By Keith Stubbs, 2006.

How big is your ‘bag of tricks’?

Instructors often refer to their ‘bag of tricks’ in reference to how many different teaching tools they have stored in their memory for a variety of situations. Storing these progressions in your memory is very valuable as is sharing them with other instructors. However, the ability to build and modify a progression suitable for ANY situation is far more valuable to an instructor than the ability to remember another persons progression.

Progression basics

A progression is a series of steps used to reach a certain goal. We use progressions to introduce new skills or movements to our students. Progressions have two main characteristics…

  1. Each step is a logical increase in difficulty from the last.
  2. All steps work towards the final goal.

Progressions need to be flexible in order to cater for the variety of ability levels we encounter. Those students with a higher physical ability will learn new skills quickly, meaning a generally shorter progression. The less physically able students will take a little longer to learn new skills meaning smaller steps will be necessary in order to succeed. Our progressions must also vary depending on the learning styles and ages of our students, and the terrain available to us at the time.

Building new progressions from scratch

Here is general set of steps we can use to create new progressions…

  1. Identify the board performance concepts and planes of movement that needs to be addressed.
  2. Isolate the individual movements that need to be improved.
  3. Work this movement into a series of exercises, moving through the usual formula: stationary, simple, complex, freeride.
  4. Adjust and adapt the progression based on the terrain available to you, the students’ capabilities and performance, and the students’ predominant learning style.

Example progression

Here is an example progression for teaching ‘Backside 180s taking off the heel edge’ using the above steps…

  1. Board performances include tilt, pivot and pressure. Planes of movement include rotational, vertical and lateral.
  2. Individual movements include:
    • A large application of range in the vertical plane whilst balancing on the heel edge.
    • A powerful extension popping off of two feet or nollying slightly off the front foot.
    • A strong backside rotation in the air.
    • A two-footed landing with vertical movement to absorb the pressure.
  3. Assuming the student can already perform backside 180s, here’s a progression that could work…
    • On flat ground have the student perform small hops whilst balancing on the heel edge.
    • Whilst traversing across the hill on a mellow gradient, get the student to ride on the heel edge performing larger hops focusing on a greater use of flexion and more pop in the extension. Now try it switch.
    • Whilst traversing across the hill on the heels again, perform a backside nose-roll focusing on rotating through the body’s core. And again switch.
    • Now put the movements together and perform a backside 180 off the heels using the same terrain as before. Encourage your students to land on the toe edge at first so they can under-rotate if need be. Don’t forget to try it switch.
    • Once they have all the movements working cohesively you should change the terrain (using something with more defined hits) and let them try it (forwards and switch) where they feel comfortable.
  4. Stronger students can perform the first exercise on a gentle pitch hopping slowly up the hill on the heel edge. These students are also likely to be able to miss the backside nose-roll exercise and progress straight into backside 180s. Don’t forget to adapt your presentation to suit the students’ predominant learning style – think VAK!

In summary

As you become more familiar with creating your own progressions, these steps will become second nature to you. Experienced instructors should have the ability to create a progression at any time, for any situation, using their previous teaching and learning experiences to adapt past exercises to suit the current situation.


  • Blair Mcleod, AASI Western – thanks for the wisdom Blair!

Keith Stubbs