Long Term Athlete Development

Long Term Athlete Development is an athlete centred model of an integrated sports system where the requirements of the player, dependent on their biological age are met by providing the right coaching at the right time. An approach that outlines the appropriate training, competition and recovery programme at each stage. It is also an approach that focuses on maximising player development.

Evidence shows that in most cases players do not excel at adult level due to a distinct lack of physical and technical excellence caused by developmental neglect in the early years. The use of a Long Term Athlete Development method advocates a much longer and more systematic approach.

Table Tennis is regarded in athlete development terms as an "early specialisation sport". Based on principles regarding the growth and development of children and young adults, and taking into consideration that table tennis is regarded as an 'early specialisation sport' the most appropriate LTAD programme for Table Tennis appears to be a 4 stage model, as below.



Learning to Train

Early Phase 6-9
Late Phase 9-12
Under 12

Training to Train

12 – 15

Training to Compete

15 – 18

Training to Win

19 +/-

The main objectives for each stage are outlined below and these stages can be used as a helpful guide for parents, players and coaches to know the requirements needed for the player at their age.

Learning to Train Early Phase

Age/Developmental Considerations

Male - 6-9 yrs Female - 6-8 yrs. Development of fundamental movement skills/co-ordination.

Key Training Objectives

·         Participation in as many sports as possible

·         Concentrate on the ABC’s (agility, balance & co-ordination)

·         Develop hand-eye co-ordination using ‘racket skills’ activities

·         Develop sport specific bat/ball skills using Butterfly Key Stage 2 Learning Programme

Total Weekly Training

4 – 5 hours

Learning to Train Late Phase

Age/Developmental Considerations

Male 9 – 12 yrs Female 8 – 11 yrs.
Peak motor, co-ordination and skill development before onset of growth spurt. First speed window and development of flexibility.

Key Training Objectives

·         Core body TT specific movement skills & footwork patterns.

·         Introduce TT specific skills

·         Early tactics to be simple; attack long and shorter balls whenever possible with accuracy

·         Develop touch play using good hand technique

·         Develop service & third ball attack

·         Develop return of serves using touch, flick and long push to gain control for fourth ball attack

·         Introduction to matchplay and participation in specific and planned competition

·         Learn how to focus during training/matches

Total Weekly Training

5 – 10 hours

Training to Train

Age/Developmental Considerations

Male 12 – 16 yrs Female 11 – 15 yrs. Onset of growth spurt, emphasis on aerobic and flexibility development. Introduction to strength and muscular endurance training.

Key Training Objectives

·         Develop speed, aerobic capacity and flexibility

·         Develop efficient and effective TT movement patterns

·         Increase accuracy, range of strokes and shot selection

·         Develop anticipation and the capacity to adapt

·         Develop mental preparatory skills to control activation level and focus

·         Learn from defeats and how to deal with pressure points

·         Specific and targeted competition to apply tactical/technical and mental skills

·         Awareness of sport nutrition

Total Weekly Training

10 – 15 hours

Training to Compete

Age/Development Considerations

Male 16 – 19 yrs Female 15 – 19 yrs. Adjustment to all skills following growth spurt. Development peak strength, endurance and speed.

Key Training Objectives

·         Refine movement skills

·         Continue speed, aerobic, flexibility and strength training

·         Improving the ability to anticipate (to take the ball earlier and increase bat head speed)

·         Learn to compete effectively in a variety of competitive conditions

·         Develop personal tactics and an awareness of opponents tactics

·         Developing personal style

·         Develop mental preparatory skills and use goal setting to plan training/competition schedule

Total Weekly Training

10 – 15 hours

Training to Win

Age/Developmental Considerations

Male and Female 19 – 22 (early) 22 + (international). Develop optimisation of stamina, strength, speed, skill and flexibility.

Key Training Objectives

·         Diagnostic testing to determine individuals priorities

·         Optimise technical, tactical, physical and mental preparation skills

·         Optimise match analysis techniques

·         Opponent analysis

·         Emphasis on competition in order to learn to compete under all conditions

·         Periodisation important to reduce training volumes during competition

·         Fitness training specific to the individual

Total Weekly Training

20 – 25 hours