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Long Term Athlete Development

Updated: May 25, 2021

Long term athlete development (LTAD) describes the different stages that a child goes through on the journey towards the possibility of becoming a professional athlete. When we say long term, we mean LONG TERM. Your child’s development does not come down to their performance in a single season or a single training session. We look big picture at where each kid’s starting point is and where we can take them throughout their whole childhood. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

The graphic shown is a summary of a commonly used model for long term athletic development [12]. The model gives great outline as to what kids should be focusing on in different stages of their growth and maturation as an athlete. One thing that must be taken into consideration is that every person is different. Some people will be early growers, some late bloomers. Whichever they are, the approach to training and skill acquisition must adapt to cater to each individual's rate of development.

The model focuses on the balance between physical development, training and competition throughout childhood and adolescence [7]. This is a hugely important aspect that we will touch on later in this handbook.

The majority of the early stages should be focused on keeping your child as active as possible, whilst also being aware that it is a key time to begin the development of the coordination and movement skills.

As they move towards late primary school, most kids start to play multiple different sports. This is a great thing. We will discuss how to manage their multiple sports later on, but the key benefits to it is that it allows them to learn a wide range of skills as well as interact with lots of different kids.

Any parent wants to see their kid do well in sport, but make sure that it doesn’t become

solely focused on the winning aspect of sport. There are so many skills and lessons that can be learnt through sport and through training. By steadily working through these phases of development we can give your child the best chance of reaching their full potential whilst also making sure that they do not get burnt out or lose interest in sport.

The Seventh Stage

There is one final development stage, Active for Life, which we have left out of the graphic because it relates to life post adolescence where the aim is to keep active through recreational sport in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Whilst not directly relevant to youth development, this stage is populated by those that do not make it to the highest level, which is a large majority of people. By having a gradual, progressive development during their youth, people can develop great habits that can help lead them to an active and healthy life.

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