The Blueprint For Athlete, Team And Program Plans

Sports cannot be successful without plans. Every athlete, team and program needs one – simple or complex. Players have personal motivations. Coaches have distinct philosophies. Programs have strict guidelines. Individual sports have enforceable rules. So, it’s critically important a plan be as unique as each part of sports.

The element most needed for effective planning is clarity. Athletes, teams and programs have clear goals for competition or seasons. But, clarity is often lacking on how goals are determined, who will be responsible for managing them and how they will be executed.

In this post, we’ll focus on a key component that brings clarity to plans, planning and planners…terminology. Sports has it’s terminology; therefore, the planning process has its terminology as well. It works this way, to score, a play has to be designed, communicated and then executed. The one commonality throughout the entire scoring process is understanding and using the right (scoring) language – the terminology.

The blueprint for building winning plans comes from a solid grasp of the words used and communicated. First, everyone commits to knowing precisely what’s being designed and why. Second, exact targets should be indicated. And, third, confusion must be removed when it comes to execution.

Any and all sports plan phases begin with knowing, understanding and using the right terminology. So, this is where you’ll begin the journey to build the ultimate player, team and program plan…by using and communicating terminology…with clarity.

So, let’s get started with some basic terminology. The following are key terms that must be clearly understood and strictly adhered to when building winning plans. These terms introduce clarity and allow consistent logic to flow throughout.

Strategy vs Tactic

Strategy and tactic are the most confusing terms in planning and often wrongly used interchangeably. When, in reality, their difference is quite simple. Strategy is big picture, ultimate goal stuff, and is limited to a few objectives. A strategy example would be a basket team shooting more free throws than all opponents over the course of the season.

Tactic is pieces or steps involved with accomplishing the strategy. Tactic involves details, the game within the game. Sticking with the strategy example above, tactics include pounding the ball inside, driving to the basket more often and emphasizing free throws during practice.

Execution vs Action

A close second is confusion between execution and action. Both are important in sports, but one gets players, teams and programs closer to their ultimate goals a lot faster. Execution is movement with a purpose. The why is known and it fits into the larger picture. Execution is often reviewed and practiced in order to gain proficiency.

Action is movement, not always with a central purpose or clear understanding of why. Action may include outstanding effort, but it’s meaningless if not correctly channeled. Sports demands 100 miles per hour movement. Just try to plan for useful and effective movement.

Resource vs Equipment

Athletes, teams and programs need “stuff” or tools to help them improve. This can include everything from the field or court to the classroom. Tools make the difference, especially if used to maximum potential. The largest mistake when it comes to “tool” planning is selecting the fad or coolest over what’s most effective and will reap the biggest returns.

Equipment fills a space and provides benefit. A resource IS its own space and invites challenge when using it, while returning the most gains. The difference between the two terms is often in the mind of the individual using the tool. When writing winning plans, take time to explain WHY a tool has significance, provide it’s specific quality and stress how it brings about improvement.

Rule vs Philosophy

A rule directs how, when and what will or will not be tolerated. A rule may only apply to a specific situation or time frame. It’s an expectation that needs to be fulfilled and comes with consequences when an athlete, team or program falls short of a given expectation.

Philosophy never sleeps. It applies to all situations, all the time. A floor or ceiling is put in place and governs everything in between. An entire season, career or playoff run can be tied to a single philosophy. Whereas a broken rule has narrow or isolated consequences for a specific situation. A failure to buy into and live up to a philosophy is a break down in all meaningful and broader areas for a player, team or program.

Process vs Routine

Sports is about doing things consistently. The hope is those things are done in ways that create a culture of good work ethic and positive habits. First, let’s be clear about routine. In terms of sports planning, routine includes reporting to meetings on time, being ready for practice on time, strength training on certain days or following a pattern on game day.

Process includes routines, but designate how they are carried out and fit into the broader scope. Process drives routines. Process evaluates routines. Process corrects routines. Process improves not only the routine itself, but how routines are managed for improvement. In order for athletes, teams and programs to “trust the process” they have to understand what a process is and what it dictates…process dictates routines.


Terminology matters – period! It distinguishes softball from volleyball, lacrosse from tennis and track from gymnastics. Each sport has it’s unique terms to direct an athlete or team. Plans, planners and planning must have that same outlook when designing plans for athletes, teams and programs to reach their highest levels.

Concepts, plays and game situations are conveyed in many ways, some more effective than others. But, the key is, something is getting conveyed, whether correctly or incorrectly. The only way to ensure things are communicated and followed through correctly is by planning. It begins with the right terminology.

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