Canadian Sport for Life and Long Term Athlete Development

Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD)


Canadian Sport for Life (CS4L) is a movement to improve the quality of sport and physical activity in Canada through improved athlete training and better integration between all stakeholders in the sport system, including sport organizations, education, recreation and health.

The Canadian Sport for Life philosophy is being embraced by the sport community as an important and effective way to address physical fitness and health for the Canadian population while improving the quality of sport throughout Canada.

Canadian Sport for Life is also a way to optimize talent identification and athlete preparation for competition at their highest level. CS4L impacts the entire sport continuum, from physical literacy to active for life to reach the podium. The approach includes all players and stakeholders in the sport world: participants, coaches, parents, schools, clubs and community recreation programs.

A key feature of CS4L is Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD), a developmental pathway whereby athletes follow optimal training, competition, and recovery regimens from childhood through all phases of adulthood.

Ten Key Factors
Long-Term Athlete Development is based on sport research, coaching best practices, and scientific principles. LTAD expresses these principles, research, and practices as 10 Key Factors essential to athlete development:

  1. Excellence Takes Time – the “10 year” or “10,000 hours” rule
  2. FUNdamentals – learning basic sport skills through fun activity that encourages a love for sport and active living
  3. Specialization – the right/wrong time to specialize in one sport/activity
  4. Developmental Age – children grow at different rates
  5. Trainability – critical periods of development and the “windows of optimal trainability”
  6. Physical, Mental, Cognitive and Emotional Development – the holistic approach to athlete development
  7. Periodization – logical training plans for all ages & stages
  8. Competition – preventing injury & burnout. “Competition is a Good Servant, but a Poor Master”
  9. System Alignment and Integration – the interrelationship of schools, community centres, clubs, Provincial & National sport organizations etc.
  10. Continuous Improvement – LTAD principles and best practices are continuously evolving

Ages & Stages of a Cross Country Skier’s Long Term Athlete Development

LTAD StageChronological Age (Gender),
Years in Sport
Who is Responsible
Active Start0-6 (F & M),
0 Sport Years
Parents, Club “Bunnyrabbits” program
FUNdamentals6-9 (M) & 6-8 (F),
0-3 Sport Years
Parents, Club “Jackrabbits” program, School
Learning to Train9-12 (M) & 8-11 (F),
1-5 Sport Years
Club “Track Attack” program, School, Parents
Training to Train12-16 (M) & 11-15 (F),
3-6 Sport Years
Club Team, Provincial High Performance Program, Sport school
Learning to Compete16-20 (M) & 15-19 (F) +/-,
4-10 Sport Years
Club Team, Provincial High Performance Program, Sport school, National Development Centre
Training to Compete20-23 (M) & 19-23 (F) +/-,
10+ Sport years
National Development Centre, National Team, University Team
Train to Win23 + (M & F),
10+ Sport years
National Development Centre, National Team, University Team
Active for LifeEnter at any stageClub, Recreation programs, School

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