Long Term Athlete Development

Scientific research has concluded that it takes eight-to-twelve years of training for a talented player/athlete to reach elite levels. This is called the ten-year or 10,000 hour rule, which translates to slightly more than three hours of practice daily for ten years. Long-term commitment to practice and training is required to produce elite players/athletes in all sports.

Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) is a systematic approach to maximize potential and increase the enjoyment of participants and athletes. It provides a framework for developing physical literacy, physical fitness and competitive ability, using a stage-by-stage approach.

There are no short cuts to success in athletic success!

Stage 1 – The FUNdamental Stage
AGE: Males 6 – 9 / Females 6 – 8 years
Objective: Learn all fundamental movement skills (build overall motor skills)
Fundamental movement skills should be practiced and mastered before sport specific skills are introduced. The development of these skills, using a positive and fun approach, will contribute significantly to future athletic achievements.
Participation in a wide range of sports is also encouraged. This emphasis on
motor development will produce players/athletes who have a better trainability
for long-term, sport-specific development.

Stage 2 – The Learning to Train Stage
AGE: Males 9 – 12 / Females 8 – 11 years
Objective: Learn all fundamental sports skills (build overall sports skills)
Specialized movement skills are developed from age seven to age eleven, and are specialized sports skills. By passing the fundamental and specialized skill development phase is likely to be detrimental to the child’s future engagement in physical activity and sport. Early specialization in late specialization sports can also be detrimental to the proceeding stages of skill development. One of the most important periods of motor development for children is between the ages of nine to 12. During this time children are developmentally ready to acquire general overall sports skills that are the cornerstones of all athletic development.
This is the ‘window of accelerated adaptation to motor coordination’. All
fundamental movement skills should be further developed and general overall
sports skills should be learned during this phase.

Stage 3 – The Training to Train Stage
AGE: Males 12 – 16 / Females 11 – 15 years
Objectives: Build the aerobic base, build strength towards the end of the phase and further develop sport-specific skills (build the “engine” and consolidate sport specific skills).
During the “Training to Train” stage young athletes consolidate basic sport specific skills and tactics. This phase is a ‘window of accelerated adaptation to aerobic and strength training.’ Skill, speed and strength training should be maintained or developed further. Special emphasis is also required for flexibility training due to the sudden growth of bones, tendons,
ligaments and muscles.

Stage 4 – The Training to Compete Stage
AGE: Males 16 – 18 / Females 15 – 17 years
Objectives: Optimize fitness preparation and sport, individual and position-
specific skills as well as performance (optimize “engine”, skills and performance).
This phase of development is introduced after the goals and objectives of the
“Training to Train” stage have been achieved. The training to competition and
competition-specific training ratio now changes to 50:50. Fifty percent of
available time is devoted to the development of technical and tactical skills and fitness improvements, and fifty percent is devoted to competition and
competition-specific training.
During the “Training to Compete” phase, high intensity individual event and
position-specific training is provided to athletes year-round. Athletes, who are now proficient at performing both basic and sport specific skills, learn to perform these skills under a variety of competitive conditions during training.

Stage 5 – The Training to Win Stage
AGE: Males 18 years and older / Females 17 years and older
Objectives: Maximize fitness preparation and sport, individual and position
specific skills as well as performance (maximize “engine”, skills and performance)
This is the final phase of athletic preparation. All of the athlete’s physical, technical, tactical, mental, personal and lifestyle capacities are now fully established and the focus of training has shifted to the maximization of performance. Athletes are trained to peak for major competitions. Training is characterized by high intensity and relatively high volume with frequent breaks that help prevent physical and mental burnouts.

Stage 6 – The Retirement / Retention stage
Objectives: Retain athletes for coaching, administration, officials, etc. This phase refers to the activities performed after an athlete has retired from competition permanently. During this final phase, some ex-athletes move into sport-related careers that may include coaching, officiating, sport administration, small business enterprises, master’s competition, media, etc.

Additional Notes:

A specific and well-planned practice, training, competition and recovery regime will ensure optimum development throughout an athlete’s career. Ultimately, sustained success comes from training and performing well over the long-term rather than winning in the short-term. There is no short-cut to success in athletic preparation. Overemphasizing competition in the early phases of training will always cause shortcomings in athletic abilities later in an athlete’s career.


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