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Long Term Athletic Development For Ice Hockey

The Long Term Athletic Development Model (LTAD) was developed to help children grow into successful athletes by emphasizing physiological traits based on physical and mental maturation. This model helps build a foundation of movement efficiency, sporting skills, and a love for the sport. 

Today’s youth hockey model focus on early specialization, more games, and less on skill and athletic development. The athletes who develop physically and/or neurologically earlier are seen as elite and given extra attention. This leaves little room for late bloomers to flourish and also creates burn out and overuse injuries in our youth hockey players.

The LTAD model places emphasis on building a solid foundation of physical skills as an athlete progresses in age. At each physiological stage, there are key athletic qualities that can be improved on.

Physiological WindowFemales (ages)Males (ages)
Suppleness/Flexibility5-106-10
Speed 16-97-9
Stamina/Endurance8-1113-16
Speed 211-1413-16
Strength 12-1617-20

The table above gives us a roadmap to what physiological traits can be improved at each given age.

 It is important to note that it does not mean that all girls and boys between the ages of 6-9 should do speed only work during the first speed window. Strength, mobility, endurance, stability, and technique are all parts of developing speed and should be worked on throughout development. Improving on the above qualities will help increase top speed.

Building Better Hockey Players

Using the guidelines laid out by the LTAD model we can build out a long term plan to help hockey players develop into well-rounded athletes and foster a love for the sport, athletics, and fitness. 

Here is what the plan would look like:

Ages 6-12: It is all about fun!

  • Play multiple sports. 1 sport a season organized or not
  • Encourage Free Play: Coaches should step back and allow for experimentation and free play to occur during practice. 
  • Keep it fun
  • Encourage multiple outdoor activities: rollerblading, biking, hiking, swimming, climbing, tag, and etc.  
  • Movement development should be expressed in free play

Ages 12-14

  • 2-3 Different sports with distinct offseasons
  • Emphasize fun
  • Teach basic athletic and exersice movements 
  • Begin an athletic development program with in-season and offseason training 

Ages 14-18

  • 2 Sports with distinct offseasons
  • Emphasize overall athleticism and sport-specific skills 
  • Continue to practice and teach efficient movement patterns and lifting technique
  • Continue athletic development program in-season and offseason

Ages 18 and Over

  • Begin to focus on one sport
  • Increase focus on developing sport-specific skills
  • Greater focus on athletic development 
  • Increase focus on improving maximum strength, power, and conditioning

The key to successful long term athletic development is to expose hockey players to as many movements as possible at a young age. This will help build a solid foundation of movement that can be built on as the player ages. The athletes who are exposed to the most variety of movement patterns earlier in their athletic career will be ahead of their peers when specialization occurs.

Hockey players of all ages should focus on: 

Developing Good Habits

Developing Muti-Directional Movement

Perfecting proper jumping and landing mechanics

Improving basic movement patterns

The Long Term Athletic Development is a guide to help us build better hockey players and help them all players develop a deep love and passion for the sport!

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