Should You Have a Playbook?

I was recently asked by a subscriber of the Breakthrough Knowledge newsletter if I use a playbook:

“Do you have a play book? I’m looking into the benefits of having a playbook for the players. We have a handbook in our program but I was wondering if having a playbook would help our team, players and coaching staff”

Ice-hockey is a fast and fluid game with rapid change of possession creating transition moments. As such, the sport is less dependent on set plays as some sports, however there are guiding principles of play and systems that create an organized team.

Playbooks for the Coaching Staff

Having a playbook is a useful exercise for the coaching staff. It helps clarify a starting place for your philosophy and systems. Working on it together will help create task cohesion, bringing the staff to a common ground on some fundamental questions:

  • How should we play? What is our style?
  • What are our game principles?
  • Key terms and common language

Giving everyone a voice and responsibility in this process will allow for belief in the game model and create a consistent message for the athletes.

Playbooks for the Players

This is where your coaching skill will have an impact on the performance of your team. You will need to make decisions on what, when, and how to teach the information in the playbook. This is both art and science.

We want to use our structure to create predictability for each other. When working from a shared mental model it helps the players make decisions quickly in competition. We want to be able to execute our game plan better and faster than the other team can stop it and we have to assume they know what we are going to do.

Where to Start

I recommend learning about game models and principles of play. These are the starting point for the systems you use. Performance Coach, Dr. Fergus Connolly has a book called Game Changer that is outstanding. It covers a lot of ground, including game models. This book should be required reading for all coaches. Another resource is counselor and lacrosse coach, Coach Spillane. He has done exceptional work with game models and is accessible on twitter.

Here is an example of an approach to style of play/game model I used several years ago with Curry College.

2 thoughts on “Should You Have a Playbook?

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