I’ve had some interesting discussion of late with a few strength and conditioning coaches in school programs as to which is the best Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD)/prescriptive framework model.
The answer is none… I’ll tell you why.
The history and depths of each model are far too great for the premise of this post. So what I would like to do is target the 2 main models, outline the differences and provide scope as to factors to consider whilst working in development programs.
Traditionally that with the most coverage is the expanded LTAD model of Istvan Balyi. In more recent times strength and conditioning coaches have shed light into the Youth Physical Development Model.
Whilst both have their strengths and areas for improvement the major difference is the LTAD model is categorised according to specific age ranges, whilst the YPDM identifies specific trainable physical characteristics that should be trainable throughout an athletes development specifically adhering to windows of opportunity.
Several factors need to be considered on how you implement any strength and conditioning LTAD model:
1.Resources; in most instances the coach to athlete ratio (1:5, or 1:10) recommended by governing bodies such as the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association in their facility guide are far exceeded, to more like 1:20 and in some instances 1:30+
2. Classes/Groups/Teams; these are grouped in accordance with age and rarely (with the exception of some sports) are maturation characteristics considered. This also highlights a shared environment (i.e. gyms/squads) where coaches may have athletes as young as 12 with those as old as 18yrs of age in the one session.
3. Maturation scale; rarely is there the opportunity for a variety of reasons (namely intrusiveness) can judgement be made on each individual based on where they sit on the continuum. Not to mention the time taken and frequency of conducting such tests (e.g. Peak Height Velocity) to be deemed valid.
4. Progressions; with physical literacy opportunity to progress needs to be considered and provided. When catering for the masses, aiming for the highest denominator in an age bracket is best so a coaching eye can reward the right to progress. This way athletes understand where they need to be at, strive for it, and embrace their growth as an individual in accomplishing each stage/progression along the way.
5. Type of sessions; As S&C coaches often we are restricted to one location (i.e. gym/ field/or court). The windows of opportunity in physical characteristics may not be entirely applicable to the environment at that particular time. For example if speed/acceleration is the desired quality at a particular age one would need to be very creative of how to achieve this in a crowded gym space.
LTAD strength and conditioning programs are a challenge for all coaches working within them. Understanding the individuals, environment, physiological, psychological, social, and educational considerations are all relevant to ensure you create a multi-facet paradigm eventuating into the program of best fit for your athletes.