Long Term Athlete Development (L.T.A.D.)

A misconception in regards to becoming a champion is that all you have to do is keep practicing your sport and you will get there. This rarely happens.

The secret to success is that you have to be fit to play, not play to get fit.

This means that you have to look at your body as a piece of equipment, just as your bike, your tennis racket and your running shoes are your equipment. You will clean your bike, re-string your racket, get the best shoes to ensure it is in top working order.

Is your body in top working order? How do you know if it is? The way to find out is to book in for a Sports Assessment, where I can check that all your body bits are in working order and most importantly give you advise on how to follow the L.T.A.D. model.

How often do we hear: “Oh, he was so talented!”, “Number 1 in the world at 15!” and then nothing. They vanish from the junior circuit and never make it to Elite.

You can train a child to be faster, better than its peers, but if not managed correctly it can come at a cost, because if you are training a 12 year old child who should be in the “Training to Train” stage, in the “Training to compete stage” – and the child is not ready or at the correct fitness level, wrong movement patterns are being taught, which may short term seem to be an advantage, but will long term prevent the child excelling.


If you wish to push a child to its limit, you have to ensure that you’ve got the medical science behind you and the practical knowledge of a sports physiotherapist, who can assess the effect of training on the growing child. (I’m not saying this because I am a physio – it is imperative!)

You will not even know it, but they will compensate, because their body doesn’t say – “Hey! Wait! My core stability muscles cannot keep up with the excessive training… or the over development of thigh muscles, which can adversely affects the alignment of the back… – the body finds a way – and the child’s brain learns wrong patterns of movement, which becomes detrimental for future development. You have now lost a potential Olympic champion.


There is a fine balance between athletic development and technical acquisition. If this balance is off – you are playing with fire. You are playing with dreams and aspirations. DON’T.




Dr. Istvan Balyi designed the now scientifically validated L.T.A.D. Model.

It is meant as a reference point to help prepare the young sports person for and enable them to reach elite level within their chosen sport.

He states that for an Athlete to reach their optimal potential, the athlete (by athlete is meant any sporting person) needs to build up a repertoire of specific physical skills and physiological attributes from a very early age.

There are 5 L.T.A.D. stages:


  • FUNdamentals
Males: 6-10 years old            Females: 6-10 years old

Fundamental movements’ skills such as running, jumping, throwing, catching and hopping need to be taught and mastered before sports specific skills are introduced. The fundamental skills are the foundation required to master the sports specific skills.

It has been documented (Balyi and Hamilton, 1995;Rushall, 1998, Viru et al, 1998), that from the age of 9 to 12 children has an increased capacity for acquiring the fundamental motor skills and it is imperative that children achieve these movement skills as it is almost impossible to acquire them at a later stage.

The fundamental skills should be taught via “play” i.e. in a fun and varied athletic environment. This is why during the ages from 6 to 10 years old.

Children are encouraged to participate in different sports to ensure an all-round athleticism and general athletic ability.


  • Training to Train
Males: 10-14 years old          Females: 10-13 years old

Training to train continues to build on the basic movement skills. However, the children should now be introduced to the concept of training i.e. how to warm-up and cool-down, stretching and the importance of hydration and nutrition. They should be taught the basic technical and tactical skills of their chosen sports (note at this stage specialization is still not recommended in majority of sports) and gain basic experience in mental preparation. Pre-competition routines as well as post-competition management should be introduced.

It is important for the correct development of the child’s sporting ability that there is a correct balance between training and competing.

The ratio should be 75% training, 25% competing.

Too much focus on winning and competing takes emphasis away from important skills training, but then again not enough competition makes the child ill prepared for the mental and physical challenges needed when competing.

Getting this stage wrong has been found to have fatal consequences for sporting achievements in later life.

The child who forfeits athletic development for too much competing and specialization training will find that they peak in the Train to Compete stage, but are unable to excel into training to win.



  • Train to Compete
Males: 15-18 years old          Females: 14-17 years old

It is important that this stage is not entered until the goals and objectives of the training to train stage have been achieved.

This is because the adolescence will be unable to take on board the physical requirements of this stage if they are athletically underdeveloped. They will start getting injuries and stagnate in the technical ability.

The demands on the adolescence become specific in the form of excelling within their chosen sport.

The ratio between competition and training should now be a 50/50 ratio.

50% should be spent competing and competition specific related training, where the other 50% should be focusing on improving the technical and tactical skills of the chosen sport as well as improve athletic fitness and ability.

This is the stage where training becomes sports specific and during training sessions, competition drills are included. The adolescence should be expected to adhere to training programs which are specifically designed for him/her, as well as use appropriate recovery programs, sports psychology and technical skills exercises.



  • Training to Win
      Males: 18+                              Females: 17+

This is the final stage of athletic training, where the athlete has achieved the optimal foundation for competing professionally.

The ratio between training and competitions/ competition related training is now 25% versus 75%.

Focus is on maintaining the physical athletic ability acquired over the last 10 years and being mentally, technically and tactically able to compete at the highest level.

It is now more a matter of managing competition, training and recovery periods to ensure that the athlete can peak at the right time and win. (micro and macro cycle of training)

Retirement                 Giving back

This stage is when the athlete has stopped competing and is looking to still being involved in sport. This often takes form of coaching, working in sport management and media.



If you can achieve this optimal development then you will have optimal performance i.e. you will become the best you can be.

So no one becomes a top professional sports person overnight. It takes approximately 10.000 hours of correct training or  approximately 10 years for an athlete to reach their optimal potential. This would on average mean about 3 hours of practice a day.

Furthermore to ensure this correct training can happen, one has to take advantage of specific favorable times to train various different components of fitness and skill. If these are missed it is very difficult to catch up, and will likely require the help of a specialist in sports rehabilitation, who can then guide you through missing components of physical ability and imbalances.

The L.T.A.D. model provides a clear, systematic pathway for developing physical, technical, tactical and mental skills, which will give you the best possible chance of becoming the best you can be.


The L.T.A.D. model is based on an athlete centered, coach led, sports science and admin assisted approach. Having the advice and guidance from professionals who know and have experience in the L.T.A.D. model, ensures that YOU are not over trained, under trained or wrongly advised, but are guided securely through a scientifically proven path to excellence.


From a developmental perspective sports are divided into “early specialization sports” and “late specialization sports”.

Early specialization sports

are sports such as table tennis, diving, synchronized swimming and gymnastics. These sports do not include the Fundamental stage, but commence with the Training to Train stage.

Late specialization sports

include among others all team sports, biking and athletics. The emphasis on training is therefore more generalized with the focus on building an all-round athlete.

Research (Harsanyi, 1995) state that specializing too early in late specialization sports increases the chance of early burnout and dropout.

 Details on how to book a sports assessment Click here