...or early intervention and control?
This past weekend I had the privilege of attending a workshop on youth sport development titled: "Travel Teams, Athlete Swag and Trinkets: How well are we developing younger athletes?" Much of the information presented in the workshop pertained to the Canadian Sport 4 Life movement and Long Term Athlete Development model. For those of you unfamiliar with the LTAD model, I encourage you to check it out.
I was first introduced to the LTAD model through my work with the Ontario Lacrosse Association and FITS Toronto. At the time, I was very impressed with the direction our provincial and national sport organizations were taking to improve the development of our young athletes. With a focus on the development of physical literacy, the encouragement of fun, and a relatively negative attitude toward early specialization and competition, it seemed reasonable to think that this model could be at the forefront of the development of young athletes worldwide.
However, with a little bit of research, I have discovered that perhaps, this may be more so an exercise in early intervention and control. I will be upfront and state that I do like the framework and forward thinking. I am impressed that the ultimate objective is long term physical activity. I am impressed with the foundation of FUN.
That said, I do think this model at its current state may subject itself to misinterpretation. Here are my reasons why:
As I mentioned above, I like this framework and I like its objectives. The process to get there however, may not be ideal. One of my former teaching assistants at the University of Toronto had this to say about the LTAD:
"When I first read the LTAD, I thought it was a great resource, and I think that's still how it's generally received by people. To be sure, there are several excellent aspects to the LTAD, but there are also a few things, presented as fact, that simply don't stand up to any sort of critical investigation. Falling squarely in the latter category is the concept of "Windows of Trainability".
The truth is: if you were to read the references cited in any version of the LTAD, you would not find one single peer-reviewed paper which provides evidence for these "Windows". I'll repeat that: None of the articles cited in any version of the LTAD, past or present, provides empirical support for the concept of Windows of Trainability. To be honest, there is one article you might not be able to read because I've been unable to find an english translation (Harsanyi, L.”A 10-18 eves atletak felkeszitesenek modellje.” Budapest: Utanpotlas-neveles, No.10, 1983.), but aside from that one exception, you could read every book and article and not find a shred of evidence.
So where does this leave the concept of "Windows of Trainability"? To date, I have not seen one peer-reviewed study demonstrating an accelerated or enhanced adaptation to training (speed, stamina, power, strength) amongst males or females during one of the so-called "Windows of Trainability". Even the references in the LTAD which are intended to support the concept fail to provide any proof.
If there are studies out there which actually support the concept, I'd love to see them. I'm not against the idea if it can actually be demonstrated to exist, but I do take issue with continuing to push an idea when all of the available evidence is against it. Presenting this concept as fact to coaches, parents, athletes and administrators does not serve the development of athletes."
For the full post, click here.
So if you are also truly passionate about the "development" of young athletes, then I highly suggest that you look into the LTAD a little bit deeper and hopefully come up with your own evidence-informed opinion.