Prior to reading this section it is recommended that you review the LTAD Overview section and understand the defined terms.
Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) is a player development model that is athlete centred, coach driven and sport science and administration supported. As a water polo club you are the first contact and entry point for new parents and athletes to the sport of water polo. That first experience in water polo, long before even thinking of the National Team or National Club Championships, needs to be a positive experience to ensure life-long participation in sport and water polo. These children and young teenagers entering your club may be your future ambassadors for the sport if they go on to play for the National Team, perhaps a future coach or referee or maybe even the future President of the club. For all of this to come to fruition it is important to understand the role that the club and its volunteers play in the LTAD process.
Empowerment of coaches to make technical decisions such as training needs, equipment needs and competition decisions is the coach driven element of an athlete centre environment. As a club, you are there to support the coach and provide the coach with educational opportunities through the National Coach Certification Program (see NCCP Overview for more details) and professional development. An educated coach will provide a more effective learning environment for children, teenagers and adults. In addition to supporting (and encouraging) the coach in their education, providing the coach with the necessary tools through strategic planning and recruitment and retention programs is vital. Understanding the LTAD will help you in creating these plans and tools.
It is not absolutely necessary for clubs and their volunteers to fully understand the sport science behind the LTAD, however, understanding that individual athletes develop at different rates based on their growth and development (physical, emotional, mental and cognitive maturity) will help you provide better programming. Understanding the different reasons why children, teenagers and adults play water polo will also help you structure your age groups and programs. Do recreational and high performance athletes need the same amount of pool time, equipment and coaching? How long should the season be for the various streams (Physical Literacy, Active for Life, Competitive for Life, Excellence) and for each stage of development? Do we have the capacity to deliver best in class programming for every age group and stream? These are the types of questions the LTAD and the Competition Review will help guide you in your decision making of what is your role as a first contact institution for new water polo athletes and the entry point for National Team athletes.