What is Long Term Athlete Development?

Canadians researched the work effort needed to become an olympic medal winner or world champion and found that more than 10.000 hours of training were needed to become competitive at that level from the age of ten till twenty. Based on the findings a model was developed that describes the different development cycles over those ten years. The Long Term Athlete Development Program was born.

The Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) strategy describes the development needed on various aspects:

  • physiological / technical
  • tactical
  • mental

Although many now challenge the foundation of the LTAD model and the 10.000 hours, this model is now used by many sports organisations across the world. I am into it because I was one of the architects of the talent development programs of the rugby union here in the Netherlands. We were setting up talent development centers in the Netherlands and use the model to describe what needs to be done with the players. The National Olympic Committee who is controlling all sports in the Netherlands, helped us to make the model rugby specific. I found a version of the model on the Irish Rugby Union web site, this was the start of our work. The RFU version is more in the details of things, it will start you of with the profiling aspects of the development phases. You can download these models in the free download section. I like the LTAD model but want to make the tactical aspect the priority, placing the Why before the How. I believe we start to focus on technique too soon, we should start with an understanding of the game first. This will motivate players to work on his skills later. In this line of thinking: we also start to fix players in positions much too soon (pigeonholing). This is why I like the development model of the French rugby union much better because it works on the mental development of children rather than the emphasis on physical growth like LTAD. You can sort of map tbe French model on top of LTAD if you want. This FFR model has become the basis on the datamodel I have setup for SuperCoach Online.

Why is such a model important?

  • It is a sort of baseline to describe the different stages of development;
  • It helps us understand the different roles of the coach: for example the Rugby Guide for the youngsters.
  • Clubs and club coaches can use it to make their development plan;
  • It will be a communication tool between Academy coaches and Club coaches.

The development stages (for rugby) and the role of the coach are:

FUNdamentals Guides Elementary movement, basics, having FUN (why is that not possible later on?) Multi-skills and Multi-sports approach.
Learning to train Teaches Building the basic rugby player: start with the head (give them an understanding of the “Why” before the “How”.
Training to train Challenges Building the potential rugby specific core skills, start building the positional rugby player.
Training to compete Facilitates Optimising the potential rugby positional and unit skills, continuing development of core skills and position-specific skills.
Training to win Empower Maximizing the potential.
Retain, recruit, retrain Retainer Keep people involved in the sport of rugby for the rest of their lives.

Relevant topics:

  • Check a Canadian website on more background information on the model.
  • The Free Download section with the various implementations of the LTAD model.