STEP Model: The Importance of Progression and Regression

Have you ever been in a coaching session where it is far too easy, and you feel like you’re going nowhere and your development is slow? Or the total opposite, the coach is over-estimating your ability and throwing everything at you all at once? In sessions everywhere, from grassroots to elite, this is a reoccurring theme. This is where coaches that understand and are competent of using progressions and regression are at the forefront of proactive coaching.

For those who don’t know; progression can be defined as ‘the process of developing or moving gradually towards a more advanced state’; and regression being defined as ‘a return to a former or less developed state’. The ability to progress and regress skills and drills effectively and efficiently is the most underrated skill in coaching.

In the mid-1990s the Youth Sport Trust introduced and began using the STEP model; it was designed so all participants can have fun and achieve success. STEP is an acronym for space, time, equipment and people. When planning and delivering a session coaches should consider all four elements of the model to be effective. Below I’m going to explain the definition of the four elements and how to apply them.


Space refers to the space in which you’re completing an activity. Your progressions and regressions will come from adapting the playing area. More space allows participants to have more time to react to the environment; less space shortens reaction time which demands quicker movements. Another consideration can be the distance participants must travel. “Will shortening the distance or increasing the distance have a positive effect on the participant learning?”, if the answer is yes – you need to make a change. Within the space during catch and tag games, can you create safe zones to help those that are struggling? And, can you challenge those that are finding it easy to play in an area with no safe zones?

These are only some of the adaptations and considerations you can make to the space, to either challenge the athlete further or regress the challenge to cater for the participants level of learning.


The T of STEP is task, what can we do to the task to challenge further or make the task easier? Simply, simplify the game or to make it harder introduce more rules. For example, in the classic game of British Bulldogs, progress the task by making the participants get across the court with only two pushes to encourage them to use their hips and core to get across the court. A regression to the game may be giving every player three lives so they don’t get caught straight away.



This is one of the easiest parts of the STEP Model – How can we adapt the equipment to make it easier or harder? Simply, we can change the size, shape, colour, texture, weight, etc of the equipment we use. For example, if we are doing a passing drill we can use a crazy catcher or a reaction ball to make the task more challenging. To make the drill easier we can use a bigger ball as that is easier to catch. It’s important not to over think when making adaptions, sometimes the best adaptions are the simplest of changes.


Am I going to coach this task individually, in groups, in pairs, in teams or encourage them to do it with friends? Are you going to group participant by role (e.g. all forwards together), by ability, coaching a 5v5 game or 4v6 game? Once again, these progressions and regressions will be determined on challenging or making the task easier.


Hopefully, I didn’t lose you in that and it made some sort of sense? Through becoming comfortable and practicing the STEP model, your capability when delivering to a wide variety of abilities will become easier and more effective. Begin using the STEP Model in your session plans, on each drill consider the space, task, equipment and people and how you can change that to assist in your participant enjoyment and development. Once this becomes second nature to you, you will do it subconsciously during your sessions.

Hopefully this helped and some of the basic theory behind coaching will help you enhance your sessions! Happy Coaching! Any questions at all, feel free to comment and I’ll get back to you.

Leave a Reply