Understanding Long-Term Development

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The Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model is a framework developed by the Canadian Sport Centres providing an optimal training, competition, and recovery schedule that respects and utilizes the natural stages of physical, mental, and emotional growth in athletes.  This framework has been adopted by major sports organizations in the United Kingdom and Ireland.  

Long-Term Hockey Development (LTHD) is FHC’s field hockey-specific adaptation of the LTAD model.  It is athlete-centred, coach driven, and supported by officials, administrators, and volunteers.  As with the LTAD, LTHD is designed to:

  1. Promote lifelong enjoyment of physical activity
  2. Provide a structured player development pathway
  3. Describe best practices for elite player development
  4. Create long-term excellence

Excellence and Sport for Life

Anecdotal evidence for a Field Hockey athlete suggests that it takes 15,000 touches of the ball for an athlete to reach an elite level.  Additionally, scientific research has demonstrated it takes eight to twelve years of training for players to reach elite levels.  This translates into a little more than three hours of daily practice for ten years. (Balyi & Hamilton, 2003).  This indicates the importance of long-term training for obtaining athletic excellence and competitive results.  It has also been suggested athlete training following logical, progressive development pathways is linked to higher rates of lifelong recreational participation for individuals of all abilities.

Many field hockey coaches continue to train youth athletes in a manner that places emphasis on “fun” and “retention” while others emphasize “winning” a match or “winning” the season championship.  These approaches are coach or parent-centred and are frequently neglectful of the long-term needs of the athletes.  Both of these types of outcomes are given more importance than skill development, performance, and satisfaction.  However it is the latter outcomes that can translate into higher levels of excellence and lifelong commitment to training and participation.

To produce lifelong wellness and consistent international excellence, an athlete-centred integrated model of player development is required.  The model must respect the physical, mental, and emotional maturation of the players.

Planned Excellence

The current system for Athlete Development emphasizes winning and competition rather than maximizing the periods of accelerated adaptation to training and developing core field hockey skills.  LTHD is based on general findings that the greater the quality of player preparation, the greater the likelihood that players of all abilities will remain active throughout their lifetimes, and the greater the likelihood that the performance peaks of those who pursue excellence will be higher and maintained over a longer period.

Rushing into competition frequently results in technical, physical, tactical, psychological, and emotional shortcomings that hinder performance.  While premature competition actually detracts from performance and achievement, progressive player development following balanced formula of training, competition, and recovery tends to produce longer involvement in sport and higher achievement.

LTHD is designed to promote lifelong wellness for all field hockey participants and optimal performances for the elite players, particularly in the growth and development years when performances can become unstable and lead to dropout.

LTHD encourages athletes to enjoy the game and improve their performances through:

  • Logical and integrated training and practice programs;
  • Application of scientific principles in growth, development and maturation;
  • Provision of an optimal structure for competition at stages of LTHD;
  • Identification of stakeholder roles in the implementation of the support systems of athlete development (ie. Coaching, officiating).

Public Perception

Field Hockey has an important role to play in the larger sport culture of our country.  There is an intrinsic value in having our elite athletes represent Canada on the international stage.  When Canadians watch the Olympic Games or any other major world sporting event, we cheer our athletes and are proud to see our nation competing among the best in the world.

Field Hockey is no exception in this regard.  Canada excels to be among the top nations in this sport making our athletes a source of our national pride, dreams, and expectations.  Canadians of all ages want to see their national teams compete and succeed at the international level.  The LTHD pathway is designed to achieve this goal.

Supported by

Sport Canada