The Playbook of the Future

I stopped using paper playbooks after my second year as a head coach in 2002.  I spent a whole summer putting our playbook together, and used a nice chunk of our budget printing it and putting it in binders.  Many of them were returned in mint condition.  In fact some players admitted to not using them because they really didn’t learn that way.  The truth is a paper playbook only tailors to one type of learning style.

After the season I attended a Glazier Clinic in Cincinnati and watched Andrew Coverdale clinic for five hours.  In his clinic he used PowerPoint and it was evident that the slides he was using were coming directly from his playbook.  He did a great job of bringing each point up on the screen one at a time and the lines were animated and moved across the screen.   His playbook was hyper linked with menus and directories so that a player or coach could navigate to exactly where he wanted to go in the playbook.  Sounds were used to emphasize coaching points, and Coverdale’s sounds went beyond the standard sound pre-loaded in PowerPoint and included sound bytes from popular movies and cartoon characters.  He did a great job using animation, sound and text to emphasize coaching points.  I was fortunate enough to get a copy of some of these clinic PowerPoints and they inspired me to create my own PowerPoint playbook.

The reaction from the players the first year we used it (2005 on a full scale basis) was, “Coach this is like a video game.”  The players were much more engaged with the playbook and the coaches had a great tool for running their meetings. Our playbook was nearly 800 slides for offense and a year later we did the same with defense creating another 300 slides.  The best part though was the distribution.  At the time CDs were the technology most used, and I could get a customized printed label, the CD and a case for around $1 per player.  This was much less than printing a playbook for the players.  We included a PowerPoint Viewer program on the disc so those without PowerPoint on their computers could view it.

What we didn’t do was create digital paper.  Our playbooks included plenty of animation and were even set up for our players in a way that they could quiz themselves as they were learning.  The hyperlinks allowed players to easily get to the information they wanted. We further cut down on our printing costs by including our player handbook and other athletic department forms which we were constantly trying to run down on the disc.  The only thing I wished we could incorporate was video.  While video could be embedded in a PowerPoint, the process at the time was not easy, and the quality of the video was not great.

The link below will download an overview of our playbook that I used in an interview. It is a mix of different playbooks from different schools I coached at.  You will see slides from offense, defense, and position manuals. The hyperlinks are disabled since this is only a selection of slides and not an entire playbook.  Hopefully it gives you some ideas of how you can use PowerPoint to teach your players.

Playbook Overview

Jumping forward to 2010 at Baldwin-Wallace College, I began creating screen casts of different sections of the PowerPoint.  These 5-10 minute short videos were then uploaded to a private Facebook page and shared with our players.  They could view the videos throughout the summer and keep our offense fresh in their minds.  Facebook was a great way to reach our players at that time, and we still use it to communicate with them when they are off campus.  Incoming freshmen who we believed would make a contribution to the varsity squad in the first year were included in this private Facebook group.  At the end of each video I included a check for understanding that the players could use as a quiz.

Later that summer, we began using Hudl.  I really like what you can do with Hudl in creating video walk throughs like my screen casts mentioned above.  Hudl also allows you to import your PowerPoint slides very easily.  The only thing I don’t like is that it is imported as an jpeg image, and as of now the animation and sound effects are lost.  Again, it is important to me to try to hit as many learning styles as possible.

I see many apps and programs popping up in which the creators claim to be creating the playbook of the future.  Unfortunately some of them go back to being exactly like a paper playbook but in a digital format.  Multiple learning styles won’t be addressed.  However, iPad is definitely a device you want to think about using.  Projections are that tablet devices will surpass computer sales in late 2013 to early 2014.

The most exciting technological development for me has been iBooks Author.  This program addresses all of the little problems I have previously mentioned in this post.  It perfectly blends text, Keynote (Apple’s version of PowerPoint is Keynote, and is arguably better in some ways) without losing animations, sounds and transitions.  Even hyperlinks that are within the Keynote are active and working.  Video, still shot illustrations, and screen casts (video walk throughs) are easily incorporated.  The program also allows you to create quizzes throughout the iBook.  This is a great way for your players to check their understanding and go back and review what they need.

The result is a product that gives your players the absolute best format for learning your systems.  Like anything, there is a cost in the equipment (must be created on a Mac and delivered on the iPad), and a learning curve with incorporating this technology.  However, if the technology is available to you in your school, you are foolish if you are not finding a way to incorporate it into your coaching.  More and more schools are going to one-to-one iPad based learning for your students.  If you are in one of these schools take advantage of this now.  Distributing an iBook Authors playbook you create can be done without putting it out for the public to see on the iBookstore.

101+ Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays shows off the iBooks Author capability.  The iBook is loaded with video, Keynote presentations, Diagrams, and Still shot illustrations.  It contains 229 pieces of dynamic content. You will be impressed with what can be done with this technology, and the content presented will give you some great ideas for your offense, whether you run the Pistol or not.

My iBook is available for the iPad on the iBookstore at the link below. This is a technology that we will be using to create our playbook for the 2013 season.


Read a post from Jeff Floyd on this topic here:

If you are interested in using iBooks author in your program, I would be available to consult on a project.  Please email me:


5 thoughts on “The Playbook of the Future

  1. Coach Grabowski,

    Excellent post… as always.

    I have begun using iBook Author on a couple of projects (a guide to the recruiting experience, and a strength and conditioning manual) and it has become the favorite program in my arsenal. I have had it for many months, but did not begin using it until I saw your iBook (101+ Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays) preview. I was able to wrap my mind around the best way to utilize this powerful program.

    Last week I unveiled my iBook Strength and Conditioning manual during our department collaboration meeting – and converted many more disciples to the iBook Author program. Monday I present it during a curriculum meeting with our Supt.

    Thanks for continuing to help us expand our comfort zones and become better coaches and teachers.


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