JKFan Karate Magazine Article #3 Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD)
Richard Sensei’s Corner
What does it take to become a world karate champion? In the last two decades, sport scientific research has discovered that an athlete requires 10 years, or 10,000 hours, of specific training to reach the highest level in any sport. That’s 1000 hours a year, about 3 hours daily. For beginners, this is 1 hour per day while for advanced athletes this is up to 6 hours per day six days a week. Called the ‘10 year rule’, national sporting associations around the world for different sports now abide by it.
To properly place athletes into this training philosophy, a framework called the Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) concept was first created by Professor Istvan Balyi. 7 stages focus on training, competition and recovery based on athlete’s maturation levels instead of just chronological age. It’s athlete-centered and coach driven instead of a one-plan-fits-all approach.
Active Start (any age, but ideally under 6 years): A fun introduction to any sport where there is no emphasis on competition or serious development. Creating a positive experience and a good impression of the sport is most important.
FUNdamentals (ages 6-9 boys, 6-8 girls): Athletes learn the fundamental movements in an enjoyable environment. Competition is introduced as a fun part of training, not the most important part. The ABCs (agility, balance, coordination and speed) specific to the sport are taught. Cross-training in other sports is encouraged because another sport’s physical movement learning will help young athletes to develop complimentary skills.
Learn to Train (ages 9-12 boys, 8-11 girls): This phase is about learning a sport’s fine motor skills for competition, but there is no specialization yet. For karate athletes, this would mean continuing to compete in both kata and kumite.
Train to Train (ages 12-16 boys, 11-15 girls): This stage maximizes the physiological changes in the body due to puberty, emphasizing aerobic and flexibility training, while increasing competition experiences. Coaches must be aware of an athlete’s stress level due to the physical and mental challenges of competition, training and life.
Train to Compete (ages 16-23+ boys, 15-21+ girls): This stage starts tailored training for individual athletes through year-round high intensity schedules. Athletes specialize inside their sport (kata or kumite) and stop playing other sports.
Train to Win (ages 19+ boys, 18+ girls): World champions emerge in this stage as the training is high intensity and high volume for athletes to peak for major competitions. Short breaks are also included to allow physical recovery and to avoid mental burnout.
Active for life (enter at any age): Athletes move to recreational-only training, as well as becoming coaches, officials and/or sport administrators. They are able to begin enjoying other sports too. Age-appropriate Master’s competitions become important. This is not considered the final stage, but more of a parallel stream… recreation vs. competition… art vs. sport.
LTAD is about the proper physically literacy and mental training development for all athletes not just for becoming tournament champions, but to live a long, healthy life while also being able to participate in other activities. Truly, the 10 year rule applies to being “great” at anything.