One of the aspects of the Steve Nash Youth Basketball program that we try to emphasize on a daily basis is the importance of incorporating the characteristics of the Long-term Athlete Development (LTAD) model into the physical development of the youth who are participating. This means focusing on each individual phase of the LTAD model, ensuring that each child is progressing at their own developmental pace. In this article, Erki Tarro provides the reader with a better understanding regarding why the LTAD model should be implemented, outlining seven benefits that can arise when following the correct pathway.

By: Erki Tarro

The whole team of Sportlyzer has grown up doing sports. We have people who have excelled in swimming, karate or skating. We have people who have competed in rowing, football or triathlon and more. Even after youth sports we have stayed connected to the things we love, making us a pretty good example of Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model. It’s a sports development model that we live by, intended to ensure long-term benefits from age-specific exercising, bringing lifelong sports enjoyment and success. Let’s discover the major benefits of the LTAD model.

1. Rise in the levels of physical literacy
In our last blog post, we talked about the importance of physical literacy in everyone’s life. The concept of Long-Term Athlete Development is tightly connected to that as both stress the importance of lifelong physical activity. It could be even said that LTAD is a framed concept to apply the philosophy of physical literacy. If you ever had questions how to stay physically active at a certain point and age, LTAD will give you the first tools to start off.

2. Less chance of injuries
LTAD model will give coaches, athletes and parents the basic impressions on what the trainings should focus on. To give you an example – should the parent tell his 10-year old kid to start lifting weights when he looks smaller than his companions? The sensible answer is of course no, because trainings should be age specific to take the child’s development into account. When we have painted a long-term picture of one’s physical development, we can prevent injuries caused by forced development or bad training practices.

An example of the LTAD process. For ages 4-6, coordination and general training is the most important.
An example of the LTAD process. For ages 4-6, coordination and
general training is the most important.

3. Fewer dropouts from training
One of the underlying principles of LTAD is being diverse and versatile in training methods, especially at a young age. For almost all sports, specialization at a young age has a counterproductive effect. Yes, we can win some medals and trophies early on, but when a 13-year-old becomes so overwhelmed by the pressure and routine that he or she quits training, we have lost the game in the long run. I can say from my personal experience – the guys you beat 8:0 in soccer when you were 10 will most likely beat you with the same scoreline five or seven years later. If you even keep on playing for that long!

4. Better choices of sport
So you are a kid who just went to school for the first time. You meet a lot of new people and all your new best friends are going to swimming practice because the city had just opened a new pool, which is the coolest thing ever. You join them. You and your friends swim and swim, for years and years, because that’s something that you have always done, right? However, as you grow older, you start feeling that long training sessions are not exactly for you. You also feel that you would be more motivated to work as a team, which is kind of hard as a swimmer.

Here’s where LTAD comes in and saves the day. It encourages people to try different sports at a young age. How could you even know as a 7-year-old, which sport would suit you the best? Maybe it should have been your parents, maybe it should have been your coaches, but there has to be at least someone who acknowledges the benefits of cross-sport trainings to find the sport you enjoy the most. Because when you’ve spent your whole childhood in the water, how can you even know you liked climbing trees even more?

5. More trust in your sports club
Now this is the one for the managers and coaches to look at. The competition in youth sport is tight and there are few chances to differentiate yourself among clubs – to the outsider your offer of service can look rather similar to the others so for the parent, the decision between trainings might come down to trivial things like location which may have little to do with the quality of service you are offering.

However, the choice of sports club for a child may be one of the most important things a parent can do, considering how much time children spend in youth sports. Besides school and family, it’s perhaps the third most influential environment for the young ones. Parents are looking out for the future of their children, so if your club applies the philosophies derived from the Long-Term Athlete Development model, you will stand out in the crowd of clubs who are first thinking of themselves, not the future of the kids.

6. Higher sporting achievements
Reading the previous points you might have thought: “Hey, this sounds all very nice and all, but to get the highest results as an adult, nothing beats hard work and dedication”. Believe me, we have nothing against hard work! If you don’t overdo it, go for it! However as you might have realized, the LTAD model is all about doing the right things at the right times. And sometimes, less work is more.

It’s already known that contrary to the myth, 10,000 hours does not make you an expert. There is so much more to becoming the grand master of your sport. That’s where LTAD kicks in again. There will never be a 100% complete road map to become an Olympic champion, but doing the right things at the right time will be a big step in the right direction. It will keep your motivation up and help you develop in a scientifically proven way. And even if you don’t end up becoming a new Micheal Phelps or Serena Williams, you will still continue loving sport and keeping physically active for life.

7. Happier people!
All in all, this enlightened view of long-term physical activity will inevitably lead to happier lives. As we continue doing sports throughout our life, our physical and mental health stays at an optimal level and will lead to higher satisfaction with life. We are also happier when we do sports that we love, not the ones that feel like work.

As you can imagine, these are just the main reasons to adopt LTAD as a part of your club or coaching philosophy. At the end of the day, the sport cannot be the goal in itself for sports clubs or for coaches, but it is rather a inalienable way for people to improve their lives. Long-Term Athlete Development model allows us to see the holistic development of a person as a goal, producing better long-term results for both the wider population and for the competitors. Many thought leaders of the community have already embraced that, it’s now time to deliver the message to the wider audience.

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