Long-Term Participant/Athlete Development (LTPD)

Pathway 2

As parents we recognise that sport and physical activity play an important role in the healthy physiological and psychological growth and development of our children. Unfortunately over the past number of years there has been a decline in physical activity in South Africa resulting in an increased risk for diseases such as diabetes and obesity and our international performances have not matched the potential of our population.

If we want to inspire and encourage our children to have life-long participation in sport and physical activity as well as to provide the opportunity for those with potential to compete and achieve excellence at the highest levels, we need to build our sports programme around principles that respect the developmental needs of all our children.

The Long-Term Participant Development (LTPD) programme provides a framework that:

· Is based on the distinct stages of physical, emotional, mental and cognitive development that boys and girls naturally go through

· Recognises the need for on-going skills development and mastery

· Promotes an active and healthy lifestyle

· Provides a pathway from participant to high performance

· Integrates all stakeholders involved in the sports system

· Addresses the needs of able-bodied athletes as well as those with a disability

· Addresses both early and late developers

In this and subsequent articles we will help you understand LTPD, the need for it, the needs of young athletes, the LTPD pathway and definitions and how you as parents can get involved in positively affecting your child’s experience of sport.

What is LTPD?

The 2 main bodies responsible for South African sport, namely Sport and Recreation South Africa (SRSA) and the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) have embraced the philosophy of LTPD and South African Sport for Life (SAS4L) with a view to achieving their aim of developing, “An Active and Winning Nation.”

SAS4L Diagram

The generic, conceptual LTPD framework for athlete development in sport was developed in Canada by Dr Istvan Balyi, an internationally recognised coach educator and is based upon a consensus of evidenced research about how young people develop sporting ability. The fundamental principles are nothing new and the majority of the research on which it is based has been accepted for many years. It is the “packaging” of all the information into a cohesive, integrated understandable model that provides a holistic approach to sports development that sets it apart. Many sporting organisations in a number of nations have also adopted the model and tailored it to the specific needs of their sport and country.

The fundamental principle of the model is based on the needs of the developing child and is thus “participant centred” so it is important to understand why your child plays sport. Developing Physical Literacy (i.e. competence in fundamental movement skills for sport and physical activity) is a cornerstone to ensuring your child enjoys their sporting experience.

Children have their own reasons for participating in sport, which very often differ from that of their parents and coaches. When asked why they play sport, research showed the following children’s motives for participating:

· To have fun

· Improve and learn new skills

· Excitement and challenge of competition

· Do something they are good at

· Stay in shape and exercise

· To experience thrills

· To feel good about themselves

· To feel accepted

· Social aspirations – friends and team

Children are more likely to continue in an activity when they are satisfying their own motives and have the support of their parents so it is important that you talk to your child before involving them in a sporting activity. Problems arise when the motives of the child and parent are at odds with one another, particularly when parents:

· Place too much emphasis on winning

· Push their children to specialise in one sport too early

· Live their own dreams through their children

The ideal situation is for your child to derive intrinsic reward for participating in an activity, i.e. FUN. When the emphasis shifts to external rewards from parents/coaches or being pushed to participate, children are less likely to enjoy and continue with the sport and this increases the chances of burnout and dropout.

The diagram below illustrates how children respond to their parents’ level of involvement in their sport or activity. Inactive or hyperactive parents decrease their children’s enthusiasm. The optimal zone of parent involvement occurs when parents are reactive, active and proactive in their child’s sport.

Children's Satisfaction with Parental involvement

From a sports system perspective there are a number of shortcomings that have been identified in sports development around the world. These shortcomings include:

· Young developmental athletes over-compete and under-train.

· Adult training and competition programs are imposed on developing athletes.

· Training methods and competition programs designed for male athletes are imposed on female athletes.

· Preparation is geared to the short-term outcome — winning — and not to the process.

· Chronological rather than developmental age is used in training and competition planning.

· Coaches largely neglect the sensitive periods of accelerated adaptation to training, i.e. between ages 8 and 16.

· Fundamental movement skills and sport skills are not taught properly.

· Parents are not educated about LTPD.

· Coach education only covers the basic issues of growth, development and maturation

· Developmental training needs of athletes with a disability are not well understood.

· In most sports, the competition system interferes with athlete development.

· There is no talent identification (TID) system.

· There is no integration between physical education programs in the schools, recreational community programs, and elite competitive programs.

· There is a rivalry between sports to compete for young people’s time and thus sports encourage early specialisation in an attempt to attract and retain participants.

· Lack of integration of sports science, sport medicine and sport-specific technical/tactical activities

The results of these shortcomings are:

· Failure to reach optimal performance levels in international competitions.

· Poor movement abilities.

· Lack of proper fitness.

· Poor skill development.

· Bad habits developed from over-competition focused on winning.

· Undeveloped and unrefined skills due to under-training.

· Female athlete potential not reached due to inappropriate programs.

· Children not having fun as they play adult-based programs.

· No systematic development of the next generation of successful international athletes.

· Athletes pulled in different directions by school, club, and provincial teams because of the structure of competition programs.

· Remedial programs, implemented by provincial and national team coaches, to counteract the shortcomings of athlete preparation.

· Fluctuating national performance due to lack of talent identification and a developmental pathway.

· Athletes failing to reach their genetic potential and optimal performance level.

The holistic LTPD framework has attempted to address many of these short comings as you will see in our next LTPD article which will address:

· The 10 key factors influencing athlete development, and

· The 10 S’s of training

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  1. Posted August 2, 2011 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Hi Mary Ann.
    This is an excellent synopsis of the huge subject we are all looking at!
    Could I add this to my website please, with reference and links to your site!

    Kind regards,


  2. Posted August 3, 2011 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    ooh wow this is exactly what we have been working on as a Gymnastics federations the LTAD, LTPD and all the Parents one etc good staff from the Canadian Model by Dr Baliy

  3. Elsabe Odendal
    Posted July 10, 2014 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Hi Mary Ann
    It would be great to meet with you. I am the Sport Director at St Cyprian’s School, Cape Town and we have implemented an adopted version of the LTAD model as part of a turn-around sports strategy. Are you interested in sharing your knowledge with me – I noticed that this synopsis was published in 2011 – quite some time back? Elsabe

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