Coaching with IDEAS

The right 'IDEAS' to coach all the people on your team

— By Andrew Russell

As one of the premier stand-up paddleboard (SUP) athletes/coaches in Canada, Norm Hann conducts clinics domestically and internationally based on the IDEAS model. For those unfamiliar with the world of stand-up paddleboard, this refers to a fairly straightforward upright paddling discipline on boards done on rivers, ocean and ocean surf, and flatwater.

Hann leans on the IDEAS coaching acronym which refers to key components being Introduction, Demonstration, Explanation, Activity, and Summary. Having recently explored the IDEAS coaching methodology with Norm, I feel it’s worth sharing. What this system really forces the instructor to do is to focus on just one type of learning style at a time, and to avoid crossover which potentially causes confusion.

The five IDEAS steps are broken down with purpose, with each segment designed to support the various types of learners a coach might be responsible for. Specifically, Hann builds his model around the support of visual (learning by watching), auditory (learning by listening) and kinesthetic (learning by doing/movement).

The Steps:


The introduction should be a “short and sweet” explanation of the skill or concept being taught. Hann is quick to point out that less is more, and to ensure that this introduction answers the ever present question in students of “why should I care?”


Prefaced with, “I’m going to demonstrate” followed by a demonstration of the skill or concept. During a demonstration of one of the various skills, be it forward stroke or bracing, it’s essential to avoid talking. The intention with silent demonstration is to cater to the visual learner and to avoid confusion. While a simple concept in theory, when starting out it requires discipline to stay quiet while demonstrating.  

Demonstration without talking is one of the steps using the IDEAS model.


The next phase is the explanation. After completing a silent demonstration, the instructor then leans on the “Rule of Three.” Hann explains that chunking the skill or concept into three key components is a positive way to break it down for the learner into manageable tasks. During this component Hann emphasizes deliberate communication with limited body movement and clear communication of each task with short breaks between each. This portion of the model is intended for the auditory learner. Once again, the difficulty the coach or instructor encounters is the desire to start moving and re-showcase the skill tasks.


This portion of the IDEAS model is for the kinesthetic learner. It’s time to prepare an original skill-building trial for your students. Lay the foundation, parameters, and expectations, and let your students now “learn by doing.” During this period the coach must look to “detect and correct.” Identify any gaps in the skill adoptions or technique required, and offer suggestions for correction. For example, in SUP this could be something as simple as turn your paddle around to ensure the power side of the blade is being used properly.


The final stamp on the IDEAS model is the summary, a short and sweet wrap-up for what everyone has been taught. It can work well to pose a question to the group as to what the “three key tasks” were, as well as “why is this important?” and “why should I care?”

The next time you’re coaching try out the IDEAS model to support the various learners on your team.