Tag Archives: LTAD

Danny Saunders on Long Term Athlete Development in youth ultimate

Deciding what a youth ultimate player should know and be able to do is a prelude to assessing youth ultimate curricula this fall, and possibly designing a new one for the elementary and/or middle school levels.  One way to get at such learning objectives is to understand “Long Term Athlete Development” (aka LTAD).   A search for LTAD and ultimate quickly takes you to Ultimate Canada’s LTAD model for ultimate (released in 2014).

While the 72-page document (overview pamphlet; full PDF) needs to be reviewed from a U.S. perspective, I figured I’d start with a video introduction by Danny Saunders, the executive director of Ultimate Canada and a co-author of the model.  Below are my notes (with time-stamps) taken as I watched his talk from the 2015 Youth Ultimate Coaching Conference, thankfully archived by the Bay Area Disc Association.

1:48 end of introducing himself; verbal outline of talk (what is LTAD, key aspects, what Ultimate Canada is doing with it)

3:20 Plays this video from the American Tennis Association to help us understand what’s motivating the athlete development model across all sports (kids have trouble playing with adult sized fields, equipment, and rules)

5:35 Ten factors to optimize for each age group

  1. Excellence takes time
    1. 10 yrs, 10khrs vs cross training in other sports [may be developmentally appropriate for youth!?]
    2. (7:25) Develop physical literacy
      1. fundamental and sport skills before age ~11
      2. ABCs: Agility; Balance; Coordination & speed
      3. Have fun [are “standard” ultimate games the best idea for grades 3-4? what about disc golf?]
      4. (12:20) Hockey video showing how other supports (including ultimate) help train good youth hockey players
    3. (14:00) Specialization
      1. Very few sports require early specialization (eg. gymnastics) for long term development (Martindale et al., 2015)
      2. Ultimate is a late specialization sport (40% ultimate and 60% other sports is appropriate for ages 6-10ish)
    4. (17:45) Developmental age
      1. Same age kids have huge variation in physical and mental maturity
      2. Playtime guidelines (make sure everyone gets a chance, tries different positions, that coaches are balanced in their attentions
    5. (22:20) Sensitive periods
      1. At certain ages, kids have accelerated adaptation (in strength, speed, etc)
      2. Peak height velocity (growth rate) has maxima around puberty for both genders
        1. Before they are more adapted to speed/agility, suppleness/flexibility (age 6-10)
        2. Skill window is near ages 8-12: best time to learn a new sport!  This led them to adjust sport at this age to acquire skills (LOTS of touches, keeping it fun):
          1. field size
          2. disc size
          3. adjusting rules to focus on skills (no zone in middle school)
          4. fewer players per side (4v4, 5v5)
        3. After they are more adapted to speed and strength training
      3. (27:15) Holistic coaching
        1. Develop whole athlete (build character and ethics)
        2. Spirit of the game (developed resource about children and SotG for youth coaches)
      4. (29:10) Periodization
        1. How do you sequence training and growth in logical, scientifically-based ways
        2. What level of competition is appropriate?
        3. How do you obtain peak performance at different stages
      5. (30:40) Competition calendar
        1. Does the coach have enough time to develop the athlete?
        2. Does competition favor athlete development?  (Too many games to absorb skills optimally…  Parents love games and may want more than is appropriate.)
        3. <8-9 y.o. (~3rd grade) just have FUN
        4. ~9-16 (4th-8th): 30-40% competition
        5. ~16-23 (9th-college): 60% competition
        6. Adult: 75% competition; 25% training
        7. How many games per tournament and how much time/$$ to spend traveling
      6. (34:55) System harmony
        1. Everybody has their baggage (interests, biases): players, coaches, administrators, parents, etc.
        2. Schools; community center recreational ultimate; high performance clubs
        3. Canada has both player & coach development models
          1. How do we incorporate
          2. National Coaching Association of Canada oversees
          3. Community coaches (introducing kids to sport)
          4. Competition coaches (don’t take community training)
          5. Evaluator comes out to watch you coach as part of certification!
          6. Developing resources that describes coach roles at each stage
      7. (38:25) Kaizen
        1. Continuous improvement and openness to change
        2. The LTAD model should evolve through
          1. Pilot projects, e.g. I love ultimate program (Canadian Tyre sponsored)
          2. Planned updates

40:00 Summary of talk

Need good coaches — ones who take an interest in athlete development beyond just the field!

41:10 end and questions


  • Can you explain about your coaching delivery methods (online? full-day workshops?)?
    • Community one is a 1-day workshop
    • Competition is more complicated
      • Coaching Assoc. Canada handles: planning practice; making ethical decisions; nutrition
      • This limits in-person course length and frees learning facilitators (coach instructors)  to teach their passion: ultimate-specific elements
      • Evaluation has a grid/rubric to make coach expectations clear
  • Did you have to integrate with Sport Canada’s LTAD and coach certifications to be aligned with everything that’s going on in Canada?
    • Yes.  To obtain funding and meet goal of developing high-level Canadian athletes, we needed to use these approaches and templates.
  • Can you talk about how mddle school games on a full-sized field can have low scores relative to one on a slightly smaller field?
    • Snow-bound, windy tournaments on prairies had middle school games actually finish with just 10-15 yards shortening!