Taking The Long View

There’s some great work being done these days in the area of Long Term Athletic Development. A lot of it due to the contributions of people like Kelvin Giles and Istvan Balyi who have been plowing this ground for years. Giles work in the area of identifying, assessing and developing physical competencies and Balyi’s efforts at understanding the different biological and chronological markers in an athletes development are being used to design effective and practical models and practices in places like Canada, Australia and the UK.

As someone who’s focused on developing healthy, successful and accomplished young athletes LTAD ( Long Term Athletic Development ) is a no brainer. It simply has to be a cornerstone in training design and implementation.  LTAD is more than just a model or concept and a set of assessments and practices. It’s a way of thinking about and framing the work we do with young athletes today.

I freely admit to being on the steep side of the learning curve on this. That is to say I’m no expert. Over the last few years of nibbling at the edges and taking small steps in this direction with the players, teams and organizations I serve a few things are standing out – some things I find in bringing the principles and practices to the daily work. So, here’s a little of what I’m learning.

LTAD is an orientation or an attitude more than a program. Its a way of thinking about what we do beginning with what we choose to value and make important.

It leads to an integrated approach. Because it looks at the player over their whole life it ultimately leads to working with the whole person. It doesn’t work to take a mechanical  ” pieces and parts” approach if I’m going to value development over the long term.

There’s a switch from a construction model to a developmental approach, understanding and working with the developmental windows of opportunity as they  open in a player’s natural maturation and growth.

It leads to a healthier and less stressful approach physically and psychologically because we’re meeting players where they are, working with their unique natural cycles of development  rather than our ideas of where they should be at a given moment.

 It values process a little more than outcome. Both are important. Outcomes give us feedback on how we’re doing but the process is what produces the outcomes. That emphasis can help us make healthier and more effective choices as we think about  things like the balance of training, practice and competition for athletes at different stages and ages.

It takes a collaborative team approach. When I’m on the same page as the coach, player, parent or administrator, we’ve had success in taking an LTAD approach. that success shows up in things like fewer injuries, better physical and technical skill development and even competitive results ( more wins ). Trying to take the LTAD approach with a team, coach, player, parent or organization that’s focused on the short term is an uphill battle and not one I choose to fight anymore.

One of the lessons sports teaches is that there are no short cuts to sustainable success or as Kelvin Giles says, ” repeatable excellence”. An LTAD approach is one of the central elements in creating that repeatable excellence for our players and our sports.



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