Whatever the sport, you generally don't have to listen too long before an elite player or coach touches on the issue of game plans; how, if Team A doesn't come up with an effective plan, Team B will score the chocolates. But what does this term actually mean?
After all, if a sports contest is a sequence of millions of random events, how can a plan can possibly be thought up to take any sort of advantage of all that resistance and human error?
Cronulla Sharks' Luke Lewis seems the perfect professional athlete to ask, so the guys at Inside Sport did just that.
The game plan
"Working on our game plan means focussing on tactics which we think will suit our team. It's about developing an in-game routine, knowing what to execute on a particular part of the field, or perfecting attacking shapes which will have the defence disorientated. We might be focussing on trying to pick numbers out of the defensive line so that we can create a four-on-three or a six-on-five situation, a bit of an overlap. It's about just getting into a routine and making sure everyone knows their job and role and particular part of the field so that when it gets to the stage in the game when you're tired and fatigued, you can fall back into your routine. Having a good game plan means you don't have to think too much on your feet. All the preparation you've done during the week means you can basically go out and punch the plan out. In saying all that, obviously each team has players - your nine, seven, your fullback and your six - who are natural footballers who'll just take over as opportunities arise.";
"Sometimes you have what you think is an iron-clad game plan, but you get out there and for some reason your team just doesn't stick to it; you might end up doing a lot of attacking, you're making errors, giving penalties away.. It's very important, when you are tired, that you stick to the game plan, to the rhythm of your team. Doing so will get you through the next set of six tackles, which gets you back on the front foot and means you're not stressing too much about being behind on the scoreboard while you're fatigued.";
To the vide
"Generally in our video sessions we'll study our opposition's recent defensive structures. After checking out which teams have had success against them of late, we'll try to replicate their actions. The real game is trying to work out a team's defensive pattern. It doesn't guarantee you success on the field, but it does give you a good understanding of how you can pull the right numbers out of the line and get the right people in the right positions in defence. Our video work and field work kind of go hand in hand; we might study a game or two where a team has really pulled this weekend's opposition apart and scored a couple of identical tries. If evidence like that shows up, naturally we'll try to run the same patterns as the successful team in the video.";