Long-term Athlete Development

Long-term athlete development (LTAD) is an athlete progression model from playground to podium, cradle to grave, and the pursuit of excellence and an active lifestyle.  It is athlete centered, coach driven, and administration, sport science, and sponsor supported.  LTAD was developed by a group of Canadian sport scientists, and was adopted by Sport Canada in 2005.  All recognized Olympic sports, water polo for example, were asked to create its own sport-specific LTAD model based on the Canadian Sport for Life Document.  LTAD is based on the premise of continuous improvement – the Kaizen approach.  LTAD is a road map to long-term sustainability for water polo in Canada, and not only a player pathway model.  LTAD identifies an organization’s shortcomings, and attempts to correct the inefficiencies within an organization’s culture.

LTAD is based on scientific research and the art of the coach.  LTAD differentiates between chronological and developmental age.  LTAD highlights sensitive periods of accelerated adaptation to training skill, strength, stamina, speed, and suppleness (flexibility).  This is attained through nationally coordinated planning and periodization given the developmental age, and level of competitiveness, of the athlete.  LTAD incorporates the physical, mental and cognitive, and emotional development characteristics of an athlete and the implications for their coaches.

LTAD attempts to integrate and align all sport systems – community, elementary and secondary schools, clubs, university level, and high performance levels (National and Provincial Teams).  For this reason, there is an ever increasing importance placed on the development of physical literacy (0-12 years old) and late sport specialization and position specific training for water polo.



 

Men

Women

Stream  of Competition

Philosophy

Primary Objective

Active Start

0-6

0-6

N/A

Getting Wet

Learn fundamental movements and link them together in play

I Love Water Polo
FUNdamentals

6-9

6-8

Physical Literacy

Fun

Learn fundamental movement skills and build overall motor skills

I Love Water Polo
Technical Foundations

9-12

8-11

Physical Literacy

Lay the Foundations

Learn overall sport skills

Competitive Foundations

12-16

11-15

Active for Life

Competition

Excellence

Build the Competitive Base

Build an aerobic base, develop speed and strength, and further develop and consolidate sports skills

Training to Compete

16-
19 +/-

15-
18 +/-

Active for Life

Competition

Excellence

Competition

Optimize the engine and learn to compete

Training to Perform

19-
25 +/-

18-
23 +/-

Competition

Excellence

Road to 
Excellence

Own the podium

Living to Win

25+
(20+)

23+
(20+)

Excellence

Excellence

Gold Medal Performances

Active for Life

Enter at any age

Enter at any age

Active for Life

Polo for Life

A smooth transition from an athlete’s competitive career to lifelong physical activity and participation in water polo


To download and view the complete water polo LTAD summary framework matrix as well as many other LTAD resource materials please visit www.waterpolo.ca/ltadresources.aspx.



What is Physical Literacy (PL)?

PL is the combination of developing fundamental movement and fundamental sport skills.  Fundamental movement skills are important movements that form the base for all other sports.  For example, how many sports involve running, throwing, and catching?  For this reason, those skills are fundamental movement skills and must be developed prior to the age of 12, and before athletes learn their fundamental sports skills – treading water, head up front crawl, ball skills, etc. 

PL refers to competency in movement and sports skills.  Fundamental movements and sport skills should be developed through fun and games, and before the onset of adolescent growth.  PL also includes the ability to “read” what is going on around them in an activity setting and react appropriately to those events.  The myth that it “just happens”, that children do develop good physical skills on their own by trail-and-error is not true; there are many who do not, and for those the consequences can be severe. 

It is important to understand that all adult parties surrounding the child take part in developing the child’s basic movement skills.  Water polo programs targeted at this age group – I Love Water Polo
for example – should focus on cross-training and not solely water polo specific training.  Finally, it has been proven that being physically active later in life depends on feeling confident in an activity setting – and that confidence as an adult – comes from having learned fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills as a child.