Long Term Athlete Development: Myth or Reality?

Why? Is it Worth it?

I like to think about long term athlete development (LTAD) as an integral education, beyond the influence that it has with the sport performance.

  • Movement competency: The vehicle for a healthy lifestyle. I consider that everyone should have a minimum background of movement competency that allow them to benefit from it, during different periods of their life (sports, hobbies, rehabilitation, illness, age, stress, etc).
  • Health and Injury prevention: Coping with the demands of the sport environment, keeping the players healthy. Beside this, it gives a reinforcement of the mechanical and functional qualities (see my previous post for more information about this topic), avoiding possible injuries due to imbalances created by the specific load of the sport.
  • Performance: It provides the players with the tools to develop fundamental qualities, which underpin essential factors for the sport performance, such as power and speed.

Beside the main reasons that I presented above, I would like to add some thoughts about this matter.

  • Football training exposure increases progressively with age, so when is the right time for general training?
  • It is increasingly common to see first teams invest time in general training as running mechanics and movement quality. Is it mainly because we did not invest time in these types of training in their youth?
  • On top of matches every weekend + football training, do we need also specific conditioning (training with ball) in youth? and at senior or professional level?

” We have to be strong and keep training the basics first, maybe it is not fancy or does not follow a current fashion, but, is it what the players development needs? “

As a strength and conditioning coach I want my players to land controlling the trunk flexion, avoiding excessive knee flexion or knee valgus in order to react quickly in a safe manner.

I want to see a low center of mass, a neutral and strong trunk, their weight shifted towards the front foot and releasing the heel of any floor contact to be ready to pivot or change direction in a quick and safe way.

What do I need to get my players to that point? What do they need?

In my opinion, we are talking about the need of having a system in place which allows the players to be exposed in a consistent manner through the years to a thoughtful progression of exercises of the main movement patterns to optimize the learning process of our players. This is what I understand for LTAD.

At Aspire Academy we invest the first two years of the full time player process (U13-U14) in the Movement Quality, learning to :

  • Control the trunk and pelvis
  • Engage the core to stabilize the movements of arms/legs
  • Perform main movement patterns
  • Landing and jumping mechanics
  • Change of direction mechanics

As an example, I would like to share few videos which are taken from real training sessions throughout the years, trying to show the pathway that our players follow inside of our Aspire Academy LTAD.

Level 1: U13-U14 – Level 2: U15-U16 – Level 3: U17-18


If you are interested on this topic I recommend the following references:

– Duncan, F., Rodriguez, N., Liebenson, C., Self care Part 1. Athletic Development: Youth Considerations. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, 2019

– Rodriguez, N., Duncan, F., Liebenson, C., Athletic Development – Part 2: The Foundational Stage of Development, Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, 2019 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbmt.2019.10.011.

– Gregory D. Myer., Rhodri S. Lloyd., Jensen L. Brent., and Avery D. Faigenbaum.,  How Young is “Too Young” to Start Training?, ACSMs Health Fit J. 2013

– Lauersen JB, et al. Strength training as superior, dose-dependent and safe prevention of acute and overuse sports injuries: a systematic review, qualitative analysis and meta-analysis, J Sports Med, 2018




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