Governments across the world are finding themselves asking why they should invest in sports which actually is an easily answered question. High performance sport is often invested in as it raises the countries profile when they compete on the international stage, while investing in mass participation can help target health problems such as obesity and cardiovascular disease. Investment in sport has been proven to be the best investment of any government program due to its high returns. However the governments growing input into sport is hindered by different components of the system (ministries of education, sport, recreation and health) that are failing to work together. Coaches from clubs, schools and national teams put different demands on their performers which puts focus on different goals that the athletes are set to achieve. Canada have identified this problem and have been developing the Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) for the past 6 years.
Long-Term Athlete Development
The LTAD program was set up to give individuals the best chance of success throughout every stage of development in order to succeed in sport and physical activity as an adult. Coaches can often single out players for a role based on something as simple as their body composition and consequently they learn only the physical literacy of that role in order to help a team win games. This becomes restrictive in their development of being well rounded in motor skills and cognitive development, hence the program was created. Development of the program was coordinated with scientists, coaches and educators identifying 7 stages for athlete development as seen in this table:
The LTAD focuses on the player’s stage of ability regardless of age, as it facilitates their involvement and development through each of the stages of learning. The program was developed around this starting from a generic model from which was then built up to this current model. The program never lost focus of the fact that long term athlete development is about doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time for all participants, and is based on their stage of development, not their age.
The LTAD has three main components of their strategy:
- The development of physical literacy: mastery of basic human movement, fundamental movement skills and foundation sport skills which all provide the necessary foundation elements for recreation or high performance development.
- Active for life: Once physical literacy has been developed, individuals have competence and confidence to engage in recreational sport.
- Excellence: Building on physical literacy of those with talent, drive and commitment to reach the peak of their performance.
The model itself is not to important but the principles that it highlights are what will prove useful for the future. More governments and sporting organisations need to develop sporting structure to resemble a model like this in order for sports development recreationally and at the high performance level. Higher participation in sport and higher quality of athletes will come back to benefit the government as the countries profile is showcased at major sporting events and there will be a reduced strain on national health services.
This article was a summary of the WFSGI Magazine Article ‘Why and How-Government Should Invest in Sport’. Author Dr. Colin Higgs, Prof. Emeritus, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, and Canadian Sport for Life Leadership Team