In our previous article, we introduced you to the concepts of Physical Literacy and Fitness. Our objective was to provide you with a deeper understanding of these concepts (by defining them, and exploring their interdependence), and position them as key pillars in our training philosophy. From a program design and implementation point of view, these concepts provide us professionals a framework for action. This framework ensures that we are addressing the needs of our young athletes by providing them with the relative capacities to meet their sporting demands. Although these principles guide our training philosophy, we also need to consider the young athlete’s experience throughout this journey. To address this important factor, we need to ask ourselves the following questions:
How do we ensure that the athlete is in the most appropriate training environment? How do we create an environment that fosters growth and development while promoting both physical fitness and psychosocial wellbeing relative to that individual? In other words, what guides the youth athlete’s athletic journey? To answer these questions, we will discuss the concept of Long-Term Athletic Development (LTAD).
In June of 2016, The National Strength and Conditioning Association released their position statement on LTAD. In it, they refer to LTAD as the habitual development of “athleticism” over time to improve health and fitness, enhance physical performance, reduce the relative risk of injury, and develop the confidence and competence of all youth. LTAD is a framework that serves to guide the participation, training, competition, and recovery pathways in sport and physical activity from infancy through all phases of adulthood. This framework was created to improve the quality of sport and physical activity delivery to serve participants as they develop athletic qualities and strive to realize their potential. Many sport organizations (such as Soccer Canada), have adopted LTAD models in response to the growing professionalization in youth sport and accelerating rate of dropout in sport participation among youth. In association with Sport Canada, Canada Soccer has created the Wellness to World Cup player pathway that serves to provide every player with the best possible experience regardless of ability. By placing an emphasis on development rather than competition in the early stages of an athlete’s career, this forward-thinking model will help address the many concerns surrounding youth physical activity habits. This approach will have a positive impact in young people both in the present, and as they progress into adulthood.
Similarly, we at Novanta Sports Performance follow a very similar approach to LTAD. Using the 10 Pillar Approach for Successful LTAD and the Youth Physical Development model as a guide, we have created a framework that places an emphasis on developing Physical Literacy and Fitness within a context that is relevant to the growth and maturation periods of each athlete. We have created a comprehensive approach to physical development that takes into consideration the athlete’s biological age, emotional age, training age, sporting needs/demands, and their current capacity to meet those demands. We understand that youth athletes are not miniature adults. Therefore, replicating how exercise programs are designed and implemented for adults will not have the same effect with our youth population; both physically and emotionally.
Parents and coaches have high hopes for their children/athletes and want to provide them with every opportunity to succeed. We can be ambitious, but we must also be realistic. Author Michael Calvin’s book – No Hunger in Paradise: The Players. The Journey. The Dream. – discusses children’s development in professional football academies. In an interview with Business Insider UK, he states:
“out of all the boys who enter the academy at age 9, less than half of 1% make it”.
He also states:
“the most damning statistic of all is only 180 of the 1.5 million players who are playing organized youth football in England at any one time will make it as a Premier League pro”.
When we do the math, that is a success rate of 0.012%. That is a staggering number. Now consider our current footballing landscape. Without getting into specifics, as a nation we are a very small fish in a very large sea. So to have any success at the European level, your child/player needs to be inside the top 1% in the country. That is a monumental amount of pressure to place on a young athlete!! When developing the young player, we need to consider the individualized and non-linear nature of growth and development. Long-term pathways should encourage an early sampling approach that promotes and enhances a broad range of motor skills. Programs should provide youth with a range of training modes to enhance health and skill related components of fitness. At Novanta Sports Performance, our holistic approach to athletic development follows this model. Why is this important? If we take honest stock of the bigger picture, not every athlete will go on to have a professional sporting career. Nonetheless, our goal is to support the young athlete in the pursuit of their dreams by building their capacity for high performance, while simultaneously creating good physical activity habits to give them the confidence and competency to engage in physical activity for life!
Athletic development isn’t just about making people tired. We want to make our athletes better by providing them with tools and experiences to support their high-performance aspirations, and keep them living longer, healthier lives. Athletic development isn’t just for betterment in sport, but for betterment in life also!!
Lloyd, R.S., Cronin, J.B., Faigenbaum, A.D., Haff, G.G., Howard, R., Kraemer, W.J., Micheli, L.J., Myer, G.D. and Oliver, J.L. (2016) ‘National Strength and Conditioning Association position statement on long-term athletic development’, The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 30(6), pp.1491-1509
Lloyd, RS, Oliver, JL, Faigenbaum, AD, Howard, R, De Ste Croix, MB, Williams, CA, Best, TM, Alvar, BA, Micheli, LJ, Thomas, DP, Hatfield, DL, Cronin, JB, and Myer, GD. Long-term athletic development, Part 1: A pathway for all youth. J Strength Cond Res 29: 1439–1450, 2015.
Lloyd, RS, Oliver, JL, Faigenbaum, AD, Howard, R, De Ste Croix, MB, Williams, CA, Best, TM, Alvar, BA, Micheli, LJ, Thomas, DP, Hatfield, DL, Cronin, JB, and Myer, GD. Long-term athletic development, Part 2: Barriers to success and potential solutions. J Strength Cond Res 29: 1451–1464, 2015.
Lloyd, RS and Oliver, JL. The youth physical development model: A new approach to long-term athletic development. Strength Cond J 34: 61–72, 2012.
YLM Sports Science. (2016) The 10 Pillars for Successful Long-Term Athletic Development. Retrieved from. https://ylmsportscience.com/2016/03/05/the-10-pillars-for-successful-long-term-athletic-development-by-ylmsportscience/
Canada Soccer. (2006) Wellness to World Cup – Long-Term Player Development. Retrieved from https://www.canadasoccer.com/wpcontent/uploads/resources/Pathway/EN/CSA_2009_WellnessWorldCup_EN.pdf
Business Insider. (2017) Children at football academies are more likely to ‘get hit by a meteorite’ than succeed as professionals – here’s the shocking statistic. Claudia Romeo. Retrieved from. https://www.businessinsider.com/michael-calvin-shocking-statistic-why-children-football-academies-will-never-succeed-soccer-sport-2017-6
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