Fighting the Good Fight: LTAD can work for your gym

By: Wil Fleming

Each time a new athlete comes in for an assessment or first session, I get really excited. I am excited to work with them and to help them open the same doors that were opened for me because of athletics when I was young: to travel, to make friends on your teams, to go to college on a scholarship or potentially for free. I firmly believe that every athlete who walks through my doors has the potential to be the best athlete that I have ever worked with; they all deserve my utmost excitement and optimism.

But there is one scenario that coaches have faced that feels like the wind is taken out of our sails: A young athlete with limitless potential walks in to your facility for the first time, and, during the course of your talk about goals, they or their parent break the news to you.

They are a one-sport athlete and need a “specialized” program for sport X.

Excitement now out of your sails, you don’t know where to turn next. Must you now change your views and design a program with countless specialization exercises?

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Weighted baseballs?

Battling ropes with basketballs in the other hand?

Or do you simply turn the athlete away because you don’t do that sort of stuff?

I don’t believe that you have to do any of those options. In fact, you don’t have to modify your training programs, and you certainly don’t have to turn that athlete away. He or she NEEDS a coach like you.

I believe that the principles of long-term athletic development can be applied to your training programs, and you can still get the opportunity to work with tons of athletes. This is fighting the good fight, and we can do it.

Fighting the good fight means:

  • Be confident in what you are selling to that athlete and his or her parents: LTAD works.
  • Your program can be the multilateral development that single sport athletes lack: train in multiple planes with a diverse movement menu.
  • Teach over the long term, not all on day one: When the opportunity presents itself and you have gained their trust, let parents and athletes know that early specialization can actually harm the development of a young athlete.
  • Base your programs on principles, not methods: Methods come and go, and equipment comes and goes, but your training principles are rooted in science and experience.
  • Develop a true youth program: If the fight is getting too difficult at the high school level, work with young athletes and fill in their gaps to prepare them for the next stage of their development.

Unfortunately, sport specialization did not arrive overnight, nor will it disappear overnight. Being on the side of LTAD is something for the long haul, and we must try our best to help as many athletes as possible. Keep fighting, my friends!

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