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Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD)

Updated: May 8, 2019

Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD)

LTAD is a pathway for athlete development which includes multiple stages. It is based on the children and adolescents’ physical, mental, emotional and cognitive development. There are 5 Key Development stages; FUNdamental, Learn to Train, Train to train, Train to compete and Train to win. Each stage represents the different phases of the athlete development. This way, the appropriate skill development and training can be given to the athlete throughout the career.

FUNdamental (Male 6-9; Female 6-8)

As the name suggest, in this phase, the focus is on the fundamental movement skills (FMS). Generally, training are usually for the overall development, including the mental, cognitive and emotional aspects. The ABCs (Agility, Balance, Coordination and Speed) are also focused on. Strength are developed via the use of body weight exercises. Simple rules of fair play and ethics of the sport should be taught to the kids.

However, the most important thing is still about having fun. If you notice, the word ‘FUNdamental’ is spelled with capital alphabets for ‘FUN’, emphasizing on the importance of fun.

Learn to Train (Male 9-12; Female 8-11)

This is a major skill learning stage, focusing on the development of overall fundamental sports skills (FSS). The basic sports skills such as kicking a soccer/football etc. should be learned before progressing into the next stage (train to train). Development of mental, cognitive, emotional and mental skills training should start. Strength are still built through body weight exercises, however, medicine ball and Swiss ball can be added.

Sports-specific training can be done three times per week with participation in other sports for three times per week too. For example, Monday, Wednesday and Friday is for Basketball training, Tues, Thursday and Saturday for swimming training. Allow the kids to be exposed to a variety of sports for Multilateral Development, as this stage is also a talent identification stage.

Train to Train (Male 12-16; Female 11-15)

By this stage, athletes would have chosen a specific sport. Hence, development will be focused on sport-specific skills. Fitness aspects such as the Aerobic, speed and strength are trained. Growth spurt who had started with the onset of the peak height velocity (PHV), in which there will be rapid physical growth. Cognitive, emotional and mental game are integrated. Strength would be built with the introduction of free weights.

Sports-specific training can be done 6 – 9 times a week, with complementary sports. At this stage, the development of the sports-specific skills will also be based on the Window of trainability (WOT). Selection would have begun for athletes that are more outstanding.

Train to Compete (Male 16-23; Female 15-21)

In the specific sport itself, athletes would be starting the training for event/position specific training. For instance, if you are a track and field runner, you will be focusing on 100 meters sprinting training. If you are a Soccer/football player, you will be focusing on goalkeeping skills, assuming you are a goalkeeper. Physical, tactical and technical training will all be included, to be applied when competing. Athletes would also be doing advance mental preparation for the competition. Strength would be developed with free weights.

Sports-specific training will be increased to 9 – 12 times a week, focusing heavily on the specialize sport only.

Train to Win (Male 19+; Female 18+)

At this stage, the primary goal of the athlete is to win the goal medal. Athletes, at the point, would already be well trained and their fitness level would be high. Hence, they would have to maintain or even enhance the physical, technical and tactical skills for their competition. Mentally, the athletes would have to model and practice all aspects of the competition in training.

Sports-specific training are done 9 – 15 times a week. The training are heavily planned, and thoroughly ensured for maximum effectiveness, with appropriate breaks in between training for preventive measures, such as burn out and injuries. Most athletes who are representing and competing at the highest level would have a group of sports professionals, such as the sports psychologist, physiotherapist etc.


In the respective training phases, fundamental movements skills (FMS) are trained before the fundamental sports skills (FSS). Learning FSS before FMS will reduce the performance level and ability of the child later in life, it is like “putting the cart before the horse”. If a child lacks the FMS, they will be limited in terms of their competency in sports, limited choices of sports to choose and thus, reducing the opportunity for sporting excellence. Therefore, focus on FMS, such as running, jumping, throwing, leaping etc, before the onset of PHV, and focus on FSS, such as basic movement skills in basketball after the onset of PHV.


When considering specialization, you would have to understand the type of sports. Some sports are early specialized, some are late, some even very late. Skills in the Very Late Specialization Sports are generally able to transfer smoothly into other sports.

Some examples are,

- Early Specialization: Gymnastic, Swimming, Diving

- Late Specialization: Tennis, Basketball, Water Polo

- Very Late Specialization: Cycling, Triathlon, Marathon

There are risks to early specialization. Kids would have skills that are one dimensional due to the sports-specific preparation and training. They will possess a lack of ABCs (Agility, Balance, Coordination and Speed) and have poor fundamental movement and sports skills. Injuries might occur due to the over usage of the muscles. Also, a big problem would be the psychological and mental aspect; they get burn out and retire from the sport early.

Hence, the idea is to focus on each stages of development for the athlete. Refer to the window of trainability for effective development. Try not to specialize your child in one sport, expose them to as many sports, allow for multilateral development. This way, the child would be able to have their own choice of sport leading to a longer, better sporting career and eventually, lifelong interest in the sport.


Balyi, I., & Hamilton, A. (2004). Long-term athlete development: trainability in childhood and adolescence. Olympic Coach, 16(1), 4-9.

Sport for Life Society. (2016). Long-Term Athlete Development 2.1 Canadian Sport for Life. Retrieved from http://sportforlife.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/LTAD-2.1-EN_web.pdf?x96000

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