Long Term Athlete Development

Sports scientists have reported that there are
critical periods in the life of a young person
in which the effects of training can be
maximised. They have also concluded that it
can take anything from eight to twelve years
of training for a talented athlete to achieve
elite status. This has led to the development
of athletic models, which identify appropriate
training aims at each stage of the athlete's
physical development.
Research has shown that that chronological
age is not a good indicator on which to base
athletic development models for athletes
between the ages of 10 to 16 as within this
age group there is a wide variation in the
physical, cognitive and emotional
LTAD aims to create clear pathways in sport
1. promoting pathways that get people into sport
2. Promoting pathways that allow progression
through a sport.
In 2001 elite sports consultant Ivan Bayli wrote an
article on the different stages of the development
of a long term athlete. This programme is used as a
model by UK sport.
Most national governing bodies have pathways for
their sport.
The key is that the pathway is based on individual
maturation not chronological age since in the past
late developers may have been missed.
For LTAD sport can be classified as either
early or late specialisation.
◦ Early specialisation – sports such as gymnastics,
swimming require early sport specific specialisation
in their training.
◦ Late specialisation – athletics, team games and
rowing for example require a generalised approach
to early training and that specialised training
should not start until after the age of 10.
A basic LTAD programme has 6 stages
Learning to train
Training to train
Training to compete
Training to win
Early Specialization
Training to train
Training to compete
Training to win
Retirement &
Late Specialization
Learning to train
Training to train
Training to compete
Training to win
Retirement &
To teach fundamental movement skills and
build on motor skills in the young performer.
Aimed at boys between 6 and 9 and girls
between 6 and 8.
All activities should be fun.
Learning to Train
Developing on the FUNdamentals stage and
aimed at boys between 9 and 12, and girls
between 8 and 11.
Training should encompass 80% of their time
and competitive events 20%.
Training to Train
objectives here include building aerobic
fitness, developing speed and strength as
well as developing sport specific skills.
Aimed at boys aged 12 to 16 years old and
girls aged 11 to 15.
Focus is more on learning basic skills than in
Training to Compete
Fitness should be optimised.
Position specific skills should be learnt.
Overall competitive performance should be
Competitive situations are presented in
training sessions.
Aimed at males between the ages of 16 to 23
and females 15 to 21.
Training to Win
Final stage of preparation.
They are now working towards a winning
Fitness needs to be maximised.
Technical and tactical skills need to be
developed further.
Aimed at males over 19 and females over 18
The following is an example of a five stage progression (UK
Athletics model) for long term athlete development:
 Fundamentals - where the emphasis is on fun, developing
basic fitness and general movement skills - training years
1 to 3 and ideally a chronological age of 6 to 13.
 Learning to Train - where the emphasis is to learn how to
train and develop their general skills - training years 3 to
5 and ideally a chronological age of 10 to 15.
 Training to Train - where the emphasis is event(s) specific
training - training years 5 to 7 and ideally a chronological
age of 13 to 17.
 Training to Compete - where the emphasis is to correct
weaknesses and develop athletic abilities - training years
7 to 9 and ideally a chronological age of 15 to 19.
 Training to Win - where the emphasis is on enhancing
performance - training years 10+ and ideally a
chronological age of 18+.
Long term athlete development (LTAD) is about
achieving the correct training, competition and
recovery throughout a young athlete’s career,
particularly in relation to the important growth and
development years of young people.
Age Group swimming is about providing the
appropriate opportunities for young people with
particular reference to their growth and development.
One of the central messages from the LTAD
framework is that competition should be regarded as
integral part of a swimmer’s training programme.
Group and Youth swimming provide opportunities for
young people to develop their potential in
preparation for senior swimming.
There are five stages, which can be used to
describe growth and development. These
equate to the five stages of the LTAD
framework for swimming:
 FUNdamentals - Childhood;
 SwimSkills – Late Childhood;
 Training to Train - Adolescence;
 Training to Compete – Early Adulthood;
 Training to Win - Adulthood.
Retirement and Active for Life.
 When a player finishes competing options are
needed as to what to do next .
 This can include
◦ Moving from one sport to another e.g. sprinting to
◦ Moving from competitive sport to recreational
◦ Moving from high competitive sport to lifelong
competitive sport e.g. Masters games
◦ Retiring from competitive sport and adopting a
sports related career.
◦ Moving from competitive sport to a volunteer role
as coach or official etc

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