The Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model is a framework that matches training needs to a child's growth and development. The 6 stages of development are:

  1. FUNdamentals
  2. Learning to Train
  3. Training to Train
  4. Training To Compete
  5. Training to Win
  6. Keep Tri-ing
  • Before examining the LTAD model, it is worth considering some additional factors when planning a coaching session for children:
  • Make sure the activities are suitable for their age, physical development and ability.
  • Modify the game or activity to fit the needs and abilities of the children – fit the activity to the children, not the children to the activity!
  • Make sure there are frequent breaks so the children can have a rest and a drink – especially during hot weather.
  • Vary the activities and keep each one short – children get bored easily and do not concentrate well for very long periods of time on one activity.
  • Teach the children what they need and enjoy, as opposed to what you want them to learn.
  • Constantly observe their welfare and the group dynamics.
  • Structure the session to ensure everyone has an opportunity for success.

FUNdamentals

Age:

  • Boys 6-9 yrs.
  • Girls 6-9 yrs.

This phase is a preparation phase for lifelong involvement in sport. It is during this phase that a young person develops their physical literacy skills, not necessarily participating competitively, in a wide variety of sports. During this phase, a child will experience rapid growth, due to the development of the large muscle groups. For this reason, this phase should focus on gross, as opposed to fine, motor skills. All skills during this phase should be presented and developed in a fun, non-competitive environment.

Implications for coaching

A coach may need to take the following points into account:

  • Session focus – Develop all FUNdamental movement skills and build overall motor skills. Also introduce basic flexibility exercises.
  • Conditioning – Employ own body strength exercises.
  • Training: competition ratio – Ensure that all training is well structured and monitored, and remains non-competitive.
  • Involvement – Encourage participation in a wide range of sports, participating 5–6 times per week. Sessions should last no more than 40 minutes.
  • Tactical – Simply introduce the ethics of the sport.

Learning to Train

Age:

  • Boys 9-12 yrs.
  • Girls 8-11 yrs.

During this phase, the nervous system is almost fully developed; this causes rapid improvements in coordination and movement skills. This is therefore, the major skill-learning phase of the model. All basic sport skills need to be learned before entering the next phase. For this reason, it is important for the coach to understand a participant's level of maturation and development and not just identify it on the basis of their chronological age. During this major skill-learning phase, training should focus on quality technique/ skill sessions.

Implications for Coaching

A coach may need to take the following points into account:

  • Session focus – Develop specific triathlon skills (e.g. front-crawl technique, bike cornering and transition procedures).
  • Conditioning – Employ strength training through using own body weight and Swiss balls.
  • Training: competition ratio – Keep the ratio at roughly 70:30; training should focus on development, as opposed to winning. Single or double periodisation.
  • Involvement – Narrow down the range of sports to three – athletes should be focusing on swimming, cycling and running – while still giving the individual a variety of activities to maintain focus. Train no more than six sessions per week.
  • Tactical – Teach basic ancillary skills: warm-up, cool-down, recovery, and hydration.

Training to Train

Age:

  • Boys 12-16 yrs.
  • Girls 11-15 yrs.

Throughout this phase, a participant develops their speed, strength and aerobic ability. Their level of maturation is important during this phase, as this determines their ability to work aerobically. A coach should ensure that the training is suitable for each individual and therefore, should not group athletes by age, but by ability. Coaches also need to be aware of other factors, including academic and social commitments (exams, friends and family). Children are eligible to undertake trials for the World Class Programmes from 14 years of age onwards, for both males and females.

Implications for Coaching

A coach may need to take the following points into account:

  • Session focus – Develop endurance, speed and strength in all three disciplines. Flexibility is very important, due to the sudden growth of bones,
  • tendons, ligaments and muscles.
  • Conditioning – Introduce free weights: low-intensity and high-volume training.
  • Training: competition ratio – Adjust the ratio to 60:40. This 40% includes competitive training environments (time trials). Athletes should compete to win, but the main focus should remain on development.
  • Involvement – Schedule 6–9 training sessions per week of triathlon-specific work.
  • Tactical – Introduce elements

Training to Compete

During this phase, a participant will be provided with a specifically designed programme. They will now have the ability to develop strength, and so a high- intensity training programme should be devised. It is at this stage that an individual should decide whether they will go on to be an elite performer or a competitive age-grouper.

Implications for Coaching

A coach may need to take the following points into account:

  • Session focus – Develop strength and tactics.
  • Conditioning – Employ high-intensity work, using free weights, if required.
  • Training: competition ratio – Adjust ratio to 50:50 and provide varied competition environments during training. Athletes should be striving to win at
  • carefully selected races.
  • Involvement – Train 9–12 times per week.
  • Tactical – Employ position-specific physical conditioning and introduce advanced mental preparation.

Training to Win

This phase is designed to develop a podium performance athlete. The attention is on maximising fitness and tapering for specific events. At this point, the coach should understand all the lifestyle issues that have an effect on the athlete and should ensure that the training expected is realistically achievable. Due to the high intensity of the training, the athlete should be given frequent breaks to prevent burnout.

Implications for Coaching

A coach may need to take the following points into account:

  • Session focus – Tailor training to events (e.g. position-specific training).
  • Conditioning – Employ high-intensity and high-volume workloads.
  • Training: competition ratio – Adjust the ratio to 25:75; the 75% also includes competition-specific training, during which a coach should attempt to
  • model as many different competition aspects as possible.
  • Involvement – Train 9–15 times per week.
  • Tactical – Develop advanced tactical awareness: when to taper and peak, competition routines, recovery, hydration.

Keep Tri-ing

This phase can be a part of any athlete's career, young or old, experienced or novice. It is a transitional period into lifelong involvement in sport. This can happen in a variety of ways:

  • A performer may move from one sport to another (e.g. A triathlete becomes a long-distance runner).
  • A performer may move from one aspect of sport to another (e.g. from Olympic distance to long distance).
  • A performer may move from competition to recreation (e.g. from Olympic events to local events).
  • A performer may move from being an athlete to having a career in sport (e.g. coaching, officiating).
  • To ensure that this phase occurs, the athlete needs to have had a positive experience in triathlon, both socially and competitively.
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