Applying Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) into your youth sport programs is crucial for their long-term skill, strength & fitness development.

First things first; we need to acknowledge that children and adolescents do not develop at the same rate. Males and females of the same age will have varying rates of growth, physical fitness and psychosocial maturation.

Due to this individualised nature of growth and development, every child/adolescent will respond differently to a training stimulus, and therefore training programs should be specific to that athlete where possible. This ensures that youth development is specific to the athlete, whilst reducing injury risk.

So… What is LTAD?

“Long-Term Athlete Development – a multistage training, competition and recovery pathway that guides an individual’s experience in sport and physical activity from infancy through all phases of adulthood”.  Long Term Athlete Development – Ultimate Canada

All athletes have one thing in common… they either are, or were, a young athlete! LTAD is a framework for developing appropriate programs that increases participation rates and implements programs that have long-term performance implications. It uses a holistic approach that considers mental, cognitive and emotional development of the athlete mixed with their physical development, ensuring each athlete meets their own individual needs as they develop into adolescents.

7 Stage Criteria Model

Coaches tend to use the 7 stage criteria model. It is a pathway that identifies a number of stages from FUNdamental movement skills to high performance sport. The first three stages focuses on participation in any physical activity and reinforces the process for developing physical literacy. Stages four to six highlight the high-performance pathway for athletes who chose to progress their basic skills and take their competition/game to the highest competitive ranks. Each of the phases are summarised below.

The purpose of LTAD is to support and invest in athletes at all stages of their Athletic Development pathway. Not only are we supporting top elite performance but we are also supporting the growth and participation rate of the sport.

The Good

Why is it important to implement the LTAD framework in youth sport?

  • Increase gross motor learning and skills
  • Appropriate training intensities
  • Improve Movement Competencies
  • Reach Elite Performance at the right time
  • Avoids early specialisation
  • Reduces burnout

…And The Bad

Unfortunately, coaches often have an excessive number of competitions in the calendar year, inadequate skills or knowledge for athlete development, and a focus towards sports-specific skills. This leads to athletes suffering from overuse injuries and burn out due to poor training, sub-maximal repetition stress and inadequate recovery.

LTAD not only improves coach’s awareness which can help avoid early sports specialisation, but it provides a plan that meets the developmental needs of the young athlete.

Take Home Message

The goals of LTAD is to:

  • Improve physical literacy levels
  • Provide the greatest opportunities to young athletes
  • Reduce risk of injuries and drop-out
  • Reduce burnout and increase longevity of athletic performance
  • Better opportunities across a wide range of sports
  • Encourage active lifestyle if elite sport is not achieved

What Can You Do?

Strength and Conditioning coaches are qualified to provide safe, supervised, developmentally appropriate strength and conditioning programs for youth of all ages and abilities. They follow the ASCA guidelines on “Resistance Training for Children and Youth” and apply an LTAD model to youth athlete programs. Strength and conditioning programs are reviewed on whether they enhance performance for the short-term or promote long-term, elite athletic development. This will ensure a healthy and positive experience with strength and fitness that will benefit young athletes with developing their sporting career and promoting a positive attitude towards health and fitness long-term.

Remember, the work you do to support quality strength and conditioning programs for youth will better prepare them for longevity and success in their sport!

To find out more about SWSM’s Long Term Athletic Development Programs, give us a call on (02) 9851 5959.