In most cases, playbooks are notebooks or documents that outline and describe a strategy for a certain sport, organization or activity. For example, video game playbooks may contain tricks and tips for passing through certain levels of each game. In the theater arts, a playbook is a book containing the scripts for one or more plays. The term playbook is particularly associated with football.
In football, a playbook is traditionally a spiral-bound notebook with techniques and vocabulary relating to game plays as well as information about team formations. Different formations require different combinations of players depending on whether the play is an offensive or defensive one. Football playbooks are given to each team member at the start of the season's training period.
A play in football is loosely defined as what players do after the kickoff. The term playmaker refers to a teammate able to implement plays in a way that hopefully creates a winning game. In running plays, the team member runs with the football rather than passing it to other teammates to get closer to the opponent's goal. In passing plays, the objective is for team members to pass the football to other players so that the ball gets up to team members located near the other team's goal line.
In the theater, a playbook may simply have the script of at least one play, but many playbooks also contain suggestions for acting strategies for playing the characters. For instance, the playbook may include a discussion about how famous actors played the roles and/or may have suggestions for how to handle a character's foreign accent. Theater playbooks for actors are meant to be read out loud so the actor can practice each script. A playbook may contain one play or several plays by the same playwright or by multiple playwrights.
In business management, the term playbook is often used informally and abstractly as a way of indicating how a company handles a certain activity such as a merger. For example, a business manager may say that a certain strategy used was straight from the company's playbook, meaning that this is the way the firm traditionally handles that particular kind of situation. Author Brandon Steiner wrote a book that compares business strategy with strategic techniques used in football. His book is The Business Playbook: Leadership Lessons from the World of Sports, published in 2003 by Entrepreneur Media.