by Rick Howard, DSc, CSCS,*D, RSCC*E, FNSCA
NSCA Coach July 2022
Vol 9, Issue 1
Long-term athletic development (LTAD) was created as a framework for maximizing athletic performance through each stage of development, from “the playground to the podium” (1). Much of the attention of early models of LTAD focused on elements of training that positively influenced preparation for sporting excellence (2,5). As the models evolved, greater attention was directed toward the developmental pathway and the balance between sporting excellence and lifelong participation in physical activity (1,26). The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) published a position statement on LTAD, which expanded the framework to include the essentials of strength and conditioning along the developmental continuum (19). The developmental continuum tracks key indicators of the pathway that youth follow throughout childhood and adolescence (13). It is a continuum because children and adolescents do not pass through each phase at the same rate nor at the same time (Pillar 1 states that growth and development are non-linear) (19). Several factors such as age periods (early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, and adulthood), maturational status (years before puberty, onset of puberty, and years after puberty), and training adaptations (neural and combination of neural and hormonal) are taken together to enable strength and conditioning coaches to create appropriate age and developmental stage strength and conditioning programs (14).
The NSCA LTAD framework informs strength and conditioning coaches, sport coaches, parents, and athletes of the key concepts in strength and conditioning that provide positive experiences for children and adolescents in physical activity. To summarize these important concepts within the position statement, 10 pillars were established to address growth and development, testing and measurement, the importance of developing motor skills and muscle strength, and a focus on the health and wellbeing of the child throughout the LTAD framework. The 10 pillars were later organized into three broad categories (programs, practitioners, and participants) (Figure 1) (27). Each of the articles in this three part-series feature one of the broad categories and explain how the strength and conditioning coach can implement LTAD into strength and conditioning programs for youth athletes at all levels of ability, skill, and maturity.
This article originally appeared in NSCA Coach, a quarterly publication for NSCA Members that provides valuable takeaways for every level of strength and conditioning coach. You can find scientifically based articles specific to a wide variety of your athletes’ needs with Nutrition, Programming, and Youth columns. Read more articles from NSCA Coach »
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