Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) is a model created by Dr. Istvan Balyi to guide the athletic development process from pre-puberty through retirement. The LATD model helps to teach proper physical literacy and improvement of athleticism through proper skill movements learned in a sequential and progressive program design. These components will help an athlete become less susceptible to injuries, improve an athlete’s ability to perform technical and tactical skills more effectively, and assist the athlete to cope with the demands of the sport (Balyi and Hamilton, 2003; Ericsson).
Phase 1 – FUNdamentals (Balyi)
This phase is appropriate for boys aged 6 to 9 and girls aged 5 to 8. The main objective should be the overall development of the athlete’s physical capacities and fundamental movement skills. The athlete should participate in as many sports as possible. Unfortunately this is the stage that is usually neglected due to coaches’ lack of experience in physical literacy and the sport. This stage is very important in the childs physical development as an athlete. Agility, balance, coordination and speed (ABC’s) are developing at this age. The focus should be on running, jumping, throwing, catching, kicking and striking techniques should be taught. Exercise should be done with the use of one’s own body weight. Swiss balls, bosu balls, small medicine balls, wobble boards, balance beams, climbing ropes, cargo nets can be used in the training process. This type of training is optimizing the neuromusculoskeletal sytems development during this phase.
Phase 2 – Learning to train (Balyi)
This phase is appropriate for boys aged 9 to 12 and girls aged 8 to 11. The main objective should be to learn all fundamental sports skills. In this phase one learns general overall sports skills. Training can be similar to phase 1, however, flexibility can be introduced through static and dynamic stretching. In this phase practice time is essential to develop good mechanics for the sport. Thousands of repetitions are needed to be competent at motor or movement based skill. Seventy percent of the time should be spent on training and practice while only thirty percent on games or competitions. In many cases there are too many games played which does not allow the child to develop fundamental skills needed to excel in the sport.
Phase 3 – Training to train (Balyi)
This phase is appropriate for boys aged 12 to 16 and girls aged 11 to 15. The main objective should be the overall development of the athlete’s physical capacities (focus on aerobic conditioning) and fundamental movement skills. Sport-specific skills are further developed and enhanced. At this phase weight lifting techniques can be added to the training program along with proper nutrition to meet the athletes ever expanding needs. The strength training window for boys begins 12 to 18 months after the Peak Velocity of Height (largest growth spurt in development) and the onset of menarche for females. Special emphasis is also required for flexibility training due to the sudden growth of bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles. A 60% training to 40% competition ratio (includes competition and competition-specific training) is recommended.
Phase 4 – Training to compete (Balyi)
This phase is appropriate for boys aged 16 to 18 and girls aged 15 to 17. The main objective should be to optimize fitness preparation, sport/event specific skills and performance. Fifty percent of available time is devoted to the development of technical and tactical skills and fitness improvements. The other 50% of available time is devoted to competition and competition-specific training.
Phase 5 – Training to win (Balyi)
This phase is appropriate for boys aged 18+ and girls aged 17+. The main objective should be to maximize fitness preparation and sport/event specific skills as well as performance. 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 train to peak for major competitions. Training is characterized by high intensity and relatively high volume with appropriate breaks to prevent over training. Training to competition ratio in this phase is 25:75, with the competition percentage including competition-specific training activities.
Phase 6 – Retirement & retainment (Balyi)
The main objective should be to retain athletes for coaching, officiating, sport administration etc. The goal is that the athlete continues to play sports and engages in physical activity for life long enjoyment of competition, fitness and health.
With our excessive emphasis on sports in our society, The Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) model may be the best way to guide our kids athletic development process from pre-puberty through retirement.
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