The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) recently released a position statement in reference to the growing interest in long-term athletic development for youth. Long-term athletic development refers to the sustained habitual development of athleticism over time to improve health, fitness, and performance with reduced risk of injury that will enhance confidence and competence in children and adolescents.
Included in the document are ten pillars of successful long-term athletic development, which are a summary of the key recommendations found in the statement. Practitioners should adhere to these pillars in order to enhance long-term participant performance, promote health and well-being, and minimize the risk of sport- or physical activity-related injury.
- Long-term athletic development pathways should accommodate for the highly individualized and non-linear nature of the growth and development of youth.
- Youth of all ages, abilities and aspirations should engage in long-term athletic development programs that promote both physical fitness and psychosocial wellbeing.
- All youth should be encouraged to enhance physical fitness from early childhood, with a primary focus on motor skill and muscular strength development.
- Long-term athletic development pathways should encourage an early sampling approach for youth that promotes and enhances a broad range of motor skills.
- Health and wellbeing of the child should always be the central tenet of long- term athletic development programs.
- Youth should participate in physical conditioning that helps reduce the risk of injury to ensure their on-going participation in long-term athletic development programs.
- Long-term athletic development programs should provide all youth with a range of training modes to enhance both health- and skill-related components of fitness.
- Practitioners should use relevant monitoring and assessment tools as part of a long-term athletic development strategy.
- Practitioners working with youth should systematically progress and individualize training programs for successful long-term athletic development.