More About Sensitive Periods

A basic precept of Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) is the understanding that no one is a “natural born” talent. Research in the area of expertise – whether in sport, dance, music or even computer programming – shows that talent is developed through years of training. 

But there’s a little more to it. When it comes to certain physical abilities such as speed, skill, strength, flexibility and stamina, science shows us that there are also special times in life when training will produce the best long-term outcome in sport performance.

In LTAD, these special times are called “sensitive periods of accelerated adaptation to training” and they occur at different times during child and adolescent development. The sensitive periods affect five different areas of physical development that we call “the Five Ss”:

  • Stamina (endurance)
  • Strength
  • Speed
  • Skill
  • Suppleness (flexibility)

All of these five physical capacities are trainable throughout a person’s lifetime. However, if our sport programs and coaching don’t take advantage of the sensitive periods, our children may never develop the strength, speed, skills, flexibility or stamina they could have had.

This could have two effects:

  • Fewer kids will stay active in recreational sport and physical activity throughout their lifetime because they have less confidence in their general physical abilities.
  • Fewer kids will be able to pursue elite and professional sport because the development of their stamina, strength, speed, skill and suppleness are stunted. 

Given the potential consequences if children miss their sensitive periods of accelerated adaptation to training, one of the most important jobs of parents and coaches is to take advantage of the sensitive periods. 

>> Learn about the next key factor: Mental, Cognitive and Emotional Development
>> Learn about all 10 Ss of Trainability