Do you have a young athlete or know someone does?

Do you know what skills they should be working on in order to develop a high level of movement efficiency and how you can set them up for future athletic success?

The Long Term Athletic Development Model (LTAD) looks to maximize athletic potential while maintaining a strong passion for the sport.

The key to long term athletic development is developing movement literacy. Movement literacy can be defined as the foundational human movements; kicking, jumping, throwing, receiving, catching, bounding, tumbling, running, and skipping. These movements serve as the prerequisite for advanced activity and should be developed early and used often. 

The LTAD model seeks to develop movement literacy by taking advantage of biological windows and introducing skills during ideal points of development.

Here is what long term athletic development looks like!

Stage 1 – FUNdamentals – Ages 6-9

Children are encouraged to have FUN playing the game. Emphasis is placed on free-play and learning through self-exploration, cause and effect, and trial-and-error. Agility, balance, coordination, and the first biological window for acceleration present themselves during this phase.

These qualities are trained during play. Exposure to multiple sports and physical activities will help develop these traits naturally. The use of small-sided games and a decreased amount of adult supervision is key. 

Stage 2 – Learn to Train – Ages 9-12

Throwing, receiving, balance, and unloaded movement patterning (squat, hinge, push, pull) is learned during this phase. It is important that these fundamental movement skills are learned and mastered during this phase. If motor skill development is lost during this phase a significant window of opportunity is lost and the athlete will fall behind. 

Focus during this phase is still based on fun and play. The athlete should be exposed to multiple movement exposures and sports. Remember movement literacy is developed during Stages 1 and 2!

Stage 3 – Train to Train – Ages 12-16

This is a crazy period in development. During this time hormones begin to go crazy and structured training can commence. Basic strength training and aerobic training begin during this phase. 

Movement variability is still key. Athletes during this time are encouraged to play multiple sports with noncompeting schedules. Specialization still does not need to occur for the majority of team sports!

Stage 4 – Train to Compete – Ages 16-18

Now it is time to get serious. Training goes from general to specific. Periodized training programs are introduced. At this stage, movement proficiency should already be fully developed if it was skipped the athlete will be far behind and this can delay training and lead to injury. 

Stage 5 – Train to Win – Ages 18 and Older

The goal of this stage is to maximize performance. Focus is placed on the development of a well-rounded skill set in order to improve upon the athlete’s chosen sport.

Stage 6 – Active For Life

After physical literacy is met and the athlete moves beyond the Train To Win phase. During this phase, the athlete is near the end of their competitive athletic career. Hopefully, sport and fitness will continue for the rest of their lives!

The LTAD model helps parents, coaches, and practitioners plan for athletic development. The goal, in the beginning, is to develop a huge base of movement literacy. The more the athlete is exposed to different movements and situations the better prepared they will be later on in their athletic career when specialization must occur.