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LTAD model critique

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Ross Tucker

on 19 November 2013

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Transcript of LTAD model critique

An evaluation of Long Term Athlete Development
"distinctive characteristics of exceptional performers are the result of adaptations to extended and intense practice activities that selectively activate dormant genes that are contained within
all healthy individuals’ DNA"
The relative age effect in junior sport
Relative age: A function of physical development
Grade IV player
Jan - Apr birth
Oct - Dec birth
10 yrs, 11 months old on Jan 1
10 yrs, 1 week old on Jan 1
Up to 12 month difference in maturity
Observed as more speed, more strength, better decision-making ability
Difference in sporting ability leading to squad selection
Better coaching
More playing time
Improved competition
The relative age effect sometimes disappears in seniors
Something else explains the normal distribution of elite athletes at senior level
Innate ability? Once the differences in physical development are ironed out, early exposure & time at the top as a junior don’t seem to be that important
Exposure clearly matters
± 10,000h
± 8,000h
± 5,000h
Best experts
Practice makes perfect. On average
“The development of expert performance will be primarily constrained by individuals’ engagement in deliberate practice and the quality of the available training resources” – Ericsson et al 2009
Ericsson et al.2006; Ericsson et al 2009, NYAS
On average...
...to become a Master
3,000 h
11,053 (5538) hours
the eternal grafter
and counting

28% of elite athletes in one study had participated for less than 4 years in their sport – “quick learners” who had played 3 or more sports before settling on the main one
Elite sportsmen rarely do 10,000 hours
Early or late specialization in CGS sports?
- Moesch et al 2011
Study on elite Danish athletes in CGS sports
Quantified training time & age of specialization among "ELITE" and "NEAR-ELITE" athletes
Athletes who go on to become ELITE train LESS than their near-elite peers until early adolescence
At adolescence, a distinct change in training trajectory - near elite falls away, elite continues to rise
Early developers train more because physiology & competitive sport "encourage" it
At adolescence, physical differences are ironed out - late developers catch up, the traits of elite senior athletes emerge
Presentation overview
The what and the why of LTAD
The foundations of LTAD
Testing the foundations
Conflicts in implementation
What and why
From IRFU Long term player development model
The foundations of LTAD
"constructed on the basis that it combines successfully employed training methods alongside a greater scientific basis for children and adolescents" (Ford et al 20011; Balyi & Hamilton 2004)
Physiologically based model
Balance of training load & competition in childhood and adolescence
"If fundamental motor skill training is not developed between the ages of 8-11 and 9- 12 respectively for females and males, a significant window of opportunity has been lost, compromising the ability of the young player/athlete to reach his/her full potential. ... The Learn to Train and Training to Train stages are the most important phases of athletic preparation. During these stages, we make or break an athlete!" - Balyi & Hamilton 2004
Systematic approach to skill acquisition & physiological adaptation
Windows of opportunity
10,000 hours
“The development of expert performance will be primarily constrained by individuals’ engagement in deliberate practice and the quality of the available training resources” – Ericsson et al 2009
12 Febuary 2013
August 2028
Olympic Games
November 2027
February 2026
Six Nations
10 - 13
Where is he today?
By who?
Talent Identification and Development
Process of recognizing
current participants
with the
to excel in a particular sport
Process of providing the most
appropriate learning environment
to realize this potential
From: Durandt et al, 2011
349 U/13 rugby players
Represent their provinces at national competition
What % continue in the pipeline?
1 in 2006
5 in 2007
107 in 2008
Conversion to U/16 level (next 3 yrs)
From: Durandt et al, 2011
Conversion to U/18 level
2 in 2008
36 in 2009
77 in 2010
Net result:
± 1 in 4 conversion
From: Durandt et al, 2011
From: Durandt et al, 2011
Pipelines & pathways
Start age
Peak age
Resource spread
Training stimulus
Flowing through the pipeline
Physiological fate?
Testosterone levels of elite female rowers is 112% higher than non-elite rowers
Participants not currently involved
Vaeyens et al 2008
Cook et al 2012
Physiological determinism
Aerobic capacity
Body size
Muscular strength
Players who played in Craven Week
The importance of physiological attributes, which are
only partly trainable
, makes the delay in talent ID & selection vital
Tactical ability
Given that 10,000 hours is clearly NOT a pre-requisite for sporting success, our pre-occupation on early talent ID & youth training may be unnecessary, and possibly even 'harmful' for long term success
Determines when (& where) resources are allocated
Vaeyens et al 2008
Smaller pool, greater efficiency
Concepts vs formulas and literal interpretation
The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert – in anything…no-one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time - Daniel Levitin, quoted in "Outliers" (Gladwell)
First impressions:
The importance of early exposure

Early engagement hypothesis
Ford et al 2009
Windows of trainability?
Chronological age adjusted for biological age with PHV
Theory is that certain attributes are most responsive within certain windows
Example: Stamina training window co-incides with PHV
Physiology of LTAD
Physical literacy
Evidence of continued improvements in literacy up to age of 11-12
Neurologically - peak brain maturation occurs from 6-8 and 10-12
Research study - 1-year PL intervention in 6-9 yr olds had no effect on PL at the age of 12-15 yrs (Barnett et al 2009)
Proficient kicking, like proficient throwing, may not be achieved through the natural course of childhood development (Gabbard 1992)
Aerobic development
Highly individual as a result of variable anatomical, neurological, mus- cular, metabolic, and hormonal development (Ford et al 2009)
Conflicting research on the age for best aerobic development
Very little research on economy of movement
Three core concerns
Too prescriptive
Particularly in terms of volume of training & focus areas at different ages
Danger: young players who cannot match the training requirements, particularly at early adolescence at early ages are "written off"
Literal interpretation
Windows of opportunity interpreted to mean 'focus periods', often at the expense of other development
No conclusive evidence that they even exist, let alone should be focused on at young age
Excessively long-term
Arising out of the 10,000 hour concept, and by definition, LTAD begins in early childhood (±6 yrs)
Prolongs the "period of responsibility" without evidence that sports-specific focus is even beneficial to the player this young
Drain on resources, and can lead to 'conflict' between different sports/regulatory bodies
Dr Ross Tucker
12 February 2013
It doesn't take 10,000 hours of specific training to become world class in sport
If a player is going to take 10,000 hours, they probably don't have the "intangible" necessary to become world class
The conversion of U/13 to U/18 talent is relatively poor - 76% of U/18 players did not play at U/13 level
The benefit of U/13 competition is questionable
The conflict of competition
Learn to Play stage: 12 - 14 yrs

"At this stage the players’ capacities allow them to learn through exploring. Trying out new approaches, pursuing solutions and new experiences in a controlled environment will facilitate the development of the player"
Train to compete: 18-21 yrs

Players have now committed themselves to rugby as their chief sport and are willing to invest a significant amount of time and energy to become successful.
This is the ‘business end’ of rugby, elite/professional sport is about winning and there’s not much consolation in losing. Analysing & exploiting opponents weaknesses while hiding and protecting your own weaknesses is a main characteristic of this stage
Example of skills requirements in stage 3: Training to train (15-17 yrs)
There is conflict in that the competitive environment seeks & rewards rapid development, whereas LTAD attempts to 'delay' high performance long enough for all players to arrive at the same point simultaneously
LTAD is a sound conceptual model for the management of youth development
But should not be seen as literal or prescriptive
Physiological question-marks
Sporting success is multi-factorial, and LTAD doesn't always fully recognize innate/genetic contributions to sport (eg: 10,000 hour concept)
Early exposure
is probably crucial
Delayed specialization
improves chances of adult success
Greatest practical challenge is to "keep the door open" to all players in a competitive environment
British Journal of Sports Medicine 2012
Five key challenges facing LTAD
Talent ID challenges
How do we identify talent without:
Destroying it?
Neglecting unrealized talent?
By over-valuing physiological traits that predict success, and failing to develop attributes as a result
By being 'fooled' by physiological differences due to early maturation or relative age, leading to omission of potentially more talented players
Minimizing competition pre-physiological development
Smart coaching
Changing mindsets
How do we act to overcome the inertia of sporting attitudes?
Prevalent mindset
Delay competition
Winning not important
Technique & execution, not result/outcome
Compete early
Winning matters - more than a sport
Win at all costs
Balance competition demands
How do we maintain healthy, but not destructive & conflicting competition?
Competition is fundamental to sport
Competition system must support coaching recommendations in terms of what it demands of participants
Exist in a competitive environment
How does embracing a LTAD plan affect rugby's standing in sporting society?
Players themselves are finite resources
Rugby competes for resources with other sports and teams within sport
Current climate drives specialization early (scholarships, academies, contracts, careers)
Embracing LTAD, thus delaying specialization & competition, is in conflict with general societal attitudes
If policy changes begin to affect career paths, what is the "cost" to rugby?
Stakeholders and responsibility?
Who else is involved in LTAD, and does rugby carry the entire burden for early life training?
Other sports federations
Education & health departments
It is not viable for a sport to carry the entire burden
Thank you
Full transcript