Long Term Athlete Development

Success is Long Term

Some swimmers will journey all the way, some only part of the way, but all will have the best chance of reaching their full potential if they are treated as individuals. It is important that within the competitive programme, individuals can compete in events appropriate to their stage of development and talents. These are reflected in the different formats for competition at county, regional and national levels, and also in the levels of licensed meets. This helps to ensure that the coach can select levels of competition appropriate for their swimmers. There are five stages, which can be used to describe growth and development.


These equate to the five stages of the LTAD framework for swimming:


1. FUNdamentals

Childhood Growth and Development focusing on Basic Movement Literacy.

2, SwimSkills

Late Childhood Pre-Puberty focusing on Building Correct and Efficient Technique.

3. Training to Train

Adolescence and Puberty the body changes and focuses on both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism.

4. Training to Compete

Early Adulthood specialisation and performance enhancement focus on physical, technical, tactical and mental aspects.

5. Training to Win

Adulthood focusing on training Cycles, Specialisation and Performance Enhancement.

The FUNdamentals Stage
The FUNdamentals Stage should be structured and fun because a child's attention span is short and there is a strong need for positive re-enforcement. Growth is rapid due to the development of large muscle groups, and therefore the emphasis should be on developing basic movement literacy and fundamental movement skills.

The skills to be developed are:

  ♦ ABCs (Agility, Balance, Coordination, Speed)
  ♦ RJT (Running, Jumping, Throwing)
  ♦ KGBs (Kinesthetics, Gliding, Buoyancy, Striking with the body)
  ♦ CPKs (Catching, Passing, Kicking, Striking with an implement)

In order to develop basic movement literacy successfully, there should be participation in a wide range of activities. As the size of the heart increases in relation to the rest of the body, endurance should be developed using fun and games. In addition, children should be introduced to the simple rules and ethics of sports to complement the beginning of their understanding into the need for rules and structure.

These activities should be part of well-structured programmes with proper progressions that are monitored regularly. Above all else, children should have fun and be active during this stage.

SwimSkills - Late Childhood (Building Technique)
During the SwimSkills period, the nervous system is almost fully developed and there are rapid improvements in the coordination of movement skills. As a result, young people should learn how to train and develop sport specific skills. This is a good time to work on developing excellent technique in all four strokes as well as starts, turns and finishing skills. A multi stroke approach to training and competition will not only reduce the likelihood of injury but also ensure interest levels will remain high with the result that swimming should continue to be fun.

Swimmers should also learn the basic technical and tactical skills, (known as the ancillary capacities) which include:  

  ♦ Warm up and cool down
  ♦ Stretching
  ♦ Hydration and nutrition
  ♦ Recovery
  ♦ Relaxation and focusing

The recommended training to competition ratio is 75% to 25%. This should be planned over one annual cycle. If a young swimmer misses this stage of development then he/she is unlikely to reach their full potential. One of the main reasons athletes plateau during the later stages of their careers is because of an over emphasis on competition instead of taking full advantage of training during this very important stage.


Training to Train - Adolescence
For many years the way that the body produces energy has been known. For adults, in short events e.g. less than 45 seconds in duration, energy it is derived predominantly anaerobically. For longer events e.g. greater than 1 minute 30 seconds energy requirements are derived predominantly aerobically. For events between 45 seconds and 1 minute 30 seconds energy is provided through both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism. However, prior to puberty, the Long Term Athlete Development - Growth and Development Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) is about achieving the correct training, competition and recovery throughout a young athlete's career, particularly in relation to the important growth and development years of young people. It provides a framework within which all sports should plan their training and competition programmes.

All human beings go through the same developmental stages from childhood to adulthood, though these stages can be at different times and each stage can vary in length. There is also a gender difference in that girls tend to develop earlier than boys. Competition should be regarded as an integral part of a swimmer's training programme, with consideration should be given to the physiological, psychological and emotional development of the young swimmer.

Towards the end of this stage preparations should be made for the development of strength, which for girls occurs at the end of this stage and for boys at the beginning of the next stage. This should include learning correct weight lifting techniques without any resistance; the knowledge base of how to warm up and warm down; how and when to stretch; how to optimise nutrition and hydration; mental preparation; regeneration; how and when to taper and peak; pre-competition, competition and post competition routines.

Training to Compete - Early Adulthood
Similar to the previous stage, if insufficient time is devoted to this stage or it is missed, the young swimmer is unlikely to reach their full potential. Training to Compete - Early Adulthood (Optimising the Engine) During the training to compete stage there should be a continued emphasis on physical conditioning with the focus on maintaining high volume workloads but with increasing intensity. The number of competitions should be similar to the end of the previous stage but the emphasis should be on developing individual strengths and working on weaknesses. This should be achieved through practising technical and tactical skills based around specific strokes at all distances, or specific distances across a range of strokes. As a result, the year should be divided into either two or three cycles of training and competition and the ancillary capacities should be refined more specific to the individual's needs. Although the muscular system develops throughout childhood and adolescence, significant strength gains tend not to respond to training until after puberty. Therefore, training should also focus on developing strength gains through the use of weights, but only when the correct lifting techniques have been learned. This should be coupled with continued work on core body strength and maintaining suppleness.


Training to Win - Adulthood
This is the final stage of athletic preparation. The emphasis should be on specialisation and performance enhancement. All of the swimmer's physical, technical, tactical, mental and ancillary capacities should now be fully established with the focus shifting to producing the best possible performance. Swimmers should be trained to peak for specific competitions and major events, therefore, all aspects of training should be individualised for specific events. There should be two, three or more training cycles, depending on the events being trained for. During this stage, training should continue to specialisation and performance enhancement.


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