By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator
At some point in our lives, most of us have taken part in sport. Whether it’s as an individual or as part of a team, through our local clubs or schools, or maybe even as part of a provincial or national team.
At Sport Manitoba, we support all individuals of all ages and abilities to be active for life, but when it comes to our high-performance athlete development, we primarily work along what we call The Performance Pathway.
What is the Performance Pathway?
The Performance Pathway is a road map that brings an athlete through the stages of Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) while breaking down the levels of competition or events that fall within each stage. This helps us to identify which athletes have entered the “Learn to Train” or “Train to Train” stages in their respective sport and guides our programming accordingly. These stages pave the way for both the Podium Pathway and the Active for Life stages of LTAD.
Typically, once an athlete reaches onset of their growth spurt or onset of menarche, or around ages 11-15 for females, and ages 12-16 for males, they have reached the biological markers of an athlete entering the Train to Train stage. This stage is critical for participants to develop into high-performance athletes, as they usually either begin their journey on the Podium Pathway within their sport, become competitive or Fit for Life in their chosen sport, or they drop out all together.
Our goal when working with athletes entering the Performance Pathway is to introduce them to proper movement and technique, while helping them enter a stage of major fitness development. This is the time where athletes build strength, coordination, speed and aerobic endurance. They will also get introduced to other aspects of training, such as mental preparation and nutrition.
During entry onto the Performance Pathway, the ratio of training to competition shifts to 60% training:40% competition in one year. That’s a lot of time off the ice, court, field, etc.! This is when periodized plans shine. Because athletes are still young and are still being introduced to more sport-specific training, it is important that all aspects of training are developmentally appropriate, provide an environment where life skills can be cultivated, and the concept of proper recovery is learned and practiced.
A properly periodized program can help athletes move throughout the year peaking at the correct times, managing heavier training loads with other life activities, and planning periods of rest and recovery to prevent burnout.
When should I be thinking about the Performance Pathway?
Once you or your athlete starts to compete in local, school or provincial competitions, you are on the pathway. This is the time to begin thinking about engaging in strength and conditioning and other performance services to help you reach your goals. If you are an athlete who aspires to be on the pathway, it’s never too early to start training! There are lots of great programs to help you get engaged in performance services, as well as events such as performance testing days, summer camps and more.