Saturday, December 10, 2011

An article I wrote defending LTAD/LTPD

I wrote this article in response to an article published in the Welland Tribune on October 27.

This is my submission in it's entirety.  The Tribune edited it to fit their space and kept the general meaning, but they did remove some parts.

Brian Lilley’s article of October 28 was a weak attempt to convey the general philosophy being adapted by many sport federations in Canada.

He is criticizing the patience being preached by the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) framework developed by Sport Canada.  This framework is a compilation of the best program points from around the world as well as extensive consultations, and it’s final version is being integrated into programs of other countries.  Lilley criticizes the need for higher training:game ratio.   This is the biggest difference between North American sports and the rest of the world.

LTAD in it’s generic form is broken down into seven stages addressing the elite and recreational streams for athletes.  Canadian Soccer, Hockey Canada, Baseball Canada and Canada Basketball have adopted this framework and tailored it to their respective sports.  In total, 56 national sport organizations have already adopted LTAD.

The environment presented at various LTAD stages fall in line with the physical/mental development stages of the athlete.  At every stage, coaches and organizers will know more about the athlete they are dealing with and what types of programs will benefit them the most.

Patience and methodology are being preached but also systematically implemented by the environments set up at each stage.  A refreshing byproduct of toning down the value of standings early on will be the inevitable decrease in the effect of any politics that happens at local club levels.  Less standings does not mean the elimination of competition.

Games will still be played.  Young players will still want to score goals, defend and make the nice plays. It’s the structure up to age 12 that is being targeted.

There are some basic problems that need to be addressed  for the younger age groups: poor environments for development, lack of mastery of fundamentals, lack of proper coaching information  and adult competitive values imposed on young athletes, to name a few.

Lilley and many others argue that things are OK the way they are in sports.  That’s an interesting attitude seeing that we are not consistently competitive in all but one sport.  The public outcry when we fail at Olympic games is deafening.  The lack of federal funding and proper programming gives journalists their collective topic of the day.  He plays the trite line of people who are afraid of change “when I was a kid ...”.  Well, when we were kids hockey players did not wear face masks, wet soccer balls weighted 10 pounds and 8-year-old basketball players shot at 10ft baskets.  It’s time to move forward.

His main argument is that there is too much interference in the new framework.  If you read it closely and think about what it’s saying, it’s actually reducing the interference and elements that impede development.

Ask your child’s coach if they wished for  one more training session per week to be able to address specific problems and improve on individual techniques.  Ask your organization if they feel they would retain more coaches if the environment was set up for more success for players and coaches alike.

Think of the environment up to age 12.  Lopsided house league drafts.  Shortening the bench.  Arguments with officials.  Players statistics.  Not enough training.  Poor coaching.  Inefficient use of facilities.  The big trophy.  Parental influence.  Driving 90 minutes to and from a game on a school night.  Recruiting by inferior coaches.  Smaller October/November/December children left behind at age 7.  All these factors impede true system-wide development of players and coaches.  Wonderful moments happen in sports every day , and would still happen with or without the craziness our younger athletes are exposed to.

If you were ever involved in travel sports, ask yourself this:  If a travel team for a certain age group was first picked at 12 years old (instead of 8 years old) after all the eligible players had received the same fundamental training by a qualified coach, would the same players still be selected?

If you want to read about development of young athletes and students, check out “The Talent Code” (Daniel Coyle) and “Outliers: The Story of Success” (Malcolm Gladwell).

For more information on LTAD, visit or the website for the national governing body for your favourite sport.