Long Term Athlete Development »

Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD)

Sport Canada’s Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) Resource Paper "Canadian Sport for Life (CS4L)" (2005) was a keystone document that set out a framework for sport development in Canada through the provision of a common roadmap for sport and athlete development.  The LTAD model is based on the physical, mental, emotional and cognitive development of children and adolescents/  It is an inclusive concept that encourages all individuals to be involved in lifelong activity and articulates the need for all children, particularly those that have the capacity and interest to become elite athletes, to be given a solid foundation in physical, technical, tactical and mental capacities upon which to build thier performance abilities.

The LTAD model for cross-country skiing has eight stages, each reflecting a different point in athlete development. The first three stages encourage physical literacy and sport experiences for all, while the next four stages are more focused on development and competitive excellence. The final or overarching stage encourages life-long physical activity and informed healthy lifestyle choices.   

To view the many LTAD resources - both generic and specific to cross-country skiing - available to coaches, parents and athletes - click here.

LTAD & Competitions

Optimal competition calendar planning is critical for all stages of athlete development.  At certain stages, development of physical capacities takes precedence over competition, and at other stages the ability to compete becomes the focus.  Competition schedules should therefore be selected based on the individual athletes’ developmental needs. 

A long-term athlete development plan means a system of training and competition that is optimized for the abilities of athletes during the various developmental stages.  The following factors should be considered when planning:

  • An insufficient number of competitions (inappropriate training-to-competition ratio) during the early stages will result in a lack of sport skills to build on in later stages.

  • Optimal training-to-competition ratios should be the objective for all stages of athlete development.

  • The length and level of the competitive season should be aligned with the changing needs of the developing athlete in the Long Term Athlete Development progression (http://www.cccski.com/getmedia/13d28c29-2b22-45c8-9caf-0a855583fe08/LTAD-guide-CCC.pdf.aspx)..

  • Competitions are one of an athlete’s most important development tools.

  • The appropriate level of competition, which is critical to the technical, tactical and mental development of the athlete at all stages.

  • The distance.

  • The format (i.e. mass start, relay, team sprint, interval start, pursuit, individual sprint).

    The ability and fitness of the skier.

  • The difficulty of terrain (course profile).

  • The elevation (altitude) of the race site.

  • At the end of the L2T stage girls can begin to develop their maximal oxygen consumption rate (VO2max) though racing, as they are entering a Window of Optimal Trainability (WOT) for this performance factor.Race distances that are optimal for this stage - in order to develop VO2max - are in the range of 1.5 to 3 kilometres (5 - 10 minutes).

  • Due to the longer period of pre-adolescent growth for boys (as compared to girls), it is not optimal for boys at the L2T stage to be introduced to VO2max development. Therefore most race distances for at this stage should exceed three kilometres, so that the athletes are optimizing the WOT for aerobic capacity that corresponds to the growth phase they are in.

  • “Unconventional” settings (e.g. obstacle courses, terrain parks) for athletes in the earlier stages of development, where fun, skill and speed should be the emphasis.For example, a mix of competitions that would be suitable for athletes in the L2T stage of development are:

    • Racing Rocks! (Ski Tournaments, Double Cross, Team Sprints).
    • Club Races (Club Championships, Club Costume Relays, etc.).
    • Regional Cup Races, Midget Championships, BC Winter Games, BC Cup Series, BC Championships.
  • Competitions that provide recognition and rewards for athletes for each year of birth during the developmental stages (FUNdamentals to Learning to Compete).

  • Windows of Optimal Trainability (WOT). Refer to: http://www.crosscountrybc.ca/sites/default/files/documents/figure3.pdf  

The sport of cross-country skiing is currently aligning its competition model with LTAD guidelines. LTAD alignment means doing the right thing for the athletes from a developmental perspective (for example, prescribing race distances and race formats that allow developing athletes to take advantage of optimal windows of trainability during the different developmental stages).  Changes resulting from this alignment will be reflected in event technical packages, race distances, racing licences, awards, etc. this coming season.