An LTAD Success Story – From Age 0-10 Years Old
Posted by Dean Holden at May 29th, 2015
by Craig Shaw, 5 May 2015
Since about the age of ten I have been interested in how to acquire skill in sport. I tried my hand at almost every sport growing up – soccer, swimming, baseball, hockey, tennis, boxing, football, volleyball, basketball, you name it. Despite finally convincing my parents to let me play ice hockey at the ripe age of ten, that was the sport that I eventually focused on.
Although I never reached my dream of playing in the NHL, my interest – some would say obsession – with how to best acquire sport skill and human performance/development in general has remained with me for close to forty years. I eventually earned a degree in education with an emphasis on child development and would also do additional training in motor skill acquisition and neuro-cognitive enhancement.
In 2005 my son Sam was born. Thankfully he has so far been a more-than-willing guinea pig to apply some of what I have learned about how to build an athlete and well-rounded person. Always believing that a sound mind is built on a sound body, or however the saying goes, my goal has always been to encourage Sam to be a good general athlete so that he can enjoy the many benefits of sport that I have enjoyed, namely above average fitness, mental/emotional resilience, a healthy social life and all the other life skills that are learned along the way.
Dean Holden at Sport IQ has asked me to describe some of the unusual activities that I did with Sam in his infancy and work my way through my experiences coaching and trying to apply many of the principles of the Long Term Athlete Development Model (LTAD). Perhaps some of you will find this of interest. I do not profess to know everything and I am constantly learning and revising what I think I know; but that said, I feel that I may have hit on some effective ways to enhance a child’s general athleticism and attitude towards sport. If other people can find some benefit or use from this information, that would be great. Some of this you may not believe what I have to say and that is fine.
- February 2005 Sam was born three weeks early due to medical complications. The pediatrician first comments were: “Look at the muscle tone. He can almost hold his head up. You have an athlete here.” From an early age he did show quite remarkable muscle tone. He was a healthy boy of average size.
- At about a month, I began giving him gentle vestibular stimulation (balance apparatus in the inner ear) by holding him in different positions in my arms while spinning slowly in an office chair in both directions. I also bounced gently while seated on an exercise ball while holding him.
- No busy mobiles for Sam. Just a soft, rubber ball on a string hanging above his crib. By 3-4 months he developed the rudiments of hand-eye coordination. I was always present when he was using this so as not to get tangled in the string, which could lead to obvious problems.
- At 6 months Sam’s parachute reflex was becoming apparent. I would lay him face down on the bed and gently hold him by the upper thighs and lift him. To everyone’s amazement his body arched up like superman. We would later go for short walks with his legs around my waist, facing down and he would look like an ornament on the front of a ship as we moved around. He would laugh at this and have a great time. Little beads of sweat would be found on his back. This led to even better muscle tone I believe. This provided a strong foundation for crawling, climbing and walking.
- Also at six months, Sam would intently watch people play softball and tennis at the park for 30 minutes at a time and would cry when I tried to leave.
- We would swim quite regularly as a family during these early months as well.
- At 14 months, I hung the ball on the string in the kitchen and he would whack at it with both hands in an athletic position. On his own he grabbed a spatula and hit the moving ball like a tennis racquet with remarkable proficiency.
- He began attending my old-timer hockey games regularly.
- At 30 months he grabbed a little hockey stick that we made for him and started to handle a ball in the kitchen with very surprising dexterity. He even rolled his wrists. From that point till about six years old he played a lot of hockey in the kitchen. Because of this it could use a major renovation!
- At three years he was swimming, doing gymnastics, figure skating and playing a wide variety of sports informally with his mother and me on a regular basis and spending a lot of time at the playground climbing and playing tag and whatnot. He was a remarkably quick study in all of these activities.
- From 4-8 years he was exposed to a wide variety of sports, including: gymnastics, swimming, soccer, lacrosse, ice hockey, field hockey, rock climbing, racquet sports, baseball, surfing and basketball. He even did a hurling camp – look it up if you don’t know what it is – while we were visiting Dublin in the summer. He also did several multi-sport camps at the Pacific Institute of Sport Excellence (PISE) in Victoria, BC. He was almost always ‘playing up’ a division in these sports and shows a very strong aptitude despite being only average size.
In the first two stages of the LTAD, Sam had an excellent Active Start (0-6 years) and FUNdamentals (6-9 years). He happened to be in a longitudinal study measuring fundamental movements for elementary students and was placed in the top one percentile.
He is now ten years old and has entered the Learn to Train stage. He was a strong player in Tier I Atom hockey in his first year of that division, plays up an age group in soccer, plays up a weight class on the school rugby team (gulp), and pitches, catches and plays shortstop in Little League Baseball with players up to three years older than him. More importantly, he enjoys the many positive benefits of sport: friendship, life lessons, challenge, problem-solving skills, focus, physical health and so on. I still practice/play with him almost daily and he also plays with the neighbour kids outside, at recess and other informal settings as well. Like many boys, he dreams of being a pro athlete. In his case, Major League Baseball seems to be where he wants to go. I figure dreams are fine so long as he gets an education along the way. We just encourage him to play hard and have fun and try to be a leader and good sport.
Again, although anecdotal, I hope that this might be interesting or helpful to other parents or possibly lead to further study down the road by someone so inclined. I believe that by using some of the early childhood motor skill enhancement techniques along with the principles of LTAD – as well as varied diet and regular sleep and so on – has given Sam a great start in many areas of his life. It’s fun to watch!
Category: art of coaching, athleticism, Canadian Sport 4 Life, curiosity, deliberate play, diversification, education, equipment, eye-hand coordination, flow, fun, fundamental movement skills, growth & development, leadership, learning, LTAD, motivation, neuroplasticity, nutrition, parents, passion, physical literacy, play, responsibility, right-sized equipment, routine / ritual, skill acquisition, sleep, sportsmanship, talent, teaching, transfer