June 2020 - 22

Six Ways Coaches Can
Promote Long-Term
Athletic Development
By Dr. Lynn Pantuosco-Hensch, Westfield State University
Research shows that kids begin sports earlier and
specialize in sports sooner than they did in the past. The
trend toward earlier specialization may improve sports
skills in the short-term, but it is not leading to better longterm
athletic development (LTAD). In fact, seven out of
10 kids drop out of sports by age 13 because it's not fun
anymore. Unfortunately, kids are dropping out of sports
long before they've had a chance to fully mature and reach
their athletic potential.
The reality is that coaches have limited time with
players and tend to skip ahead to the skills and strategies
necessary to compete in games or win tournaments
instead of building physical literacy - and having fun.
As a result, young athletes are increasingly specialized
and lack the necessary mental and physical skills to
pivot from one sport to another. This limits kids' athletic
options and reduces their potential for long term athletic
success - and perpetuates the dropout rate.
What if sport coaches shifted their focus from simply
coaching their sport to developing athletes? It would give
kids a chance to build their overall athleticism, develop
transferable skills, and stay in sports longer.
How can sport coaches promote long-term
athletic development?
1
. Build an Athletic Foundation
.Most sports offer opportunities to learn and
practice skills like agility, balance, and coordination.
These skills are also highly transferable between
sports. Coaches should incorporate and develop
these basic athletic building blocks. A solid athletic
foundation improves performance and reduces injury
rates. In addition to teaching proper movement
patterns, coaches can also incorporate strength and
conditioning into their sport-specific training. For
instance, coaches can have athletes move through
agility ladders before making a pass in soccer,
basketball, or lacrosse.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association
developed guiding pillars for long-term athletic
development which are a great starting point. The
most important guideline is to make fitness fun. Help
athletes feel invested in their fitness and physical
literacy. Stronger, better conditioned athletes are more
22 JUNE 2020
likely to stay healthy and continue to develop a wider
repertoire of sports skills over time.
2
. Encourage Free Play
.Athletes today engage in less free play than athletes
in past generations. Whether it is unstructured play
outside with friends or " pick-up " games at the local
park, kids are " playing " less and it shows in their sports
performance. Free play is how kids learn to be creative,
problem solve, and make their own decisions. Free play
also promotes intrinsic motivation in sports. Encourage
athletes to play " pick-up " games in and out of season.
Encourage female athletes to play with male athletes

June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of June 2020

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