The long term development of athletes (LTAD) is a project created on the basis of work by many sports professionals around the world in order to create a top sporting result.

In the life of every young person there are periods during which the effects of the training process can be maximally implemented in the development of an athlete. Based on this, the long-term development model of an athlete which involves a late specialization is formed and consists of the following stages:

Phase 1 – Start

Introducing the child with sports – up to 5 – 6 years of age. During this phase, the parent has the greatest role in working with the child.

Phase 2 – Basics

In this phase, boys from 6 to 9 years of age and girls aged 5 to 8 years are included. The main goal of this phase is the development of physical capacities of the athlete and basic motor skills, that includes the following elements:

  • Commitment to sport as much as possible without compromising other elements of life and childhood.
  • Speed, strength and durability are developed with the help of interesting games and exercises.
  • Getting acquainted with elements, rules and ethics in sports.
  • Power training that includes only your own body weight, medicine and Swiss balls.
  • Structured trainings without periodization.

During this phase, there is a critical period for the development of speed. Of course, speed development exercises should be included through the game and each repetition should not last longer than 5 seconds.


Phase 3 – Learning to train

This phase is from 9 to 12 years for boys and from 8 to 11 for girls. The basic elements of this phase:

  • Continuation of the development of basic motor skills.
  • Learning and perfecting techniques.
  • Extension of power, speed and endurance, inclusion of flexibility training.
  • Creating awareness of warming, stretching, hydrating, eating, recovery, relaxation, focus, etc.

Phase 4 – Training for training

This phase is suitable for boys up to 16 years of age and girls up to 15 years of age. The focus during this phase should be on developing overall physical capacities (focus on aerobic training).

  • Development of aerobic base.
  • Upgrading power trainings.
  • Finalizing the learning of stretching, nutrition, hydrating, mental preparation …
  • Creating a routine before the competition (race), during the competition and after the competition.
  • Serious work on training for flexibility due to possible accelerated bone growth in this period.

Phase 5 – Training for competitions (races)

This phase lasts until the age of 18 for boys and up to the age of 17 for girls when physical fitness has to be at the top level as well as the specific abilities of the given sport both in training and in the competition. During this period 50% of the training needs to be focused on the development of technical and tactical skills, as well as the maintenance and further development of the basic skills of the athlete, while the other 50% of the training must be focused on the competition and specific training. The basic elements of this phase:

  • Creating specific skills for competition during training that simulates the competitive environment.
  • In this period, the program of creating and maintaining physical preparation, recovery programs, nutrition, psychological preparation, technique development must be under the maximum individualization for each athlete.
  • Periodization in this period plays a major role.

Phase 6 – Training for results

It is only during this phase that the RESULT is placed in focus. For boys after the age of 18, and for girls after the age of 17. At this stage, physical fitness is maximized, and specific skills are at the highest level, but are still improving. Basic elements of this phase:

  • The maximum focus was transferred from trainings to the competition.
  • An athlete trains only for a particular competition.
  • High training intensity as well as volume with obligatory break points in order to avoid overtraining, which is frequent occurrence at this stage due to poor periodization and inadequate monitoring of the conditions of the athlete.
Phase 7 – Active life

This stage starts when an athlete stops to engage with professional sports. It is necessary that the athlete stay active in order to maintain good habits and a high level of good health. Professional athletes at this stage generally remain in the sport as coaches, experts, team and club leaders and other sports workers.

Tracking LTAD is the key to success in sports. Often there is a breakdown of process that leads to maximum results for various reasons and they are most often ignorance and pressure of the environment.Then there are mistakes that are very difficult to correct, and one of them is the creation of a champion in very early years.


  • LANG, M. & LIGHT, R. (2010) Research Notes: 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), p. 389-402
  • FORD, P. et al. (2011) The long-term athlete development model: Physiological evidence 
    and application. Journal of sports sciences, 29 (4), p. 389-402
  • ROBERTSON, S. H. E. I. L. A. & WAY, R. (2005) Long-term athlete development. Coaches report,  
    11 (3), p. 6-12.
Djordje Agbaba

🇬🇧Head coach at ‘Novi Sad’ swimming club, founder of ‘Science in sport’.

🇷🇸Glavni trener plivačkog kluba Novi Sad, osnivač ‘Nauka u sportu’.

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