Long Term Athlete Development: Set the Course


In the second installment of this series on long term athlete development I want to discuss what I view as the foundational issue of long term success. More specifically, creating a broad motor development and fitness foundation from which to base future development. In general, I think it’s best to ensure that for long term development, future athletes should progress through stages of generalized play, structured play, organized practice, and performance-oriented development. In the first two stages, it’s vitally important that the future athlete be exposed to many activities and a variety of opportunities to develop general fitness. Russians and East Germans for example, used to expose ALL children identified as potential elite athletes to track & field, gymnastics, and in many cases soccer or swimming. This approach ensures that the athlete’s motor development progresses as it should and sets a foundation for the movements (like running, jumping, and throwing) that are the very basis of future athletic performance. Furthermore, a general fitness model should be employed where the future athletes are allowed to play for health and wellness rather than be trained for performance. The best way to do this is to allow kids to play. If they’d rather stay inside and play video games, encourage them to get outside and do something. Anything. Once they start I’m sure they won’t want to stop…and I don’t just mean that in the acute sense. They’ll want to keep ‘playing’ and when it becomes appropriate they’ll come to enjoy the training that it takes to achieve high levels of success in sport.
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