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LTAD model encourages lifelong physical activity for children

This is an excerpt from Long-Term Athlete Development by Istvan Balyi, Richard Way, and Colin Higgs.

Sport for Life Philosophy

The LTAD model and philosophy acknowledge first that physical education, school sports, competitive sports, and recreational activities are mutually interdependent and contribute to the development of healthy, active kids. Traditionally, physical education in schools, recreational sports, and elite sports have all been developed separately. This approach is ineffective and expensive. It fails to ensure that all children, including those who may have the potential to become elite athletes, are given a solid foundation and knowledge base—physical, technical, tactical, and mental—on which to build their athletic abilities. LTAD is an inclusive model that encourages children to get involved in lifelong physical activity by connecting and integrating school physical education programs with elite sport club programs and recreational sport programs in the community. Through its holistic approach, LTAD considers physiological, psychological, and social development so each athlete develops as a complete person.


Also, although not typical in most parts of the world, sports in North America have traditionally operated independently from one another, as well as from schools and community (city) programs. Consequently, sport systems are riddled with an “us versus them” mentality. This individualistic and oppositional approach results in organizations and coaches competing for good players instead of helping these players develop fundamental movement and sport skills and preparing them for the sport that best suits them. The current approach in North America is often not in the best interest of athletes and contradicts the successful sport systems of other nations, where sport organizations and coaches work together to fully develop athletes for high-performance achievement and long-term participation.


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Age categories should be considered when designing sport programs
The biological differences between a 9-year-old and a 15-year-old are huge, and yet in spite of these biological differences, athletes of the same chronological age are often trained the same way at every age and participate in age group competitions.
Late specialization is recommended for most sports
Hill (as cited in Hill & Simons, 1989) described specialization as athletes limiting participation to a single sport, which they train for and compete in on a year-round basis.
Long-term athlete development follows seven stages
To implement the LTAD model, people must fully understand the seven stages.


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