Since the adoption of the Long-Term Player Development (LTPD) model in 2008 when Canada Soccer launched Wellness to World Cup, LTPD principles have become commonplace in a majority of environments where young Canadians are playing the game. According to a recent survey of stakeholders responsible for grassroots development, including players, parents, coaches, referees and soccer administrators, more than 75% of people say they support the principles of LTPD.
“The survey confirms that there is an understanding in the community that Long-Term Player Development principles are vital to ensuring that our next generation of grassroots players have the best opportunity to development in nurturing, standards-based, age and stage appropriate training environments,” said Canada Soccer Director of Development Jason de Vos. “It is crucial that we continue to work to educate the whole soccer community across the country about the reasons behind, and benefits of LTPD.”
Within in the first four stages of the LTPD model, age and stage appropriate training methods ensure that skills development is placed above all else up to Level 4 – Train to Train. Agreement with these principles is extremely high with more than 90% of respondents understanding that smaller team sizes for younger athletes and team selection based on a range of factors, not solely age, but mental and physical maturity, as well are vital. Nearly all respondents agree that developing player skills ahead of playing or winning games at young ages and that getting young players as many touches on the ball as possible in training environments (96% and 98% respectively) is important.
“When working with players under the age of 12, clubs and coaches must focus on core competencies and the developmental needs of children and not on player selection based on perceived skill for competition models that encourage and reward player recruitment over player development,” said de Vos. “Ensuring that each child has the opportunity to develop at their own pace in a fun and nurturing environment has to become and remain a priority in player development environments across the country.”
The survey also showed that while there is a high level of awareness among stakeholder groups directly responsible for the delivery of soccer in Canada, there remains an opportunity to communicate the purpose and potential that a fully realized vision of Long-Term Player Development can provide young players and Canadian soccer. Coaches and administrators across the country report the deepest levels of understanding of the principles and purpose of LTPD. However, players, parents and match officials all have a role in ensuring that Canada’s development environments place the needs of the child first.
“It is critically important that all involved in the game understand and promote the principles of LTPD to ensure that the next generation of players in Canada have the best possible chance to meet their playing potential,” de Vos said. “For some that may mean that soccer is a community-based recreational activity, while for others, age and stage appropriate training will mean an opportunity to represent Canada on an international stage.”