Blog: Long Term Athlete Development

Importance of Long Term Athlete Development and our approach at Marlborough College

What is Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD)?

The challenges for those invested in youth sport come in various forms. The main area of focus being that children and adolescents should not be treated as miniature adults, and as such the exercise guidelines and training philosophies for adults should not be imposed on youths.

The latest position statement from The National Strength and Conditioning Association explains “Ultimately, it is impossible to truly determine whether a child will be involved in elite-level sport or simply choose to engage in recreational physical activity later in life; however, it is imperative that all children learn how and why various types of physical conditioning are important to suitably prepare them for the physical and psychological demands of a lifetime of sport and physical activity. Although the development of athleticism has traditionally been viewed as a goal for aspiring “young athletes,” it is crucial that strength and conditioning coaches, personal trainers, teachers, parents, and medical professionals adopt a systematic approach to long-term athletic development for youth of all ages, abilities, and aspirations”.

Youths have unique physical and psychological differences, with substantial individual variability in factors that affect the pathway of growth and development from birth to adulthood. These differences in physical development can be seen when comparing groups of children of the same chronological age, traditionally used in schools and sports to group age grade teams. These boundaries are then used to identify talented players and set limits for exercise recommendations in a direct fashion for organisational purposes. However, when physical development is taken into account, it is not a straightforward process in change. The onset and rate of change for youths can be seen as either biologically ahead, on par or behind their chronological age.
With the complex and variable nature of physical fitness development, a huge range of children are either under engaged or over engaged in physical activity. As such a long term, structured approach to athletic development is needed for health and sporting requirements.

How does this inform our approach at Marlborough College?

Our approach to long-term athlete development has a holistic view with five tiers to represent each year and these will be explained further in our next blog, but initially we have seven key aims at the Athletic Foundation level:

•    Empower the pupils through education to enable them to make decisions. Ownership of their own lifestyle for long term performance and pupil engagement through adolescence and adulthood.
•    Creating a developmental focus within an open but high-performance environment, building key psychological and behavioural skills that contribute in athletic performance and outside of sport.
•    Following an appropriate educational syllabus to cover key aspects around training such as nutrition, goal-setting and psychological skills.
•    Develop a broad base of movement skills, emphasising movement technique and proprioception.
•    Develop mobility and stability through a full range of motion incorporating balance and co-ordination.
•    Enhancing strength capabilities through a range of fundamental movement proficiencies.
•    Lay the foundation for the later stages of development.

We believe with this approach pupils are given the best chance to learn about themselves and build skills crucial for a healthy lifestyle, sporting aptitude and in everyday life.

Joshua Wall
Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach

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