Long-term Athlete Development

Scientific research has identified that it takes at least 10 years, or 10,000 hours for talented athletes to achieve sporting excellence. There are no short cuts!

There are two ways in which young swimmers can improve their performance:

  • Training;
  • Growth and development.

Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) is about achieving optimal training, competition and recovery throughout an athlete's career, particularly in relation to the important growth and development years of young people. If a long term approach to training is not adopted there is likely to be a plateau in performance, when growth and development slows significantly. Which for some swimmers may result in their performances getting worse. At this point the short-term training approach cannot be reversed. This often leads to drop out before a swimmer has achieved close to their potential.

Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) is a sports development framework that is based on human growth and development. In short, it is about adopting an athlete centred approach to swimming development.

All young people follow the same pattern of growth from infancy through adolescence, but there are significant individual differences in both the timing and magnitude of the changes that take place. It is however important to stress that human growth and development happens without training, however swimming training can enhance all of the changes that take place.

A number of scientists have reported that there are critical periods in the life of a young person in which the effects of training can be maximised. This has led to the notion that young people should be exposed to specific types of training during periods of rapid growth and that the types of training should change with the patterns of growth. These have been used by Dr Istvan Balyi to devise a five stage LTAD framework that has been be adapted to swimming:

  • FUNdamental - basic movement literacy;
  • SwimSkills - building technique;
  • Training to Train - building the engine;
  • Training to Compete - optimising the engine;
  • Training to Win - maximising the engine.

For more information on Long Term Athlete Development:

  • A shorter guide to Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD). To access click here
  • Succees is Long Term (2010 edition): Long Term Athlete Development related to the journey through swimming. To access click here .

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