• Josh Gray

The Last of the Foundational Stages



In the last article I addressed the first two foundation phases of Long Term Athletic Development. The two phases were “Active Start” (0-6yrs. old), and “FUNdamentals” (6-9 yrs old), with the main objective being to develop fundamental movement patterns and making sure they have fun. The next two phases are the most critical (assuming you have effectively gone through the first two), are “learn to train” and “train to train”, in which I will discuss in more detail in the following paragraphs.


LEARN TO TRAIN

The learn to train stage occurs between ages 9-12 years old in both boys and girls. This is a period of accelerated development (puberty/growth spurts) where the brain and the body are primed for skill acquisition. This means that it will be much easier for kids in this age group to learn a variety of different skills. Since this phase wraps up the physical literacy stage, children should be involved in multiple sports and should avoid specializing in any one sport.


Ancillary capacities or athletic knowledge should also be introduced during this phase. This includes information about why warm ups and cool downs are important, and also the effect of nutrition, hydration, and sleep on recovery. An introduction to mental prep, including dealing with anxiety, wins and losses, should be included here as well.


Formal competitions should be introduced with an opportunity for athletes to play a variety of different positions and/or events. Fair play should be a priority and practice and training should still be the major emphasis of this phase. Practices and training sessions should make 70% of time during sport and 30% devoted to competitions. 30% of practice time should be on technical drills, 40% on tactical skills (game strategies), 20% developing physical abilities, and 10% on life and mental skills.


Here are some recommendations for weekly practice/game sessions during this phase:


Age 9 – Practice one day a week, 45-60 minutes, with a 1:1 training to competition ratio

Age 10 – 11 – Should practice 2 days a week, for 60-75 minutes each, with a 2:1 training to competition ratio

Age 11-12 – Practice 2-3 days per week, 60-75 minutes, with a 2-3:1 training to competition ratio

This is all based on the idea that the kids are playing at recess, outside, or at the boys and girls clubs.


Train to Train

The train to train stage takes place between 12-16 years old, and is the last foundational stage in which youth are very physiologically responsive to training. During this period, competitions are limited so that the main focus is on the training. An effective ratio for sports participation is 60% training to 40% competition (which includes competition specific training). Athletes who follow this training/competition schedule tend to perform better in competition in the short and long run. An excessive amount of competitions during this time is one reason athletes plateau later in their careers. Some other issues of a hyper focus on competitions are that training time being used for tactical prep instead of skill development

and limited player substitutions which slows the development of all athletes.


The emphasis of physical training should consist of training should consist of basic strength and conditioning, speed and agility, and sport specific skill development. Here are some recommendations for athletes in this stage:

12 – 13 years old : 2-3 days per week, 60-75 minutes per session, 2:1 training to competition ratio

14-15 years old: 3-4 days a week, 60-75 minutes per session, 2-3:1 training to competition ratio

16 years old: 4-5 days a week, 90 minutes per session, 3-4:1 training to competition ratio

This wraps up the last of the foundational phases of long term athletic development. Next week will conclude this series in which I will discuss the final phases.

I hope you enjoyed!

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