What the heck does Long Term Athlete Development mean? If you are in the world of sport like me or have children that are in sports, these words are thrown around a lot. However, many people use the phrases expecting that everyone must know what they mean! In this week’s blog, I try to give the “cole’s notes” version of what these are all about. There is so much to it all but hopefully this will give you a bit of an introduction and understanding.
In their own words, “Canadian Sport for Life (CS4L) is a movement to improve the quality of sport and physical activity in Canada through improved athlete training and better integration between all stakeholders in the sport system, including sport organizations, education, recreation and health. A key feature of CS4L is Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD), a developmental pathway whereby athletes follow optimal training, competition, and recovery regimens from childhood through all phases of adulthood.”
It breaks down ages and stages of physical, social, cognitive and emotional development in order to maximize the performance of athletes over their lifespan. This isn’t just for elite athletes though. This is a road map for all kids as they move into adulthood. There are a number of different stages and factors that are included in the LTAD movement. All have that have different focuses and components in each. The first key factor is Physical Literacy. Basically it is focused on developing basic fitness skills that ALL kids should know how to do. The goal here is to have all kids be “physically literate”. It all depends though on the age, maturation and capacity of the children. It also depends on the culture and environment in which children are raised.
This whole “movement” started because coaches of Olympic and international level athletes were noticing that although a downhill skier could fly down a mountain over 100 miles an hour, he couldn’t do a forward roll. The question arose then as to why? Perhaps one of the reasons we hadn’t been on the podium on the world stage in sport had something to do with the fact that our athletes were not “physically literate”?
But why are our kids not physically literate? Whose “fault” is it and where “should” are kids be at – physically? Is it because of the lack of overall physical activity of our kids today? Is it a reduction in gym classes as a whole across Canada? Whose responsibility is it to ensure our kids are physically literate?
I know for myself, I believe that as a parent, it is my responsibility to ensure my kids are active. But what do parents – or caregivers need to know? I am not a scientist or a personal trainer or child life expert! Not many people are so we all need help. LTAD makes is “easier” for me to have a look to see if my kids are on the right path. Not because I want them to go to the Olympics, but because I want them to be confident in sports and physical activity – not only growing up but for the rest of their lives.
Being physically literate means that kids should be able to be “move with poise, confidence, competence and creativity in different physical environments (on the ground, both indoor and outdoor; in the air; in and on water; on snow and ice).” Running, jumping, catching, kicking, throwing, swinging and hitting are the basic fundamental sport skills. They allow children to play several sports with ease. Missing out on them can lead to a lifelong disconnect from recreation and sport.
There are different levels of each physical skill – from learning specific physical movements to mastering them. Only then can they make the shift from knowing how to do a physical skill to knowing how to do a “sport skill”. For example: learning to throw a softball using a pitching motion and aiming over home plate.
CS4L and LTAD have identified 13 fundamental movement skills that all kids should know how to do. They are categorized into locomotor/body skills, sending skills and receiving skills.
- Locomotor and Body Skills: Walking, running, balance, skating/skiing, jumping, swimming, cycling and skipping.
- Sending Skills: Throwing, kicking, striking
- Receiving Skills: Catching, trapping
Children need to develop fundamental movement skills in a wide range of environments. As a parent you should question not only yourself but daycare providers, schools and sport organizations to make sure your children’s needs are met – including if they are physically active at least 30 minutes per day (toddlers) and 60 minutes per day (pre-schoolers). Do they play with a wide range of materials – balls (various types and sizes), beanbags, hoops etc… and are there places to climb, room to run and jump, places to throw and kick balls?
If you would like to find out more about the Long Term Athlete Development, please go to their website where I have sourced my information – http://canadiansportforlife.ca. It includes all of the information above as well as all of the stages and great information for parents, teachers, coaches, caregivers and anyone interested in sport and healthy living!