How Youth Sport Got Me To Where I Am Today
KidSport Blog Post #6
The Long-Term Athlete Development model is a multi-staged framework designed by Sport Canada, that promotes life-long engagement in sport and activity. The LTAD is split into 7 different stages, and progresses from a broad sporting/activity experience into a more narrow scope.
My life has closely followed the LTAD framework, and so I have experienced the numerous benefits it lays out; including positive childhood experiences with sport, and now life-long engagement and enjoyment of my favourite sports. Today’s blog post is about my own sport/activity journey through the LTAD stages, so you can learn the benefits of LTAD by reading my experience!
Sport and activity is an integral factor in a child’s development. In fact, it is so important that KidSport believes that ALL kids should have access to it. As a kid, I had the opportunity to try many different sports and activities. I was one of the lucky few that had the opportunities to test out new sports until I decided upon my favourites.
My sports and activity journey started out very broad and as I got older, the sports I was playing narrowed down into just one. This notion of starting broad as a young kid and then specializing in one sport as a late-teen/early-adult draws parallels to the Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model.
Active Start (0-6-years-old)
As a young kid, I was not involved in much organized sport. At this stage, my parents helped me focus on the basics: running, jumping, and throwing. We played lots of games inside and outside, spent the winters skiing and skating, and the summers biking and swimming. The only organized sport that I was involved with at this stage was soccer. These sports and fun activities were ones that helped learn the basic physical literacy skills that I would need as I progressed through my childhood.
At the FUNdamentals stage, I began to participate in as many sports as I could. My parents put me in lots of sports to let me see what I enjoyed the most. For me, I played soccer and baseball, participated in gymnastics, and spent a lot of time biking and skiing. Sports like these helped to build my core motor skills--which is something that I would need as I got older.
At this age, I was also given the chance to have a lot of unstructured play time. This included things like building tree forts, exploring the forest, and playing capture the flag with my childhood friends.
From 6-9-years-old, my parents wanted to make sure that I did not specialize in a specific sport or activity. According to the LTAD, at this age it is more important kids try a wide variety of different sports to see what they are truly interested in rather than having them only play one sport. The reason my parents didn’t want me to specialize too young was because they thought I could get burnt out, injured, or even drop out of sport altogether.
Learning to Train (10-12-years-old)
In this stage, I still played baseball, and skied quite a bit. The baseball team that I was a part of was not a highly competitive one, which is something that my parents were sure to know before they enrolled me in the sport. At this age, the LTAD recommends that kids should not be in highly competitive sports quite yet. In fact, this is the stage where critical motor skills develop, so the focus should be on getting those skills as refined as possible, rather than focusing on winning against other teams.
Train to Train (13-16-years-old)
At this age, competitive sport is recommended to be introduced. Another key aspect of the Train to Train stage is that learning to play with teammates is important. At this age, I had gained enough autonomy with my parents that I was allowed to choose what sports I wanted to do.
For me, I chose to start playing team handball in school. The team aspect was an important one as I learned to interact with others. I also learned that sometimes things wouldn’t go my way on the playing field. It was important to learn how to be part of a team because it aided me in not only sports, but also everyday life (i.e., school, work, family interactions, etc.).
At this age, I had also started to focus on track and field. I began to compete track and field in junior high, but didn’t take it very seriously until I entered high school.
It was still important to me that I did not completely specialize at this point in my life. That is why I was still doing two sports. For me, being a multisport athlete was helpful in creating a break from one sport when I was getting tired of it. It was also a way to ensure that I did not get overuse injuries that are common in single-sport specialization.
Train to Compete (17-23-years-old)
In the Train to Compete stage, I began to get more involved in only track and field. My parents had recognized my drive and passion for track, and subsequently helped me find and join a club. At this club, I began to lift weights, and even had a personal trainer to help aid in my success towards the goals I wanted to achieve.
I wanted to be able to do well enough in competitions to be recognized by the U of A track team in hopes to become a varsity athlete once I got to university. With my hard work and determination, I was able to successfully secure a spot on the U of A team!
Train to Win (19+ years-old)
In this penultimate stage, I competed as a Varsity Track and Field athlete for the U of A. Here is where I trained for high-level competition in the hopes to win and be successful. At this stage, I trained 5 days a week for up to 3-4 hours at a time. This stage involved lifting weights, and a lot of technique work to refine my skills.This stage also involved a lot of travel and competitions. My life at this stage revolved around doing well in competitions and I could not focus on other sports at this time.
Active for Life
As of early March this year, I am now at the Active for Life stage. Now that my varsity career is over, it is time for me to be physically active through different sports/activities again. As for what sports I want to do now, the options are endless. I am excited to be in this stage because I know that taking the LTAD path throughout my childhood and teen years has set me up for success in developing me into a long-term athlete. And, as the stage states, I know that I have the skill set to be active for the rest of my life.
It is interesting to, in a way, come full circle in the LTAD model. From doing many sports and activities, to focusing on just one, to being active through many different types of sports once again; it has been an amazing journey that I have been on.
I am so thankful that I did not stray too far from what is set out in the LTAD model. For example, I am glad my parents never pushed me to be specialized in one sport as a young child. I am happy the way my sporting experience carried out through my childhood, adolescence, and now early adult years. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
If you would like to learn more about LTAD, you can read up on the model in this downloadable pdf (LTAD-2.1-EN_web), and speak to your child and their healthcare provider about what sports and activities are appropriate for your child's interests, abilities, and LTAD stage.