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 is proposed by many national governing bodies and offers foundational bases to address talent development. LTAD is centred around the physiological viewpoint, which allows us to greater understand developing athletic talent besides biological growth. The LTAD model supports the elements of long term development over short terms successes, which also emphasises fun and long life participation.
Coaches and organisations should continue to encourage long term development instead of focusing on short term success e.g. “How many games won?”, “How many individual goals were scored?” or “How many states, regional, national points were secured?” Many researchers 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 a generic model and stage of growth as an individual potentially progresses 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 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 specialisation 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 an 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 notice and accustomed to players participating in 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 in multiple sporting activities isn’t LTAD, it has more to do with the organisation itself that is appropriately aimed at implementing LTAD, especially while they participate through its early years. Competitive all-year-around basketball, soccer, ice hockey, and baseball among other sporting activities will potentially lead to the risk of injury and burnout. Fully designed LTAD organisations incorporate an element of physical preparation that emphasises physical literacy e.g. Run, Jump, Throw, Skip, Balance and more). Participation in 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 elite athletes so, why should mine child?”.
Some players could follow the same path that doesn’t revolve around LTAD and still make it to the top. Some athletes can be considered outliers, in terms of genetics. However, we recognised 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.
The Sporting Influencer
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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