18 April 2012

Thought of the day: What is the progression?

When you're learning or teaching, a good question to ask yourself is: "what is the progression?"

I'm not sure where the term "progression" came from, but I've heard it used in reference to strength training and conditioning. One day, at the gym, I saw a new piece of equipment, a back extension bench. I asked the supervisor how to use the bench and I tried it. It was pretty damn hard and I realized that the exercise was too difficult/advanced for me. So I went back to the supervisor and asked him if there was an easier exercise that would help me build up to the back extension bench. He gave me another exercise and said, "That's the progression."

Recently, I having discussions on how to coach beginning adult hockey players. It's very tricky to teach adults hockey because there is just so much to learn and because hockey is one of the most difficult sports to become proficient in (let's not talk about being a master, it's hard enough just be decent). Through the course of the discussion, I realized that you need to design practices where the different drills reinforce each other, skills are applied in different contexts, and teach how skills are used in game situations -- all without making people frustrated or bored. There needs to be a progression to take people from not knowing how to skate to being able to play in a game with decent skating, stickhandling, shooting, and tactical skills.

The progression for learning hockey would be something like:
  1. Learn how to use your edges
  2. Skating in a straight line, stopping
  3. Crossovers, tight turns, transitions
  4. Skating with the puck
  5. Simple dekes
  6. Shooting
  7. Tactics
The learner is often frustrated about making progress or overwhelmed by how much work there is to do. So it's important to give them just enough to chew on, but not get stuck or become intimidated. The teacher is often frustrated that the learner isn't improving quickly enough. The key to solving these problems is to identify what skills need to be mastered and to come up with a progression to tie everything together.

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