many numbers, many disguises. Even now that it’s not written down, I still change its name every few years. Because even a virtual playbook can get copied.

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