Myths of LTAD



Primarily within the UK and Canada, the evolution of Long-term athletic development (LTAD) has become widely recognized within multi-disciplines within the youth sporting environment. The LTAD model proposed by many national governing bodies, offering a foundational basses to address talent development. LTAD is centered around the physiological viewpoint, that allows us to greater understand developing athletic talent beside biological growth. The LTAD model supports the elements of long term development over short terms successes, that also emphasizes fun and long life participation.  Coaches and organizations should continue to encourage long term development instead of focusing on the short term success e.g. “How many games won?”, “How many individual goals scored?” or “How many state, regional, national points secured?” Many researches have highlighted numerous problems surrounding the LTAD model, predominantly it’s been proposed that the model is one-dimensional with a lack of empirical evidence upon which the model is based. Essentially, we shouldn’t assume that the LTAD model is applicable and will work for everyone, fundamentally the LTAD model is generic. This short blog will discuss the myths that surround LTAD.

#1 – LTAD not applicable to elite individuals/teams

Assumptions are made surrounding the process of becoming an “elite” athlete, that you must begin a sporting activity at the youngest possible age and carry on within a linear projection to reach the status of elite .  Additionally, we’ve all come across the “best” player at a certain age bracket, people continue to suggest that these athletes will continue to be best at the age of 21, 25, or 30 years old.  Both of these statements are simply untrue.

LTAD offers an generic model and stage of growth as athlete’s potentially progress through their sporting activities for example: Active Start 0-6, FUNdamentals 6-9, Learn to train 9-12, Train to train 12-16, Train to Compete 16-23, Train to Win 19, Active for life.

It’s essential that each of the stage is be mastered, before the individual athlete progresses onto the next stage. LTAD is a continuous model that allows for personal growth, thus potentially providing the athlete with an opportunity to learn and develop.

#2 Sport specialization is not good

Within a minority of sporting environments early specialization is recognised and appreciated e.g. Skating and Gymnastics.  Regarding other sporting activities, specialization will eventually happen, yet we must be careful of what age.

According to literature the most appropriate route is early introduction and late specialization, yet many may disagree. As we should appreciate “one size fits all” theory may not apply.

#3 Participation in multiple sports is LTAD

Having had the experience within the USA I quickly came to noticed and accustom to athlete participating within multiple sports. I also recognised that LTAD wasn’t a priority within these organisations, chasing short-term success evidently influenced participation rates and most importantly the element of FUN.

Participation within multiple sporting activities isn’t LTAD, its more to do with the organisation its self that is appropriately aimed at implementing LTAD, especially while they participate through early years.  Competitive all year-around basketball, soccer, ice-hockey, baseball among other sporting activites will potentially lead to risk of injury and burnout. A fully designed LTAD organisations incorporate an element of physical preparation that emphasises on physical literacy e.g. Run, Jump, Throw, Skip, Balance and more). Participation within multiple sports isn’t enough to rely on.

#4 Others haven’t progressed through LTAD, Why should mine child?

I often hear the statement “Others haven’t progressed through LTAD, and became an elite athlete so, why should mine child?”.

Some athlete could follow the same path that doesn’t revolve around LTAD and still make it to the top. Some athletes can be considered as outliers , in terms of genetics. However, we recognized that LTAD is not applied in many countries and they still produce “Elite Athletes”. We must appreciate that LTAD is one foundational process, but not the only one that addresses talent development.

Hope the blog, eases any myths surrounding LTAD.

 Thank you

The Sporting Influencer



Dictionary of sport and exercise science (2006) (Book). London: A. & C. Black.

Istvan Balyi, Richard Way, Colin Higgs (2013). Long-Term Athlete Development. USA: Sheridan Books. 5-296.

Wil Fleming,2015.  International Youth Conditioning Association

Canadian Sport for life 2.0, Quality Sport & Physical Activity 2014


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