More about Learn to Train

The Learn to Train stage of LTAD 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.

Specialization

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.

>> Learn about the next stage of LTAD: Train to Train