By Richard Monette
Managing Director – Active For Life
• Managing Director and Editor in Chief of ‘Active For Life’ dedicated to engaging grassroots development in youth athletes
• Part of the Leadership team at B2ten, a privately funded organization that supports elite Canadian athletes
• Sports Psychology Consultant to Olympic and professional athletes; He is a performance and leadership coach with Inner Warrior Consulting
If you are a parent with a child involved in sports in Canada, one of the first things you should familiarize yourself with, is the Long Term Athlete Development Model or LTAD. According to Sport For Life, LTAD is defined as:
Long Term Athlete Development is a training, competition and recovery program based on developmental age – the maturation level of an individual – rather than chronological age. It is athlete-centered, coach driven and administration, sport science and sponsor supported.
So what does that mean and why should parents care? Enter Richard Monette. He is the managing director for Active For Life, a company that is dedicated to helping Canadians raise physically literate kids.
During two separate interviews, Monette and I engaged in a lengthy conversation about the LTAD. As the father of two kids and as a sports psychology consultant, he was quickly able to provide answers backed up by science as to why parents need to know what LTAD means, so that in the long run, they can confidently raise kids who remain active for life. This is my Q & A with Richard Monette.
* Some of this article is abbreviated.*
What is the Long Term Athlete Development model (LTAD)?
LTAD is a pathway, a model, almost a philosophy of how to best bring the sport experience to kids in a way that they remain active for life. It’s based on sound science as well as best practices in coaching.
The key element is that the LTAD is meant to be age-appropriate for children as well as older athletes from every aspect and that’s really what it is. With the one purpose of keeping kids engaged in sport through their entire lifetime.
For parents who have never heard of the LTAD or are just getting into the sport, why should they take the time to understand it?
What is important for parents to understand is that the LTAD results in a better experience for children in sport. So parents need to get to know the basics of LTAD because they are the gatekeepers of their kid’s time and involvement in sport. They are the ones who make sure that the programs that their kids are involved in are quality programs.
It’s a frame of reference for parents. For example, if a child is involved in swimming at the age of 8 and the coach says your kid should swim twice a day and six days a week and should not do any other sport, if you don’t have the LTAD as a frame of reference you don’t know as a parent if that’s sound advice or not.
If you look into the LTAD and you understand the basics, you’ll know right away this isn’t a sound practice and that this would most likely lead into your kid dropping out of that sport eventually.
Why isn’t the LTAD model always used and or practiced by sports organizations in the country?
The LTAD came about when the infrastructure of sport was already established. And in some cases and most cases, the LTAD goes against the structure that’s in place at this time. So the long-standing traditions and structures in sport are based out of history and not necessarily scientific sound. By imposing the LTAD on existing structures, it causes issues.
I’ll give you a personal example. My son played hockey from a young age. The scheduling was the responsibility of the league, we lived in Banff, Alberta, in a rural area and therefore we played in a rural league. The league would schedule games that would not consider kids might do other sports.
For example, the league would schedule a game in Lethbridge, which is 4 hours away, one way from Banff. So we would drive 8 hours for one game and drive to Okotoks the next morning or the next day. It meant the entire weekend was gone. My son was 7 years old, so it precluded him from skiing or doing any other activity over the weekend. It is a good example of the league doing something a certain way forever, a traditional way of doing things, but it doesn’t fit in with the LTAD.
How can parents actively implement the LTAD model when it comes to their kids in sports?
What I recommend to parents is having discussions with their coaches and minor sport organizations to discuss the LTAD approach. The more the parents are educated, the more the structure of the sport in Canada will need to adjust. The LTAD is based on sound scientific information and knowledge, and when parents get it, they can understand and manoeuver the system.
What age should parents know about the LTAD?
The moment you register your child for an activity, you should become aware of the LTAD. It’s especially important in the earlier stage of your son or daughter’s involvement in sport. You want in the early years, and depending on the sport, it’s all sport-specific, but in the early years, you want your child to do many different activities. It’s called sport sampling.
They need to discover what they like to do and secondly, they need to develop a wide range of skills. You don’t want your child to only play baseball and be a pitcher and throw the ball as hard as he can for 6 years between the ages of 6 and 12. If that happens, most likely your son will develop a repetitive stress injury by the time he or she is 12.
It’s really important in the early years to be aware of the LTAD and also to discuss it with coaches and your minor sport organization as a parent.