7 STAGES OF LONG TERM ATHLETIC DEVELOPMENT (LTAD)

Canadian Sports for Life Society

7 STAGES OF LONG TERM ATHLETIC DEVELOPMENT

LTAD Stage 1:  Active Start (ages 0-6).  At this stage there is a need to engage in daily-unstructured play (by themselves and with peers) to develop foundational movements needed to become active for life.  Benefits include, development of physical coordination, motor skills, brain function, posture, balance, while also boosting confidence, gaining emotional control, social skills, imagination, stress reduction and improving sleep. 

Stage 2: FUNdamentals (girls 6-8, boys 6-9).  Foundation for movements and skills; exposure to a wide variety of athletic experiences.  Sports should be semi-structured and fun, competitive games and matches should be kept to a minimum.  Kids begin to read the game going on around them (basic tactical knowledge), thus learning to make decisions and movements about what is happening during that game/competition.  This is a sensitive time to develop hand and foot speed through fun activities and games, not trainings that consist of regiments and drills.


Stage 3: Learn to Train (girls 8-11, boys 9-12).  Foundational movements convert into basic sports skills at this stage.  It is a time of transition from youth to adolescent years that include puberty and growth spurts, causing temporary loss of coordination and motor control.  This is the best time to learn a sport specific skill as the child is still in control of his/her body and can see daily and weekly improvements. 


The focus is on skills development and not competition.  With late bloomers, this can be to their advantage or disadvantage, depending on their coach. 


With excellent coaching, emphasis on development, a late bloomer (hits puberty later than classmates) has extra time to develop technical skill base that will allow him or her to surpass early developers.  Studies have shown that over the long term, later developers who are kept within the high-level training regimen become better long-term performers because of a better skill base.  Again, emphasis is on skill development and refinement.  Ratio of practice to game should be 2:1 or 3:1 practice to games.

Stage 4: Train to Train (girls 11-15, boys 12-16).  This is the first of three stages in the high-performance training and competition development stream.  It is a time for enhancement of sport specific skills, building an aerobic base, and overall development of long-term athletic potential.  This stage begins at the onset of puberty and ends at the conclusion of adolescent growth spurt.  Train to Train is where athletes become more sport-specific and ramp up their training hours as they begin to specialize in a chosen sport and usually compete in a second, complimentary sport.  In the end, the development done here makes Train to Train the make-or-break stage for becoming an elite performer in a specific sport.  At this stage, winning should continue to remain secondary to skill and physical development, education, and progression.  Although, competition can be ramped up at this time as athletes test their skills against fellow competitors. 


Due to the onset of puberty, coaches and parents should remind their athletes that coordination and movement can be affected by their growth spurt.  Coaches and parents need to assure kids that negative effects on their physical abilities are natural and temporary.  It is crucial to work on flexibility and at the correct times, strength.  Training to competition ratio should be 60:40 and competition focus should be on tactical understanding and physical ability, not on measured outcomes.  It has also been said that athletes who shift to a higher competition focus at this stage tend to plateau later in their development because they did not complete their skills development.


Stage 5:  Train to Compete (girls 15-21, boys 16-23).  At this stage, athletes tend to choose a specific sport to become an elite competitor.  Focusing on high-volume and high-repetition training.  These athletes have the aspirations of playing competitively in high school, college, and professionally.  At this stage, refinement of skills is the focus and it is necessary to start learning more about nutrition, psychology/mental skills, recovery, and injury prevention/management.  Competition is at a premium, and athletes must set up proper periodization schedules, competition and recovery plans, and focus on consistent high-level performance. 


Therefore, elite athletes at this stage are maximizing physical, mental, and psychological abilities for performance/competition.  Meaning, they are overemphasizing training at certain times, tapering for events, and allowing adequate rest and recovery after events.  This is also where elite athletes will learn how to deal with external elements such as travel, media, spectators, and difficult opponents.    This is high-level training, a huge commitment, and not the typical sporting experience for the vast majority of athletes.

Stage 6:  Train to Win (girls 18+, boys 19+).  This level of athlete is a full-time competitor who is seeking to win national and international events, playing professionally or at the highest level their sport allows, and dedicating themselves to the pursuit of not only excellence but success in terms of trophies, medals, and podiums.  At this point, technical skills, tactical education, and physical growth should be complete, or very close, and it’s all about the results.  At this stage there is no “I” in “team,” even individual sport athletes should have a support network that includes coaches, physicians, nutritionists, great parents, and a sport psychologist who are working with them on a daily basis.  

Stage 7:  Active for life (any age).  Not only is this a stage but a primary goal of long-term athletic development—the creation of lifelong athletes who are healthier, happier, and active from childhood through adulthood.  Active for life is a philosophy that stresses that lifelong participation in sports and other activities is not just for elite athletes but for all adults if we want to promote better health and wellness. 

                 

This philosophy also calls upon former athletes to “pay it forward” or to give back by being coaches, mentors, administrators, officials, and policy makers in sport. Being active for life starts at the beginning.  It is the end result of developing physical literacy in the younger years, which breeds a comfort with sports and self-confidence about one’s ability to participate.  This is the greatest gift we can give our kids; the love of sports and the desire to be active throughout life!

For More Information Check Out The Sports for Life Society  

http://sportforlife.ca/qualitysport/long-term-athlete-development/

JIMMY YOO, SPORTS MINDSET COACH

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