Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD)
LTAD is an athletic model which aims to identify appropriate training aims at each stage of the athlete’s physical development. Utilising specific ‘windows of opportunity’, LTAD can maximise the effectiveness of training. There are two models of LTAD, early and late specialisation. The late specialisation model has 7 stages:
- Active Start.
- Learn to train.
- Training to train.
- Training to compete.
- Training to win.
- Active for life.
The early specialisation model only contains stages 4-7. This model is more useful for sports like gymnastics where the athletes peak skill level must be reached relatively early. A more detailed description on each stage can be found here. I will not touch on the debate of early vs. late specialisation, but instead will focus on one issue involved around the concept. The guidelines for each stage are based on age parameters, but chronological age is not always the best indicator for creating athletic development paradigms. Especially during the age bracket 10-16, there can be wide variance in physical, cognitive and emotional development. One interesting solution to this problem is to use Peak Height Velocity as a reference point. This is the point in a childs development when they reach their maximum growth rate. The advantage of this is that it is influenced by genetics and environmental factors such as climate, culture and social status, making it a more applicable option.