Athlete Development through the Ages

It is no secret that the development of the young athlete is multifaceted and it is the responsibility of the coach and/or trainer to take into consideration developmental, physical, and psychological aspects of training. 

Stodden et al. (2008) has developed a model proposing that motor skill development, physical fitness, and perceived competence interact synergistically over time and will lead to increased physical activity and healthy weight trajectories over time from early childhood into adolescence.1 

The crux of the model proposes that the early development of gross fundamental motor skills, promoted via early movement experiences and opportunities to be active will lead to positive trajectories of the child’s overall development.

Specifically, the development of multi joint, ballistic skills (e.g., locomotor and object control skills) can directly improve not only coordination and control, but also muscular strength, muscular endurance, power, agility, and cardiorespiratory endurance. In addition, positive developmental trajectories of these physical attributes will promote positive body composition, physical activity, and psychological attribute trajectories. 

In addition to promoting motor skill development in a traditional sense, integrating developmentally-appropriate resistance training will further enhance the development of the young athlete. 

Understanding how to integrate multiple aspects of training necessitates understanding the background and developmental status of each individual athlete.

Athletic development across the lifespan is a complex process that is heavily influenced by the cognitive and physical maturity of the individual. Unfortunately, conditioning and fitness programming for the developing athlete have most often been designed around “watered down” routines initially intended for adult and elite-level athletes. 

Not only is such practice of limited effectiveness, but also can put the young athlete at risk for acute and chronic injury. By understanding the process of motor development and designing programming that is not only developmentally appropriate but also fun and engaging, the trainer and/or coach, is quite literally laying the necessary foundation for motor skill and injury prevention. 

Perhaps most importantly, appropriate practice at the early stages of development also establishes an early love for physical activity that will be essential for overall health and fitness later in life.

The ultimate goal, wouldn’t you agree?


Learn more about the development of athletes through the ages and what to consider as a coach/trainer? We would like to send you a free Video doing just that- where IYCA CEO and LTAD Expert Jim Kielbaso breaks down Training athletes from Start to Finish 


1-Stodden DF, Goodway J, Langendorfer S, et al. A developmental perspective on the role of motor skill competence in physical activity: An emergent relationship. Quest. 2008;60:290-306.

Essentials of Youth Fitness & Conditioning Text by Toby Brooks, PhD, David Stodden, PhD & Jim Kielbaso, MS

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