NSCA position on Long Term Athletic Development
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August 25, 2016
By Tim Koba, MS, ATC
The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) has released a position statement on long term athletic development. With the rise in youth sport participation, injury trends, sport specialization and long term inactivity of today’s adults, it is important to encourage youth to participate in physical activity. This tenet forms the cornerstone of the position statement.
While long term athletic development is generally taken to mean the development of athletes, the NSCA broadened the term to include all youth and to consider all youth athletic. In this manner, they address the concern and health implications of physical inactivity and they believe that all youth should be encouraged to be active.
There are 10 pillars for successful long term athletic development (LTAD):
1. LTAD pathways should accommodate for the highly individualized and non-linear nature of the growth and development of youth.
2. Youth of all ages, abilities and aspirations should engage in LTAD programs that promote both physical fitness and psychosocial wellbeing.
3. All youth should be encouraged to enhance physical fitness from early childhood, with a primary focus on motor skill and muscular strength development.
4. LTAD pathways should encourage an early sampling approach for youth that promotes and enhances a broad range of motor skills.
5. Health and wellbeing of the child should always be the central tenet of LTAD programs.
6. Youth should participate in physical conditioning that helps reduce the risk of injury to ensure their on-going participation in LTAD programs.
7. LTAD programs should provide all youth with a range of training modes to enhance both health and skill related components of fitness.
8. Practitioners should use relevant monitoring and assessment tools as part of a LTAD strategy.
9. Practitioners working with youth should systematically progress and individualize training programs for successful LTAD.
10. Qualified professionals and sound pedagogical approaches are fundamental to the success of LTAD programs.
When working with youth, it is important to remember they grow and mature at different rates. Customizing a program specific to each individual is preferable to implementing a general one size fits all approach. Programs also need to take into consideration each individual’s specific movement patterns and volume of activity. Many individuals are not engaging in free play prior to organized activity and, as such, are not prepared for the volume of training that occurs. Coaches, Athletic Trainers, personal trainers and strength coaches need to understand that fatigue and recovery are important aspects of a successful long term plan. By engaging in a well-rounded movement based training plan, youth can become acclimated to the rigors of sport and physical activity.
It is also of vital importance to maintain physical and mental health of young individuals. Programs should incorporate neuromuscular control, movement training and injury prevention exercises to reduce the risk of injury. Programs should also strive to be inclusive and foster a community of acceptance for all the participants, regardless of age or physical ability.
Due to the long term health consequences of physical inactivity, we need to encourage all youth to participate in some form of physical activity. Programs that encourage movement, play, control and strength can be an enjoyable experience for all those who participate.
Lloyd, R.S, et. al. (2016). National strength and conditioning association position statement on long-term athletic development. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30 (6). https://www.nsca.com/long-term_athletic_development_position_statement/
About the Author
Tim Koba is an Athletic Trainer, strength coach and sport business professional based in Ithaca, New York. He is passionate about helping others reach their personal and professional potential by researching topics of interest and sharing it with others. He contributes articles on injury prevention, management, rehabilitation, athletic development and leadership.