Long Term Athlete Development: Part 2

Are you looking to enhance your athletic program? Do you like continuity and structure? Fortunately for you (and all of us), brilliant minds, like Dr. Istvan Balyi, have formulated some excellent research in his book Long-Term Athlete Development
to help in player development. In the second part of our two-part series discussing LTAD, we will look at how LTAD models can benefit Christian schools. Don’t know what LTAD is? Learn more about it by reading Part 1 of this series.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. It is impossible for you to fully integrate Balyi’s LTAD model into your athletic department.

Total immersion in a program like Balyi’s require for the athletes to be under constant supervision of coaches and trainers. You will most likely never have the access to your athletes that is needed to fully conduct total LTAD practices. You also won’t have the faculty and/or facilities to perform the necessary tests and procedures. Even the most committed athlete in your programs aren’t signed up for this.

However, we can certainly take bits and pieces of Balyi’s plan and use it to benefit our athletic departments. Here are a few ways LTAD models can help you, your coaches, and your athletes.


Following an LTAD model in your athletic department helps ensure a complete education.

This may sound like fluff to sell to your administrator to help you secure more control over the PE program or get more gym/field time. However, it’s a very true statement.

LTAD principles can help contribute to a positive self-image. It also emphasizes proper movement at all stages.

Many non-athletic injuries come from improper movement. Strengthening each student and their coordination can guard against physical problems later in life.

Also, it goes without saying that the proper introduction and instruction of exercise will contribute to lifetime health and fitness. Every school wants to graduate well-rounded young people. Physical fitness attained through a school-wide LTAD plan will benefit any education.


LTAD helps build a stress free athletic environment for young athletes.

The first stage in Balyi’s Late Specialization LTAD model (ideal for Christian schools) in the FUNdamentals stage.

It’s in this stage that athletes learn FMS (fundamental movement skills) and FSS (fundamental sports skills). FMS includes simple things like proper running form, jumping, landing, multi-directional movement, etc. The FSS will vary from sport to sport, but they will remain very basic. Proper technique will be the main focus of FSS instruction, not results.

Young athletes soon progress into the Learning to Train stage where they continue to progress at their own pace. Since proper LTAD training values skill development over competition in the early stages, athletes will be comfortable learning. Many young athletes cease participating due to the pressures of competition before their skills are developed.

LTAD also encourages participation in multiple sports at young ages. Athlete burn-out is a result of early specialization and overspecialization.

Incorporating LTAD principles into your elementary PE program will help develop students athletically. Focus on introducing as many new skills and sports as you can to your athletes while they’re young.


Let your students develop their athletic skills in an atmosphere that values effort and improvement instead of winning. This will pay dividends in the long run.


LTAD encourages a healthy re-thinking of athletic structure.

What we mean by this is that LTAD helps you to place the best interests of your individual athletes and the best long-term interests of your collective program into proper perspective. You can do this at the same time. Too many times, we think it has to be one or the other. However, execution of proper LTAD thinking will produce better athletes for your programs. The only major pitfall is that you need to look at the process not the present state.

LTAD principles will also change who you coach. We coach the starters and just hope they don’t get injured because we have nothing on the bench. We’re all guilty of doing this; shamefully, we do it at youth levels as well.

If we continue to shut out the bottom half of our athletic barrel, then we’ll never see sustainable long-term success.

However, with LTAD principles in place program-wide, we should have a more competent core of reserves that can at least perform at a reasonable standard when called upon.

The biggest way that LTAD will influence in an overhaul of your current athletic structure is in the training to competition ratio.

During the early stage of LTAD (which transfer to elementary sports teams in school athletics), athletes are to spend 70% of their sports season in practices/training sessions and only 30% in competition.

Most youth programs provide one hour of practice a week and one game on the weekend. This is damaging to the sport specific development of the athlete. The lack of training time forces coaches to focus on competing well on the weekend. “Peaking by Friday” leaves little time in practice to develop athleticism.

Even in the Training to Compete stage (comparable to JV or Varsity in school athletics), the ideal training to competition ratio is 50:50. It’s not as exciting, but dialing down the schedule and increasing practice time will produce better long term results. Game experience is necessary, but training is invaluable.


These are just a few ways that LTAD concepts will help your athletic department. Christian schools especially need to focus on athletic development, healthy development, and injury prevention due to their limited talent pools.


Do you know of any other ways that LTAD models could help Christian school athletics?