The IYCA has championed the notion that the long-term athletic development model, or LTAD, provides the greatest benefit to a developing athlete, in both physical and psychological aspects, over time.
Contrary to ever-popular and growing model of early sport specialization, the LTAD model is intended to optimize performance slowly and equip the young athlete with foundational skills.
Although far from “new,” in light of heavily marketed programs intended to maximize immediate potential sport specific gains, the commonsense simplicity of the LTAD model is starting to gain momentum with some practitioners.
“It takes God a hundred years to make an oak, but it only takes Him two months to make a squash.” –President James Garfield
In our results-now, win at all costs, sports-crazed society, many athletes, coaches, parents, and professionals seem to have lost sight of the goal of sport and physical activity for growing young athletes. What is currently widely marketed as “athletic development” by individuals across the country is, in many instances, quick-fix training designed to show immediate results. While results are great, young athletes and their parents and coaches must be certain that such short-term improvements don’t compromise long term outcomes. The following represents an incomplete list of potential warning signs that may indicate that programming may be too short sighted in nature to be optimally effective.
1. Heavy emphasis on measureable assessments to demonstrate progress. Developing children will usually improve no matter what type of stimulus is introduced; the key is finding the optimal training approach. Testing eight year olds in the 40 yard dash or in the vertical leap may be acceptable, but developing an entire training program around such testing is laughable. Competent professionals are more interested in mechanics and the acquisition of steadily improving motor patterns rather than showing stunning improvements in “measurable” early on.
2. Short-term programming. Six and eight week programs are popular and certainly have their place in contemporary athletic development facilities; however, the main utility of such programs should be to introduce athletes, parents, and coaches to the long-term athlete development model. Beware any facility that does not offer long-term training plans, as it is impossible to effectively develop a young athlete with such a myopic approach.