LTAD: Background

LTAD definition:

“A model that explains sport-specific best practice for a serious athlete at each stage of skills learning”

Dictionary of Sport and Exercise Science (2006)

A lot of attention and discussion is brought upon developmental models that apply to sports that surround improving young participants. Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) were viewed as the singular opinions and writings of  (Dr Istvan Balyi, 1990).  LTAD was designed as a guide to aid the progression of young participants from active children into elite athletes, which follows and advances through appropriate developmental phases. 

Dr Istvan Bayli first proposed the model of LTAD in Canada, in 1998 which was initially grounded around three (3) phases: Training to Train, Training to Compete; Training Win. Since the initial model in 1998, Bayli’s discoveries accumulated a lot of interest, credibility and acceptance within multi-disciplines (Sport England; Sports Council for Wales; Sports Coach UK; Lawn Tennis Association England and Wales Cricket Board, amongst other worldwide.) However, with the popularity and credibility vastly growing Dr Istvan Bayli admitted that his initial model proposed wasn’t right, as it missed an important phase: FUNdamental phase which is the foundational phase. The LTAD model attempts to balance training load and competition throughout childhood and adolescence, however, it’s been suggested that there has been too much focus placed upon results rather than assisting optimal development processes. Ultimately, success comes from training and performing well over the long term rather than winning in short term.

There is no short cut to success in athletic preparation. The rushing competition will always result in shortcomings in physical, technical, tactical and mental abilities (1).

The four-stage model of LTAD was evolved in 2001 into a five phases model (Canadian Sport Life, 2007) with the addition of “Active Start” that supported fundamental movement skills for those aged between 0-6 years old. LTAD progressed again into a six stage model in 2004, supported by the addition of Learn to train:

2004 LTAD Model:

  1. Active Start
  2. FUNDamentals
  3. Learn to Train
  4. Train to Train
  5. Train to Compete
  6. Train to Win

Most recently in 2013 Istvan Balyi, Richard Way, and Colin Higgs the LTAD model evolved into a seven (7) phase model:

  1. Active Start – 0-6 Yrs Old
  2. FUNDamentals – 6-9 Yrs Old
  3. Learn to Train – 9-12 Yrs Old
  4. Train to Train – 12-16 Yrs Old
  5. Train to Compete – 16 – 23 Yrs Old
  6. Train to Win – 19+
  7. Active for Life – Enter at ANY age
Copyright reserved for: Balyi,Way & Higgs (2013)

Learning about LTAD, sport administrators and coaches will gain the knowledge and tools to enhance participation and improve performance and growth of athletes. The brief blog, hopefully simplistically captures the evolvement of LTAD. Today we all recognise LTAD as a world-wide and multi-discipline phenomenon, it’s vitally important that we understand it worth within our sporting society.

I will continue to write and discuss LTAD in greater depth, sharing its positives and limitations in addition the model applies to sports.

Thank you

The Sporting Influencer


Dictionary of sport and exercise science (2006) (Book). London: A. & C. Black.

Lang, M., & Light, R. (2010). Interpreting and implementing the long term athlete development model: English swimming coaches’ views on the (swimming) LTAD in practice. International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, 5(3), 389-402.

Balyi, I. (1990). Quadrennial and double-quadrennial planning of athletic training. Victoria, BC, Canada: Canadian Coaches’ Association.

Istvan Balyi, Richard Way, Colin Higgs (2013). Long-Term Athlete Development. USA: Sheridan Books. 5-296.

Gould D, Carson S. Myths surrounding the role of youth sports in developing Olympic champions. Youth Studies Australia. 2004;23: 19–26.

Canadian Sport for life 2.0, Quality Sport & Physical Activity 2014


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