Enjoy the second video in our exclusive October video series

The Non-Linearity of Progression and Learning

with Dr. Sophia Nimphius

In this video - an excerpt from the Need for Speed Course - Dr. Sophia Nimphius, with her great use of analogy, discusses training progressions.

This excerpt below is from Book 3, Session 11 of the Need for Speed Course and precedes the video with Dr. Sophia Nimphius.


We have an inherent desire to progress exercises, drills, and tactical concepts on a linear scale; coaches talk about progressions, regressions, and lateralizations.  It is generally how most of us organize our training.

Even in parallel periodization approaches, we tend to think in linear ways.

As such, it makes intuitive sense to want to progress an athlete through each of the domains discussed above in the order we have described them.

This is most likely due to the fact that on the surface, it would appear that task difficulty increases with each successive domain (see Figure A, below).

Figure A: Framework as a sequential system – with task difficulty progressing from clear, to complicated, to complex, to chaotic

Through such a progression, it would seem reasonable to assume that as an athlete progresses through varying levels of task difficulty, they do so through stabilizing each successive task component.  An athlete progressively improves their ability to manage an increasingly organized system, and then successively improves her ability to manage an increasingly complex system.

In fact, we described such a continuum during the last session.

While there is some truth to such a progression, this does not accurately portray the true nature of learning – which, as we described earlier – is messy.  The assumption might be that learning is linear in nature, but we already know this to be false.


Speed is the ultimate game-changer: it is not merely present in all team sports, it is often crucial to the defining moments of the game — the moments that make the difference between defeat and victory. Never before has speed in team sport been more important than it is today, and never has it been more important for coaches to understand the complexities of coaching speed.