Life Long Athlete Development Program (LLAD)

The Life Long Athlete Development Program (LLAD) is a framework for an optimal training, competition and recovery schedule for each stage of athletic development. Tiger Athletic uses this model and its practices as they are evidence based to produce athletes who reach their full athletic potential.

  • Active for Life – Enter at any age.
  • Train to Win – Male 19 +/- Females 18 +/-.
  • Train to Compete – Male 16-23 Females 15-21.
  • Train to Train – Male 12-16 Female 8-11.
  • FUNdamentals – Male 6-9 Female 0-6.
  • Active Start – Male and Female 0-6.

10 Key Factors Influencing Life Long Athletic Development

  1. Physical Literacy.
  2. Specialisation.
  3. Developmental Age.
  4. Sensitive Periods.
  5. Mental, Cognitive and Emotional Development.
  6. Periodization.
  7. Competition.
  8. Excellence Takes Time.
  9. System Alignment and Integration.
  10. Kaizen – Continuous Improvement.

The Life Long Athletic Development Model An Outline.

Active Start. Chronological Age. Males and Females 0-6.

  • Development of general movement skills.
  • Not sedentary for more than 60 minutes except when sleeping.
  • Some organized physical activity.
  • Exploration of risk and limits in a safe environment.
  • Active movement environment combined with well-structured gymnastics and swimming programs.
  • Daily physical activity with emphasis on fun!

FUNdamentals. Chronological Age.Males 6-9 and Females 6-8.

  • Overall movement skills.
  • General, overall development.
  • Integrated mental, cognitive and emotional development.
  • ABC’s of athleticism: agility, balance, co-ordination and speed.
  • ABC’s of Athletic: running, jumping, throwing and wheeling for wheelchair sports.
  • Develop strength through uses of own bodyweight exercises.
  • Introduce simple rules of fair play and ethics in sport.
  • Well-structured programs without Periodization.
  • Daily physical activity emphasising fun!

Learn to Train. Chronological/Developmental Age. Males 9-12 & Females 8-11

  • Overall sport skills development.
  • Major skill learning stage: all basic sport skills should be learnt before entering puberty or the Train to Train stage.
  • Integrated mental, cognitive and emotional development.
  • Introduction to mental preparation.
  • Develop strength through use of own bodyweight, adding medicine ball and Swiss ball.
  • Introduce ancillary capacities.
  • Further identification and development of talents.
  • Single or double periodization.
  • Sport specific training three times per week; participation in other sports three times per week.

Train to Train. Chronological Age.  Males 12-16 and Females 11-15.

  • Sport specific skill development.
  • Major fitness development stage: aerobic, speed and strength.
  • The onset of growth phase, peak height velocity (PHV)(the fastest rate of growth after growth decelerates) and the onset of menarche are biological indicators.
  • Build the physical and mental engine.
  • Integrated mental, physical and emotional development.
  • Introduce free weights.
  • Develop ancillary capacities.
  • Frequent musculoskeletal evaluations during growth spurt.
  • Talent identification and selection.
  • Single or double periodization.
  • Sport specific training 6-9 times per week, including complementary sports.

An Outline of Long Term Athletic Development. Train to Compete. Chronological / Developmental Age. Males 16-23 +/- and Females 15-21+/-.

  • Sport-, event-, position –specific physical conditioning.
  • Sport-, event-, position –specific technical tactical preparation.
  • Sport-, event-, position –specific technical and playing skills under competitive conditions.
  • Integrated mental, cognitive and emotional development.
  • Advanced mental preparation.
  • Optimize ancillary capacities.
  • Single, double or triple periodization.
  • Sport specific technical, tactical and fitness training 9-12 times per week.

Train to Win. Chronological Age. Males 19 +/- and Females 18 +/-.

  • Ages are sport specific and are based on national and international normative data, which represents the average score for certain factors across various levels of performance (height, weight, etc.)
  • Maintenance or improvement of physical capacities.
  • Further development of technical, tactical and playing skills.
  • Modeling all possible aspects of competition in training.
  • Frequent preventative breaks.
  • Maximise ancillary capacities.
  • Performance on demand.
  • Single, double or triple periodization.
  • Sport specific technical, tactical and fitness training 9-12 times per week.

Development. Active for Life.

Enter at any stage of life after the growth spurt.

Active for Life constitutes three participant based streams:

  • Competitive for Life.
  • Fit for Life and:
  • Physical Activity Leaders.

Competitive for Life. 

  • Minimum of 60 minutes daily moderate activity or 30 minutes of intense activity for adults.
  • Transfer from one sport to another.
  • Move from highly competitive sport to lifelong competitive sport including age group competition.
  • Embrace an active lifestyle by participating in in organised sport that may be unfamiliar.
  • Compete at a high level in age group competitions such as Masters Games.

Fit for Life.

  • Minimum of 60 minutes daily moderate activity or 30 minutes of intense activity for adults.
  • Move from competitive sport to recreational activities.
  • Move to sport careers or volunteering.
  • Maintain an active lifestyle by continuing to participate in organised or non-organised physical activity.
  • Become active by participating in non-organised sport or physical activity that may be unfamiliar.

Sport and Physical Activity Leaders.

  • Move from competitive sport to volunteering as coaches, officials or administrators.
  • Upon retiring from competitive sport, move to sport related careers such as coaching, officiating, sport administration, small business enterprises or media.
  • Use experience, whether from previous involvement or education, to help ensure a positive environment for participants.

*Active for Life if Physical Literacy is achieved before Train to Train Stage.

Life Long Athletic Development through Sport for Life. Planning for Wellness and Sport Excellence: For All Of Society.

A commitment to enhance participation, excellence, capacity and interaction in sport, with the vision of a “dynamic and leading edge sport environment that enables all of society to experience and enjoy participation in sport to the extent of their abilities and interests, and for increasing numbers, to perform consistently and successfully at the highest competitive levels.”

As a step towards this vision, administrators, private enterprise and society responsible for sport from general participation to the highest level  – should invest in Sport for Life and its core, Life Long Athletic Development  (LLAD) framework.

This document provides a framework and philosophy for promoting lifelong engagement in sport and physical activity for all, while also fostering an environment for excellence in the international arena.

Executive Summary

The Sport for Life Program (SFLP) is a movement to improve the quality of sport and physical activity in society. SFLP links sport, education, recreation and health and aligns community, provincial and national programming.

Life Long Athletic Development (LLAD) is a multi-stage training, competition and recovery pathway guiding an individual’s experience in sport and physical activity from infancy through all phases of adulthood.

The Sport For Life Program (SFLP) with Life Long Athletic Development (LLAD) represents a paradigm shift in the way we lead and deliver sport and physical activity in Society.  The Sport for Life movement aims to improve the quality of sport and physical activity in Society by addressing overall sport and physical activity from policy to program delivery. Establishing quality programs based on developmentally appropriate sport and physical activity will improve the health, wellness and sporting experiences of all society. The results will be physical literacy, improved performance and increased lifelong participation in physical activity

The planned outcomes of Society Sport for Life include:

  • Physical Literacy.
  • Excellence and;
  • Active for Life.

Physical Literacy is the foundation for both Active for Life and Excellence. Individuals who are physically literate move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities that benefit healthy development. These individuals are able to effectively demonstrate an array of basic human movements, fundamental movement skills and fundamental sports skills across a range of physical environments. They develop the motivation and ability to understand, communicate, apply and analyse different forms of movement. This enhances their physical and psychological wellness, allowing them to pursue sport excellence based on their ability and motivation. Physical literacy is the cornerstone for both participation in physical activity and excellence in sport, and has been adopted as the foundation of the Sport for Life concept in Society.

Active for Life is the third key outcome of Society Sport for Life Program. Active for Life is the name of Long-Term Athlete Development seventh stage, but it is also a major goal for the Society Sport for Life movement. This stage can be entered at any age after the development of physical literacy during childhood and youth, and may include being Competitive for Life (where Society are active for life through participation in competitive sport), Fit for Life (where Society are active for life through participation in recreational physical activity), and/or Sport and Physical Activity Leaders where Society contribute to the sport and physical activity experience as coaches or instructors, officials, either professional or volunteer administrators, or through sport science and medicine).

A central component of the Society Sport for Life movement is Life Long Athlete Development– a multi stage training, competition and recovery pathway that guides an individual’s experience in sport and physical activity from infancy through all phases of adulthood. Life Long Athlete Development is a framework for developmentally appropriate programs that increase participation and optimize performance. Life Long Athlete Development uses a holistic approach that considers mental, cognitive and emotional development combined with physical development, ensuring each athlete develops as a complete person.

Society Sport for Life – Life Long Athlete Development describes how national sport systems in Society can best accommodate the needs for increased activity and sporting achievement for those with physical, sensory and intellectual disabilities. While not everyone with a disability will pursue excellence, this should not exclude them from opportunities to develop physical literacy and become active for life.

The seven stages of Life Long Athlete Development are:

  1. Active Start
  2. FUNdamentals
  3. Learn to Train
  4. Train to Train
  5. Train to Compete
  6. Train to Win and;
  7. Active for Life.

The first three stages combined form the physical literacy base upon which the excellence stream (Train to Train, Train to Compete and Train to Win) and lifelong engagement in physical activity (Active for Life) is built.

Athletes with a disability have two additional stages of Long-Term Athlete Development:

  1. Awareness and;
  2. First Contact.

They are particularly important for individuals with an acquired disability who may not have been aware of sport and physical activity for persons with a disability.

Sport for Life & Life Long Athletic Development:The Principles & Values.

  1. Life has significant stages of development that include transitions from child to adolescent, to adult, and then to senior, resulting in changed capabilities.
  2. Training, competition and recovery programs should be based on the stage of the participant’s capability, rather than chronological age.
  3. For optimal development, sport programs must be designed for the stage of development and gender of the participant.
  4. Physical literacy is the basis of lifelong participation and excellence in sport and engagement in health enhancing physical activity.
  5. Every child is an athlete and, therefore, is genetically predisposed to be active if the environment encourages participation.
  6. Lifelong participation and excellence in sport are best achieved by participating in a variety of sports at a young age, then specializing later in development.
  7. There are sensitive periods during which there is accelerated adaptation to training during pre-puberty, puberty and early post-puberty.
  8. A variety of developmental, physical, mental, cognitive and emotional factors affect the planning of optimal training, competition and recovery programs.
  9. Providing guidance through the complete spectrum of LLAD stages of sport and physical activity will result in increased participation and performance.
  10. Mastery in sport develops over time, through participation in quality sport and physical activity programs.
  11. LLAD is participant/athlete-centred, coach-led, and organization supported, taking into account the demands of home, organized sport, community recreation and school.
  12. Through cooperation and collaboration within sports (at all levels) and between sports, a more effective sport system can be achieved.
  13. The integrated efforts of high-performance sport, community sport, school sport, school physical education, and municipal recreation will have a mutually positive benefit for all.
  14. Quality sport and physical activity, combined with proper lifestyle, result in better health, disease prevention, enhanced learning, enjoyment, and social interaction; leading to improved wellness.
  15. Sport practices, scientific knowledge and societal expectations are ever changing and, therefore, LLAD needs to continually adapt and improve. 

Sport For Life Program (SFLP)

The Sport for Life Program (SFLP) is a movement to improve the quality of sport and physical activity in Society nations through improved athlete training and better integration between all stakeholders in the sport system, including sport organizations, education, recreation and health.  A key feature of SFLP is Life Long Athletic Development (LLAD), a developmental pathway whereby athletes follow optimal training, competition, and recovery regimens from childhood through all phases of adulthood.

The vision behind SFLP is to reshape how we support sport and train athletes at all levels in Society – from children to adults, from towns to cities, from provinces and regions through to the National level. In realizing this vision, we aim to keep more Society active for life with recreational sport and physical activity, and at the same time help Society in all sports win more medals internationally.

Issues in Sport

LLAD addresses historical problems in sport.

LLAD has been developed to answer issues that have historically hampered athlete development in Society sports. LLAD is designed to address problems such as over-competing, under-training, ignoring developmental stages, and more.

LLAD addresses several traditional shortcomings in the Society sport systems that have led to serious consequences in the training and development of our athletes.


  • Developmental athletes over-compete and under-train.
  • Adult training and competition programs are imposed on developing athletes.
  • Training and competition formats designed for male athletes are imposed on females.
  • Preparation is geared to winning in the short-term, not long-term development.
  • Training and competition is based on chronological age instead of developmental age.
  • Most coaches neglect the sensitive periods in physical development when athletes have the best chance of making big gains in training of skills, speed, stamina, strength, and suppleness.
  • Fundamental movement skills and sport skills are not taught properly.
  • The most knowledgeable coaches work at the elite level, while inexperienced volunteers coach at the developmental level where quality coaching is essential.
  • Parents are not educated in developmental principles.
  • Developmental training needs of athletes with a disability are not well understood.
  • In most sports, the competition system interferes with athlete development.
  • There is often no talent identification (TID) system.
  • There is no integration between physical education programs in the schools, recreational community programs, and elite competitive programs.
  • Sports specialize too early in an attempt to attract and retain participants. 


  1. Failure to reach optimal performance levels in international competitions.
  2. Poor movement abilities.
  3. Lack of proper fitness.
  4. Poor skill development.
  5. Bad habits developed from over-competition focused on winning.
  6. Undeveloped and unrefined skills due to under-training.
  7. Female athletes don’t reach their potential due to inappropriate programs.
  8. Children are not having fun in adult-based programs.
  9. No systematic development of the next generation of successful international athletes.
  10. Athletes are pulled in different directions by school, club, and provincial teams because of the structure of competition programs.
  11. Provincial and national team coaches have to deliver remedial training to counteract the shortcomings of poor athlete preparation.
  12. National performances fluctuate due to lack of TID and a developmental pathway.
  13. Athletes fail to reach their genetic potential and optimal performance level.

Life Long Athletic Development (LLAD) Stages

A Defined Path – Better Sport! Better Health! Better Achievement!

Children, youth and adults need to do the right things at the right time to develop in their sport or activity – whether they want to be hockey players, dancers, figure skaters or gymnasts. Life Long Athletic Development (LLAD) describes the things athletes need to be doing at specific ages and stages.

Science, research and decades of experience all point to the same thing: kids and adults will get active, stay active, and even reach the greatest heights of sport achievement if they do the right things at the right times. This is the logic behind the Life Long Athlete Development model (LLAD).

There are seven stages within the basic LLAD model:

Stage 1: Active Start (0-6 years)

Stage 2: FUNdamental (girls 6-8, boys 6-9)

Stage 3: Learn to Train (girls 8-11, boys 9-12)

Stage 4: Train to Train (girls 11-15, boys 12-16)

Stage 5: Train to Compete (girls 15-21, boys 16-23)

Stage 6: Train to Win (girls 18+, boys 19+)

Stage 7: Active for Life (any age participant)

Stages 1, 2 and 3 develop physical literacy before puberty so children have the basic skills to be active for life. Physical literacy also provides the foundation for those who choose to pursue elite training in one sport or activity after age 12.

Stages 4, 5 and 6 provide elite training for those who want to specialize in one sport and compete at the highest level, maximizing the physical, mental and emotional development of each athlete.

Stage 7 is about staying Active for Life through lifelong participation in competitive or recreational sport or physical activity.

Stage 1 – Active Start.

From 0-6 years, boys and girls need to be engaged in daily active play. Through play and movement, they develop the fundamental movement skills that will provide the foundation for learning fundamental sports skills at older ages. 

From ages 0-6 years, children need to be introduced to unstructured active play that incorporates a variety of body movements. Children this age need to develop the ABCs of movement – Agility, Balance, Coordination and Speed.

The ABCs are essential for developing fundamental movement skills, and fundamental movement skills will later provide the foundation for fundamental sport skills. Together, fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills form the basis of physical literacy.

An early active start enhances development of brain function, physical coordination, gross motor skills, and posture and balance. An active start also helps children to build confidence, social skills, emotional control, and imagination while reducing stress and improving sleep.

Children in the Active Start stage should see physical activity as a fun and exciting part of everyday life.

Why Active Play is so Important

Young children need active play to develop properly and to help ensure life-long health. Physical activity should begin as soon as possible and remain steady throughout each day. Encourage them to work on many skills in a variety of safe, play environments.

Young children need regular, vigorous, physical activity – active play – to develop and grow properly. A physically active lifestyle is crucial for life-long health and physical and emotional wellbeing.

Physical activity means taking part in active play that uses the body’s large muscles. Children should get outside when possible and should experience a range of activities and games. This activity doesn’t always have to be structured, but it should be vigorous. Active play is just as important for children with a disability, though some activities may have to be modified.

Start encouraging physical activity at the infancy stage. Use toys to prompt movement. Unless they are sleeping, children under six shouldn’t be inactive for more than 60 minutes at a time. Reducing screen time will help keep this schedule intact.

Because children need to develop a range of body control, locomotor and sending and receiving skills, it’s imperative that they experience a variety of activities. Engage with the child at times and leave them alone at others. Just be sure they are safe.

Being a positive role model will help with their development, so make you’re being active, too!

The key to a healthy life is physical activity at a young age. Activities should incorporate many different skills through a variety of forms, and should be maintained throughout a child’s day. Safe, stimulating environments are important, as are positive role models.

Making sure children are active

Active play strengthens bones, muscles and the brain, and establishes connections between all of them. A physically active lifestyle is crucial for life-long health and physical and emotional wellbeing. To develop good habits, children should be physically active every day.

If children don’t develop good habits of physical activity when they are young, they increase their risk of being overweight or obese later in life. Obesity is linked to a number of health and mental health problems.
What is meant by physical activity? Physical activity means taking part in active play and games that use the large muscles of the body. Whole-body play of almost any kind, especially outdoor play, provides the movement that children need. Play that uses the hands and fingers is important in developing fine-motor skills.

Active play is also important for children with a disability, though some activities may have to be modified to ensure children’s safety and to help them have success.

Active play is vigorous enough if children breathe faster and deeper, start to sweat and get warm, can feel their heart beat faster or have redness in their cheeks.
How much physical activity? Children under the age of six should be physically active for a short time during every waking hour.

  • For Infants (up to one year): Daily activity is important. Provide toys and simple objects that encourage them to move.
  • Toddlers (1-3 years): At least 30 minutes of adult-organized activity daily and from 60 minutes to several hours per day of unstructured physical activity is recommended – especially outdoors.
  • Pre-schoolers (3-5 years): At least 60 minutes of structured physical activity every day, and from 60 minutes to several hours of daily unstructured physical activity is recommended – especially outdoors.

Reducing screen time is also important Children up to two years of age shouldn’t spend any time watching television, and children from ages three to five should be limited to one to two hours of screen time each day.
At what age should physical activity start? As soon as possible! Encourage children to roll over and crawl by putting a toy out of their reach. Don’t put it too far away. Let them play with it when they’ve reached it.

Remember to provide a safe, stimulating, and interesting environment in which children can physically explore their world.

Kinds of activities

  • Body control skills– like balance, moving the arms and legs in rhythmic ways to music, and developing coordination.
  • Locomotor skills– like crawling, walking, running, skipping, jumping, leaping, rolling.
  • Sending and receiving skills– like rolling a ball, throwing, catching, kicking and hitting things with a bat or stick.

Normal Childhood Development of Fundamental Movement Skills

Children will only learn new skills when their bodies have developed enough to do so. A normal age range exists for each skill. Although some children develop early and others develop late, parents should only be concerned if a child is well behind their peers in the majority of actions.

What is normal skill development?

Children learn new skills – crawling, walking, and running – only when their bodies are ready. This means when they are strong enough to do the activity, and when the brain and nerves are developed enough to send the right messages to the right muscles.

Brain, nerve and muscle development depends on the individual. A child who is later-than-average in learning to crawl sometimes walks before those “early” crawlers, while the early walker may be the last to run or jump. 

When should a child be able to crawl, walk and run?

The normal range of ages at which children learn the different movement skills holds more weight than average age. Take crawling for example.

Some children learn to crawl at around five months, and many start to crawl at seven months. Others do not start crawling until they are 10-11 months old. About one in 10 babies never crawl, but go straight to walking when the body is ready.

There are no advantages or disadvantages to starting early or late. As long as the child hits movement milestones within the normal range, there’s no need to be concerned.

When should parents be concerned?

If children are much later than most of their peers in several different actions, it would be wise to speak with a health care provider.

Providing children with active role models, encouragement, and the opportunity to safely explore their environment will help all children develop physical abilities.

Give children the opportunity to learn movement skills and encourage them to physically explore their play spaces. Many short periods of vigorous play per day are best. Children shouldn’t go longer than one hour without being active (unless, of course, they are sleeping).

Encouraging Different Types of Play

Children need different types of play to fully develop the brain and body. Play with small items helps to improve fine control of small muscles, while whole-body play builds large muscles and bones. Basic movement skills are important so children can play games alone or with friends.

Different types of play with various toys and objects will improve a child’s brain and body development. Children need to work both their large and small muscles through a range of activities. By engaging in physical activities as children, people are more likely to stay healthier throughout their lives.

Physical activity leads to stronger bodies. When children support their body weight through activities, they strengthen their bones. Children build muscles by using them, which also strengthens bones. Vigorous activity causes the heart to beat faster and grow stronger.

The more opportunity children have to learn basic movement skills, the more adept they’ll be in games that require those skills. This usually leads to prolonged involvement.

Children should build body control skills through movement, locomotor skills through activities that require balance and agility, and sending and receiving skills through games that require coordination.

Play Activities – The First Year of Life

Helping children become physically active doesn’t have to cost much. From the time they’re newborns until they’re walking, children can benefit from a number of simple activities. Certain actions suit specific age periods, but they’re all geared toward building skills.

Many simple, inexpensive activities exist that can help children’s physical development. There are useful actions appropriate to each stage between infancy and the time they are walking.

From newborn until six months, children require activities that will work on their balance and coordination. Let them “feel” things by moving their limbs and stroking their feet and hands with various objects. Encourage them to move on their own by having them seek out toys that are just out of their reach.

At six to eight months, it’s all about support. Hold them in different positions so they can get a feel for them. Once they’re able to support themselves a bit, do things that require them to move or react. Use a mobile in their crib and make bath time fun.

Between nine and 12 months, children begin moving more on their own. Make sure their environment and the toys they play with are safe and stimulating. Do rhythmic activities. Get children playing outdoors.

Once children start trying to walk, give them plenty of practice in a space where they can fall safely. Help them walk on different surfaces. Then, they can start walking with things in their hands.

Play Activities – The First Year of Life

Inexpensive, simple activities will help children’s development from infancy until the time they’re walking. These activities should improve control of the body as well eye-tracking and locomotor skills. Demonstrate positivity towards the outdoors and water. Always perform activities in safe environments.

16 cheap things to help a child develop good physical skills:

New-born to six months (activities that help children develop balance and coordination)

  • Hold and support the infant while you move around (to music if you like).
  • Place the baby on a soft surface and gently roll them from side to side.
  • With the baby lying on their back, cross and uncross the baby’s hands and feet in front of their body. Crossing their limbs over the mid-line of the body helps develop coordination.
  • Since balance also depends on how a child “feels” the ground under them, spend time stroking their hands and feet using hard and soft items.
  • Place toys at the edge of the child’s reach and encourage them to rollover and reach them.

At six to eight months

  • Sit the child on your lap or feet and bounce them gently. Support them with your hands and be ready to catch them.
  • To help children support their weight on their legs, hold their hands while they are sitting and help them to stand.
  • Make bath time fun to develop a love of the water. Ensure water is comfortably warm and that there are colourful toys to play with. Help the child make splashing movements. Keep your hands on the child for safety.
  • When the child can sit unaided, sit facing them and roll a colourful ball a few inches to them. Encourage the child to push it back to you.
  • Hang a mobile over the crib so that when the child wakes up, they have moving objects to watch. If they are outside, put them under a tree so that they can see the leaves and branches moving. Once the child can sit up, remove the mobile for safety.

At nine to 12 months

  • Arrange secure furniture so that the child can pull themselves up and “cruise” around. Place furniture a short distance apart so that the child can move from one piece to another. Watch out for sharp corners.
  • Find soft rubber balls in different colours for children to grasp and push around.
  • Make sure children get outdoors. Take them for a walk in a buggy or sleigh and go out each day. This benefits parents and caregivers, too.
  • Sing songs, clap hands and dance. Do rhythmic activities, with or without music.
  • Provide a safe place where the child can play with toys and move around without getting hurt. A safe, stimulating environment is the best learning tool you can provide.

When they can walk – or are just trying

  • Allow for plenty of walking – and falling – safely. Gently support under the child’s arms and gradually remove your support. Sit a few feet away and encourage the baby to come to you. Walk on various surfaces. Walk with and without shoes on. Sometimes encourage the child to carry toys to develop balance.

Most of all be an active role model – children learn from watching!

Play Activities – Ages One to Three

Children between ages one and three need fun activities to ensure a life-long love of physical activity. A variety of actions will help them develop good physical movement skills. Remember to always keep the play space safe, and be creative as you and your child create new games.

  • Involve your child in fun activities so that they establish a positive opinion of healthy, physical behaviour. As they learn to walk, play little games so they try new things on different surfaces.
  • Get them moving their legs and feet by kicking balls and by kicking the water during bath time. Enjoyable experiences in the tub will lead to a positive outlook on water activities later on.
  • When they’re ready, try them out on skates and wheeled objects. Play various ball games.
  • Take turns following the leader. When it’s your turn to lead, be experimental. Get children to move their bodies in different ways. When children are leading, encourage them to exaggerate their movements. Have them do things you can’t to build their sense of achievement.
  • Above all, make time to play. Let them try things without being forceful. Keep activities fun and make sure they happen every day.

Play Activities – Ages One to Three

Keeping games and actions fun will help children develop a life-long love of activity. The following 10 fun things will help them develop good physical skills. Keep them safe and be sure to foster children’s sense of achievement at all times.


  1. As a child learns to walk:
  • Try different surfaces – tiles, carpet, soft grass, or sand.
  • Find gentle uphill and downhill areas to walk on, in both shoes and bare feet.
  • As a child becomes more confident, try walking along lines and stepping over cracks in the sidewalk. For older children, have them do the same thing: running and eventually hopping.
  1. Put shapes on the floor so that children can take a big step from one to the other. Increase the distance and encourage the child to jump. Play games running around the shapes and then call out instructions for the child to do.
  2. Kick a soft ball that doesn’t roll too far gently to the child. Have them kick it back. Don’t worry if they use their hands – it all helps the eyes learn to track the movement of the ball.
  3. At bath time, let children kick their feet up and down in the tub. Have them sit in a wading pool and make as big a splash with their feet as they can. Start encouraging them to put their face in the water – at first for just an instant and eventually for longer periods.
  4. When they are comfortable on their feet, get children into real or strap on skates and support them as they glide (have them use a helmet). If you can’t skate, consider learning with the child.
  5. Play “catch” with the child using a large, soft ball. Stand facing the child a foot or two away, have them make a basket with their arms and gently toss the ball to them.
  6. Get the child on wheels, such as scooters or tricycles. Let them wheel on smooth and rough surfaces so they feel the difference when they push. Always use a bike helmet.
  7. Wrap some hockey tape around one end of a sturdy stick and have the child hit something that will move. It’s encouraging if the thing makes noise. As the child gets better control of the stick, start rolling a large ball towards them so they can hit it.
  8. Take turns following the leader. When it’s your turn to lead, try making shapes with your body. Stand with your arms above your head or crouch down small. Try jumping, walking, running and suddenly changing direction. When the child is leading, encourage them to exaggerate their movements. Have the child do things you can’t (like squeeze through a child sized gap), which will give them a sense of achievement.
  9. Above all, provide the time to play. Make sure they try things, but don’t force them! This activity just needs to be fun. Set time aside every day, and get outside whenever you can.

Play Activities – Ages Three to Six

Fun activities for children between the ages of three and six will help them develop fundamental movement and fundamental sport skills as well as a life-long love of physical activity. Safe, outdoor play is important at this stage. Reduce television and screen time, and promote physical activity.

Children between the ages of three and six need fun physical activity to encourage later involvement in recreation and sport. There are many ways to build their interest in activity while also heightening their skill development.

  • Outdoor obstacle courses and safe, simple races that aren’t focused on winning are effective ways to get children going. Follow the leader is another good way to encourage whole-body movement. Bike riding is not only fun, it builds balance and coordination as well.
  • Mini ball games involving kicking, catching, throwing and swinging are fun and develop coordination. Don’t worry about the score or rules and only play with two or three kids. You’re not coaching the sport, just helping children learn skills that they’ll use later.
  • Enrol children in organized activities, but make time to play with them as well. It’s important for children to see the people they love and trust being active. Positivity from their role models toward physical activity goes a long way.
  • Spending a lot of time in front of the screen can negatively impact development and lead to obesity. Get those children active – it’s not about what they’re playing, just that they are playing!

Play Activities – Ages Three to Six

To ensure proper development and a life-long love of physical activity, help children get active. Cut down on screen time and promote safe, outdoor play. Try many fun activities, such as the 10 below that require a range of skills. Always be a positive role model.

  1. Obstacle course in the garden or in the park: Climb on a low wall and jump off, crawl under the garden chair, or wiggle like a snake through the climbing frame. With the child, make up a course and take turns going through it.
  2. Simple races: The type of race doesn’t matter – being safe does. Don’t make the finish line something the child can run into. Give them time to slow down. The races should not be competitive and everyone should win sometimes.
  3. Bike riding: During this stage, most children can learn to ride a bike. Some people use training wheels. Teach a child to ride a two-wheeler by supporting them as they glide down a grassy slope. This will manage speed and balance. Wear a helmet!
  4. Mini-games: Play mini games of soccer or ball hockey. The fewer rules the better, and no more than two or three children playing at once. Don’t teach the sport – just let the kids have fun while using some of the sport’s skills.
  5. Follow the leader: This activity works well when children can take turns leading and following. Adults should usually be the followers. Play inside and outside; use things to jump on crawl through.
  6. Throw stones into water:Developing throwing skills takes practice, and there is nothing more fun for a child than throwing stones, especially into water.
  7. Enrol your child: Now, children are ready to take part in more organized activities. Local organizations offer various programs and activities. Try a range. If the child is ready for these activities and the registration fees are unaffordable, talk to the organizers. Many have ways to help low-income families.
  8. Be a role model: It’s important for children to see the people they love and trust being active. Be an active role model when you are playing with the child and on your own. This shows the child that being physically active isn’t something you do only with them.
  9. Make time available for play: Set aside time for play and make it a part of the child’s daily routine. Cancelling playtime because you are too busy tells the child that being active isn’t important. Children at this age should have at least 60 minutes of time for vigorous play per day spread over several short periods.
  10. Cut down on screen time: Spending time in front of the television or computer can have a negative effect on brain and physical development. The amount of time a child watches television can indicate the likelihood of them becoming obese. So cut screen time to a minimum, and get a child playing. What they play isn’t nearly as important as just getting them active.

Stage 2: FUNdamental (girls 6-8, boys 6-9

During the FUNdamental stage (females 6-8, males 6-9), children should develop fundamental movement skills, including the ABCs of Agility, Balance, Coordination and Speed. Children should participate in a fun and challenging multi-sport environment.

Early elementary school age children need to participate in a variety of well-structured activities that develop basic skills. However, activities and programs need to maintain a focus on fun, and formal competition should only be minimally introduced.

Children should be exposed to a variety of sports and physical activities throughout the year, developing their interests and motivation while avoiding the danger of burnout through premature specialization.

Learning fundamental movement skills throughout this stage is a key to the overall development of physical literacy. The ABCs of Agility, Balance, Coordination and Speed are foundation blocks for developing fundamental movement skills.

More about the FUNdamental stage

The FUNdamental stage is the second of the three LLAD stages that are critical to the development of physical literacy. If children fail to develop physical literacy prior to the growth spurt in puberty, they will have limited ability to develop sport-specific skills at older ages and stages of training and development. This will significantly impact their desire to continue in lifelong physical activity and limit their opportunities to develop as an athlete.

Children in the FUNdamental stage are motivated primarily by the desire to have FUN. While they may participate in competitive sports where points are scored, they are far less concerned with competitive results than they are with having fun, being with friends and developing a strong self-esteem.

Children in the FUNdamental stage improve their fundamental movement skills through well-structured programs. Skill development should happen through a combination of unstructured play in safe and challenging environments and quality instruction from knowledgeable teachers/leaders/coaches in structured programs at schools, community recreation centres and minor sport programs.

Children this age should not specialize in a single sport, unless they are participating in one of the few recognized early-specialization sports (e.g. gymnastics, figure skating, diving).

If they have a preferred sport, they may take part in it two or three times a week, but they should participate in other sports and physical activities at least three to four times per week.

Children this age have a strong sense of what is “fair” and should be introduced to the simple rules and ethics of sports. Basic rules, tactics, decision making and ethics of sport can be introduced.

Things to Think About

  • Hand and foot speed can be developed especially well by boys and girls during this stage. If this sensitive period of accelerated adaptation to develop speed is missed, body speed later in life may be significantly compromised.
  • This is a great age for children to take part in a wide range of sports. They should be encouraged to take part in land-based, water-based and ice/snow based activities at different times of the year.
  • It is important that all children, including those with disabilities, master fundamental movement skills before sport specific skills are introduced.
  • Strength, endurance and flexibility need to be developed, but through games and fun activities rather than a training regimen.

Children need to learn to “read” the movements going on around them and make sound decisions during games.

Stage 3: Learn to Train (girls 8-11, boys 9-12). Learn to Train

During the Learn to Train stage (females 8-11, males 9-12); children should be converting their fundamental movement skills into fundamental sport skills. This stage is “The Golden Age of Learning” for specific sport skills.

Children in the Learn to Train stage are ready to begin training according to more formalized methods. However, the emphasis should still be on general sports skills suitable to a number of activities. A greater amount of time should be spent training and practicing skills than competing.

It may be tempting to specialize at this age through excessive single sport training or early position specialization in team sports. This should be avoided in most sports.

Inappropriate or premature specialization can be detrimental to later stages of athlete development if the child is playing a late specialization sport. Premature specialization promotes one-sided development and increases the likelihood of injury and burnout.

There are a few sports that are recognized as early-specialization sports, such as gymnastics, figure skating, and diving. It is appropriate to provide more training hours and concentrated focus in these activities.

The Learn to Train stage of LLAD is the most important stage for the development of sport-specific skills. This stage represents a sensitive period of accelerated adaptation to skills training and fine motor control. It is also a time when children enjoy practicing their skills and seeing their own improvement.

The Growth Spurt

The Learn to Train stage ends when the growth spurt begins. The growth spurt disrupts coordination and motor control, making it more difficult to pick up and develop new sport skills.


It is still too early for specialization in late specialization sports, although many children at this age may have developed a preference for one sport. To maximize the long-term development of their athletic capacities, they need to engage in a broad range of activities, playing at least 2-3 different sports through the year.

 Training more than Competing

While most children naturally enjoy healthy competition, skills training and practice should be the focus at Learn to Train – not winning. 70% of time in the sport should be spent in practice, and no more than 30% of time spent competing in formal games and competitions. (Competitive training activities count as part of the 70% training time.)

Focus on learning skills

This is the time to develop and refine all fundamental movement skills and learn overall sport skills. The brain is approaching adult size and complexity, and refined skill performance is easier to develop.

Advantage of late developers

Late developers (those who enter puberty later than their peers) have an advantage when it comes to learning skills, as the Learn to Train stage lasts longer for them. They can often become better sport performers in the long term because of the longer period of skill development that they enjoy.

Disadvantage of late developers

Still, early bloomers often get selected over late bloomers because of the emphasis that coaches and parents often put on competition outcomes at the youth level.  It is important that sport organizations provide late bloomers with an equal opportunity to train and develop within the sport, so that they do not get overlooked or excluded in the development of the larger pool of future athlete talent.

Variety of sports and physical activities

By this stage, children have developed clear ideas about the sports they like. Their enthusiasm and personal sense of success should be encouraged. The focus should be on playing at least 2-3 sports in different seasons through the year. Children should not focus only on one sport for an entire year.

Training flexibility, stamina and strength

This is an important time to work on flexibility. Stamina and strength should be developed through games, relays, and own-body weight exercises as opposed to more formalized physical training.

Stage 4: Train to Train (girls 11-15, boys 12-16). Train to Train

During the Train to Train stage (females 11-15, males 12-16), young athletes need to build an aerobic base and consolidate their sport- specific skills. Towards the end of the stage, they need to focus on strength and the anaerobic alactic energy system. Increased training hours are needed at this stage to develop each athlete’s long-term potential. 

The ages that define the Train to Train stage are based on the approximate onset and end of the adolescent growth spurt. This period is generally defined as ages 11 to 15 years for females and 12 to 16 years for males.

At this stage, athletes are ready to consolidate their basic sport-specific skills and tactics. It is also a major fitness development stage.

The Train to Train stage makes or breaks the athlete. Athletes may exhibit special talent, play to win, and do their best, but they still need to allocate more time to training skills and physical capacities than competing in formal settings. To maximize their long-term potential, winning should remain a secondary emphasis.

This approach is critical to the long-term development of top performers and lifelong participants.

To ensure their program is following the correct training-to-competition ratio, along with other guidelines that describe training design and competition objectives at each LLAD stage, coaches and parents should consult the sport-specific LLAD plan from their sport’s national organization.

During the Train to Train stage of LLAD, physical changes take place faster in the athlete than at younger ages.  Training programs need to be designed to account for these rapid changes and the various advantages and disadvantages that they present in athlete development.

Athletes must be constantly monitored in order to understand how their growth and maturation is affecting their training and vice versa. 

Peak Height Velocity (PHV)

During the Train to Train stage, athletes are entering their growth spurt and passing through puberty. As they do so, their growth can be measured and plotted to calculate the time when they reach peak height velocity (PHV).

PHV is an important marker for determining which physical capacities can be trained effectively and safely during this stage. For example, aerobic training should be a priority after reaching PHV.

Growth impeding performance

During the growth spurt, especially if the growth spurt happens exceptionally quickly, athlete skills and movement abilities may be significantly impeded. Coaches may need to explain to the athletes why their motor skills and movement abilities have been negatively affected, so the athletes can understand that this is a natural event that will pass with time.

General considerations during Train to Train

  • Emphasize suppleness (flexibility) training to accommodate the rapid growth of bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
  • Address the sensitive periods of accelerated adaptation to strength training. For boys, the sensitive period for strength begins 12 to 18 months after PHV. For girls, the sensitive period begins with whichever of the following occurs first in the individual: menarche or the onset of Peak Weight Velocity (PWV). Some girls will experience PWV prior to menarche, while others will experience menarche prior to PWV.
  • Both aerobic and strength trainability are dependent on the maturation of the athlete. For this reason, the timing of training emphasis may differ between athletes depending on whether they are early, average, or late maturers.
  • Athletes need to learn to cope with the physical and mental challenges of competition.
  • For all athletes, the use of body-size and skill-level appropriate equipment remains important.
  • Optimize training and competition ratios and follow a 60:40 percent training to competition ratio.
  • Too much competition wastes valuable training time; too little competition reduces the practical application and development of technique, tactics, and decision-making skills under realistic competition conditions.
  • Use talent identification to help athletes focus on two sports.
  • Utilize single and double periodization plans to prepare athletes.
  • During training, include competitive situations in the form of practice matches or competitive games and drills.
  • A key reason why many athletes hit a plateau during later stages of their development has to do with too much competition and not enough training during this stage.
  • Competition is most valuable when it is used to develop strategic and tactical understanding. The focus must be on the learning process and not the outcome.

Stage 5: Train to Compete (girls 15-21, boys 16-23)

In the Train to Compete stage (females 15-21, males 16-23), athletes choose one sport in which they will train to excel. Athletes will train to solidify their sport-specific and position-specific skills and all of their physical capacities. These athletes are aiming to compete in national and international events.

At the Train to Compete stage of LLAD, this is where competition becomes “serious.” Athletes enter this stage if they have chosen to specialize in one sport and excel at the highest level of competition possible.

Athletes need to commit to high-volume and high-intensity training throughout the year. Instruction in topics such as nutrition, sport psychology, recovery and regeneration, injury prevention, and injury management also become very important.

Formal competition becomes more prominent in annual periodized training, competition and recovery plans, and includes major national and international events.

Train to Compete athletes are not the average community sport program participant. They committed athletes with recognized talent who have chosen an elite pathway that few others pursue.

The Train to Compete stage of LLAD is a dress rehearsal for the Train to Win stage. Train to Compete maximizes all of the physical, mental, cognitive, and emotional capacities of the athlete. It also teaches the athlete how to handle the distractions of elite sport, such as travel, weather, different competition venues, media, spectators, and difficult opponents.

Winning becomes a major focus during Train to Compete. However, coaches should help their athletes to select specific competitions that support strategic athlete development. The learning and development that occurs during these competitive events will prepare athletes for the next stage in their sporting progress, Train to Win.

General considerations during Train to Compete

  • Provide year-round, high intensity, individual event and position-specific training.
  • Have athletes perform their skills under a variety of competitive conditions during training.
  • Place special emphasis on optimum preparation by modeling high-level competition in training.
  • Continue to tailor and refine individual fitness programs, recovery programs, psychological preparation, and technical development.
  • Emphasize individual preparation that addresses each athlete’s individual strengths and weaknesses.
  • Athletes must strive to deliver consistent high performance results in both training and competition.
  • Coaches should consistently use periodization plans as the optimal framework of preparation according on the periodization recommendations of their sport’s LLAD plan.
  • Coaches and athletes must plan for tapering and peaking for competition, to accommodate the large increase in training volume.

Tapering means reducing both intensity and volume in training as athletes approach the date of major competition events. Tapering allows athletes to peak for major competitions, ensuring that they will perform at their best.

Stage 6: Train to Win (girls 18+, boys 19+)

The Train to Win stage (females 18+, males 19+) is the final stage of the LLAD high-performance stream. Medals and podium performances are the primary focus.

In the Train to Win stage of LLAD, athletes with identified talent pursue high-intensity training to win international events. They are now full-time athletes.

The previous LLAD stages have developed and optimized the skills, tactics, and ancillary capacities of each athlete. Athletes have now realized their full genetic potential. They must now train to maximize and maintain their competitive performance at the highest level.

At the Train to Win stage, world-class athletes with or without disabilities require world-class training methods, equipment, and facilities that meet the demands of the sport and the athlete.

At the Train to Win stage of LLAD, training plans require double, triple or multiple periodization to accommodate the extremely high training volumes. Carefully designed periodization plans allow the high performance athlete to be able to express their full potential on competition day.

As athletes approach the end of their competition years towards the end of the Train to Win stage, plans must be made to prepare the athletes for “retirement.” After being immersed in highly structured and intense training environments for the previous ten to fifteen years, athletes may need assistance in transitioning to regular life and lifelong sport participation at the amateur and recreational levels.

Retiring athletes should also be encouraged to enter support roles within their sport as coaches, officials, and sport administrators as part of the Active for Life stage.

General considerations during Train to Win

  • Train athletes to peak for major competitions.
  • Performance outcomes take first priority.
  • Athletes must develop the ability to produce consistent performances on demand.
  • Coaches must ensure that training is characterized by high intensity and high volume.
  • Coaches must allow frequent preventative breaks to prevent physical and mental burnout.
  • Training must utilize periodization plans as the optimal framework of preparation, according to the periodization guidelines of the sport-specific LLAD plan.
  • The training to competition ratio should be adjusted to 25:75, with the competition percentage including competition-specific training activities.
  • Training targets include the maximization and maintenance of all athlete capacities.
  • Athletes must learn to adapt to different environments to perform their best.

Stage 7: Active for Life (any age participant). Active for Life is both a stage in LLAD and an outcome of SFLP.

The Active for Life stage of LLAD is the final destination of all society. In this stage, athletes and participants enjoy lifelong participation in a variety of competitive and recreational opportunities in sport and physical activity.

(Athletes and participants 12+)

This stage can be entered at any age, beginning with developing physical literacy in infancy, and evolves to being Competitive for Life and/or Fit for Life through all phases of adulthood.

Active for Life, along with physical literacy and sport excellence, is one of three key outcomes within Sport for Life in which society remains active in sport and physical activity for life by developing physical literacy.

In this stage, no one is pursuing Olympic or open World Championship glory. Some athletes in Competitive for Life are still involved in very high-performance competition that is not leading to the Olympics or World Cups while others are pursuing sport and physical activity for fitness and health, all for personal satisfaction.

Under ideal circumstances, athletes and participants enter the Active for Life stage of LLAD at one of two times:

  1. After they have developed physical literacy by the end of the Learn to Train stage and chosen to pursue sport and physical activity according to the goals of the Active for Life stage.
  2. After they have exited the LLAD high-performance training and competition stream (Train to Train, Train to Compete, and Train to Win stages).

Presently, many, if not most, participants in the Active for Life stage are not physically literate, due to the fact that the sport system does not consistently develop physical literacy for all participants. A primary goal of the Sport for Life (SFLP) movement is to improve this situation.

The Active for Life stage of LLAD provides lifelong opportunities in sport and recreation for all. There are two streams of sport and physical activity within Active for Life:

Competitive for Life, where participants may not be destined to go to the Olympics or the World Cup or Wimbledon, but they still want to compete at a relatively high level in competitive sport leagues at the community or regional level.

Fit for Life, where participants are certainly not planning to compete at the Olympics or the World Cup or Wimbledon, and they don’t even want to compete at the community or regional level. They simply want to develop and maintain their physical fitness with enjoyable physical activity at the recreational level.

Participants in the Active for Life stage are served primarily by community sport clubs, recreation centres, and programs offered through schools, colleges and universities.

Active for Life is also about retaining retired athletes in support roles within the sport system. They are invaluable to providing support to new generations of athletes and participants as coaches, officials, and sport administrators.

Some may even adopt important strategic roles as policy makers in government, corporate sponsors, health practitioners, educators or recreation professionals.

With the Active for Life stage, we see that sport and physical activity is not something that only elite athletes pursue. Active for Life reflects the recognition that sport and physical activity plays a critical role in promoting the wellness of all and nurturing the health of our communities and the nation as a whole.

General considerations during Active for Life

  • Welcome new participants at any age.
  • Apply sport experience to life skills.
  • Provide a positive environment in order to encourage lifelong physical activity.
  • Provide ongoing community programming for all ages and abilities.
  • Provide a balance between participation and competition.
  • Provide programs for athletes with disabilities.
    1. Move from one sport to another. For example, the gymnast becomes an aerial skier, the sprinter takes up bobsledding, or the 12-year-old basketball player discovers canoeing.
    2. Move from one aspect of sport to another. For example, the middle distance runner becomes a guide runner for blind athletes or the cyclist rides tandem at the Paralympic Games.
    3. Move from competitive sport to recreational activities such as hiking and cycling.
    4. Move from highly competitive sport to lifelong competitive sport through age group competitions such as Masters Games.

    Provide opportunities to:

    1. To sport-related careers such as coaching, officiating, sport administration, small business enterprises, or media.
    2. From competitive sport to volunteering as coaches, officials, or administrators.

    Provide opportunities for retired competitive athletes to move:

Life Long Athletic Development Helps Coaches Make Sport Better!

Sport For Life Program For Coaches.

Sport for Life (SFLP) is a movement to make sport better. Life Long Athletic Development (LLAD) is the SFLP pathway to develop top-rank athletes and increase overall participation in sport and physical activity.

When you were a kid, what was your experience with sport? When you participated in P.E. classes, team sports, swimming lessons, or dance classes – was it fun? Did you learn skills? And did it make you want to keep playing?

Sport for Life (SFLP) is a movement to make sport and physical activity better, so all of society will get quality training, more will continue participating, and more will reach the medals podium.

Life Long Athletic Development (LLAD) is the SFLP pathway for developing top-rank athletes and increasing overall participation in sport and physical activity. It includes guidelines for training, competition and recovery based on principles of human development and maturation.

LLAD considers the best interests of the athlete, not the goals of coaches or parents who might simply want to win at all costs. LLAD is built on sport science and best practices in coaching from around the world, and it follows 10 Key Factors that influence how athletes train and compete effectively.

Coaches stand at the forefront of delivering programs that respect the principles and science of LLAD.

Ten Key Factors

Life Long Athletic Development (LLAD) is based on sport research, coaching best practices, and scientific principles. LLAD expresses these principles, research, and practices as 10 Key Factors essential to athlete development.

To optimize the development of our athletes, we need to take advantage of the best sport science and best practices in coaching and training. Life Long Athletic Development (LLAD) does this by codifying important elements of sport science and coaching practices into the 10 Key Factors of LLAD:

  1. Physical Literacy
  2. Specialization
  3. Developmental Age
  4. Sensitive Periods
  5. Mental, Cognitive and Emotional Development
  6. Periodization
  7. Competition
  8. Excellence Takes Time
  9. System Alignment and Integration
  10. Continuous Improvement – Kaizen

Along with sport science and coaching, the 10 Key Factors include broader principles behind the way we organize and manage sport.  For example, competition scheduling to optimize athlete development, organizational alignment of different groups and agencies that make up the “sport system”, and the philosophy of Continuous Improvement so we always work to make our science, coaching, and system of athlete development better

Physical Literacy

Physical literacy is the cornerstone of both participation and excellence in physical activity and sport. Individuals who are physically literate are more likely to be active for life.

  • Becoming physically literate is influenced by the individual’s age, maturation and capacity.
  • Ideally, supporting the development of physical literacy should be a major focus prior to the adolescent growth spurt.
  • The skills that make up physical literacy vary by location and culture, and depend on how much importance a society places on certain activities.

Physically literate individuals:

  • Demonstrate a wide variety of basic human movements, fundamental movement skills and fundamental sports skills.
  • Move with poise, confidence, competence and creativity in different physical environments (on the ground, both indoor and outdoor; in the air; in and on water; on snow and ice).
  • Develop the motivation and ability to understand, communicate, apply and analyse different forms of movement.
  • Make choices that engage them in physical activity, recreation or sport activities that enhance their physical and psychological wellness, and permit them to pursue sport excellence commensurate with their ability and motivation.

What is Physical Literacy?

Childhood obesity and rising inactivity among children threatens the future health of society. For kids to get physically active, they need to feel confident in activity settings. That confidence stems from having learned fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills – physical literacy – as a child.

Just as learning the alphabet is necessary to read, the development of fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills is critical if children are to feel good about physical activity. The ABCs – Agility, Balance, Coordination and Speed are the four skills that underpin physical literacy.

Physical Literacy is the mastering of fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills that permit a child to read their environment and make appropriate decisions, allowing them to move confidently and with control in a wide range of physical activity situations. It supports long-term participation and performance to the best of one’s ability.

Physical Literacy is the cornerstone of both participation and excellence in physical activity and sport. Ideally, physical literacy is developed prior to the adolescent growth spurt. It has been adopted as the foundation of the Sport for Life concept in Society.

Children should learn fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills in each of the four basic environments:

  • On the ground – as the basis for most games, sports, dance and physical activities.
  • In the water – as the basis for all aquatic activities.
  • On snow and ice – as the basis for all winter sliding activities.
  • In the air – basis for gymnastics, diving and other aerial activities.

Parents, caregivers, coaches, and teachers all play a role in the development of our children’s physical literacy. If these people do not fulfil their roles, we will not succeed.

The myth that it “just happens”

Although many children develop good physical skills on their own, there are many who do not. Physically skilled children often enjoy vigorous healthy play, while the less skilled are often left out. This can lead to decreased effort and eventual withdraw from physical activities.

Our children need to learn physical literacy in a wide range of settings and from many different people. However, the responsibility for developing a physically literate child ultimately rests with parents and guardians.


Sports can be classified as either early or late specialization. Well-known early specialization sports include artistic and acrobatic sports such as gymnastics, diving and figure skating. These differ from late specialization sports in that very complex skills are learned before maturation since they cannot be fully mastered if taught after maturation. 

Most other sports are late specialization sports; however, all sports should be individually analysed using international and national normative data to determine whether they are early or late specialization. If physical literacy is acquired before maturation, athletes can select a late specialization sport when they are between the ages of 12 and 15 and have the potential to rise to international stardom in that sport.

Based on sport-specific work done by more than 100 organizations around the world, experts from the sport-specific groups indicated when sport specialization is recommended. this has allowed groupings of sport within early and late specializations.

Developmental Age

Children of the same chronological age can differ by several years in their level of biological maturation. Growth, development and rate of maturation is the result of a complex interaction of genes, hormones, nutrients and the environments (physical and psychosocial) in which the individual lives. This combination of factors regulates the child’s physical growth, neuromuscular development, sexual maturation, mental, cognitive and emotional development, and general metamorphosis during the first two decades of life.

Puberty is characterized by numerous physical changes by which a child’s body matures into an adult body capable of reproduction. These events occur over a number of years and include major changes to height, deposition of fat, bone and muscle, transformation of the brain, and acquisition of secondary sexual characteristics (e.g. breast, genitalia, public and auxiliary hair growth).

Sensitive Periods

A sensitive period is a broad time frame or window of opportunity when the learning of a specific skill or the development of a specific physical capacity is particularly effective. The entire period of childhood can be viewed as a sensitive period for mastering fundamental movement skills.

Trainability during the sensitive periods of accelerated adaptation to training refers to the body’s responsiveness to training stimuli at different stages of growth and maturation. The physiological systems of the athlete can be trained at any age, but there are sensitive periods when individuals are especially responsive to specific types of training.

The ten S’s have been identified as important to building a complete and holistic plan for developing athletes:

  • Stamina (Endurance).
  • Strength.
  • Speed.
  • Skill.
  • Suppleness (Flexibility).
  • Structure/Stature.
  • Schooling.
  • (p)Sychology.
  • Sustenance.
  • Socio-Cultural.
  • Mental, Cognitive and Emotional Development.

Mental, cognitive and emotional factors are essential to each athlete’s development. Not only is holistic development – which encompasses all of these factors, in addition to physical development – beneficial to the individual, but all of these skill sets are interlinked.

Just as physical and technical skills require long-term and sequential development, so too do the psychological aspects of athlete development. This includes a range of knowledge sets, such as:

  • The underpinnings of fair play.
  • Ethics in sport.
  • Mental skills for performance.
  • Emotional regulation.
  • Sequencing and;
  • Decision-making.

Programming should be designed to deliver all aspects of athlete development in a complementary manner, including mental, cognitive and emotional components.


Simply put, periodization is time management. As a planning technique, it provides the framework for arranging the complex array of training processes into a logical and scientifically-based schedule to bring about optimal improvements in performance.

Periodization outlines all annual and seasonal training within a logical schedule to bring about optimal improvements in athlete performance at the right times, while minimizing injury and burnout. Periodization plans connect the LLAD stage of the athlete with the training and development requirements of that stage.

Periodization breaks training into months, weeks, days and individual sessions. It helps coaches to organize all aspects of volume, intensity, frequency and type of training, competition and recovery programs through long-term and short-term timelines.

Periodization is a highly flexible tool. When it is used in combination with proper training techniques, athlete monitoring and athlete evaluation, it becomes an essential component to deliver optimal sport performance and athlete development at all stages of LLAD.


Optimal competition calendar planning at all stages is critical to athlete development. At certain stages, developing the physical capacities take precedence over competition. At later stages, the ability to compete well becomes the focus.

Stage & Recommended Ratios

  • Active Start – No specific ratios – all activity based on developing physical literacy and child’s passion to play and participate
  • FUNdamentals – All activities FUN-based including some structured competition
  • Learn to Train – 70% training to 30% competition-specific training and actual competition
  • Train to Train – 60% training to 40% competition-specific training and actual competition
  • Train to Compete – 40% training to 60% competition-specific training and actual competition
  • Train to Win – 25% training to 75% competition-specific training and actual competition
  • Active for Life – Based on the individual’s desire

 Excellence Takes Time

How long does it take for athletes to reach the top of their game? About 10,000 hours of training and competing. For most athletes, that translates into about 10 years. Other evidence indicates that elite athletes require at least 11 to 13 years of practice to reach levels of excellence. The essential lesson is the same: there are no shortcuts to achieving excellence.

This translates into an average of 3 hours of daily training, applied practice and competition over 10 years. Again, this is an average over the span of 10 years. It is not desirable to see children formally “training” in one sport for three hours every day when they are 7 years old. Training hours increase during adolescence, and this rounds out the average.

Lately, the validity of the 10 000 hours has been questioned. It has been suggested that when athletes specialize in certain sports, they can achieve excellence in a much shorter period. However, the three or four other sports the athletes participated in before they specialized has usually not been taken into account. LLAD emphasizes a multi-sport approach: all former activities should be included as they are an integral part of the 10 000 hours. Whether it is 10 000 hours, more, or less, excellence always takes time.

System Alignment and Integration

Based on SFLP principles, LLAD promotes system alignment and integration between sport clubs, provincial/territorial and national sport organizations. SFLP addresses the overarching system and structure of sport and physical activity in society, including the relationship between school sport, physical education and high performance sport at all levels from policy to program delivery.

LLAD calls for system alignment and integration by bringing together athletes, coaches and clubs, school sports and recreation, provincial and national organizations to build a better sport system in Society.

Athlete development is the core business of national, provincial/territorial and local sport organizations. Without quality athletes in sport programs, these organizations would not be viable. Consequently, it is in the best interests of these groups to collaborate, align and integrate in delivering optimal athlete development programs.

LLAD must also be supported and promoted by all levels of government, including:

  • Provincial/Territorial ministries responsible for sport and recreation.
  • Provincial/Territorial health ministries.
  • Provincial/Territorial education ministries.
  • Other relevant federal and provincial/territorial departments and ministries.

Municipal Governments.

LLAD initiatives and support programs must be designed and implemented with a focus on the needs of athletes, and a commitment to cross-sectoral collaboration and cooperation.

Coaches, teachers, and recreational professionals may lead athlete training and physical activity programming at the ground level, but they need to be supported by administrators, sport scientists, health, and government across multiple sectors.

Kaizen – Continuous Improvement.

The LLAD framework is based on the principle of continuous improvement, both in its dynamic evolution and in its application. The concept of continuous improvement is drawn from the respected Japanese industrial philosophy known as Kaizen.

We never assume that LLAD in its current form is ever complete or final. We operate from the position that it represents the best practices in coaching and athlete development as they are understood today.

The concept of continuous improvement, which permeates LLAD, is drawn from the respected Japanese industrial philosophy known as Kaizen. By applying a willingness to always seek improvements in our understanding and practice, LLAD will continuously evolve to accommodate new breakthroughs in sport science research, new innovations in technology, and evolving best practices in coaching.

By focusing on continuous improvement, we will also ensure that LLAD reflects all emerging facets of physical activity, sport, recreation and education to ensure that it is inclusive of all types of activity.


  1. Canadian Sport For Life.

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