As children grow and develop, there are times when practice and training will have the greatest effect. These “sensitive periods” provide a special opportunity to train and develop important skills and physical abilities that will impact athletic performance through the lifespan.
All sport skills and physical abilities are trainable at any age. However, as children and athletes grow and develop, there are times when practice and training will have the greatest positive effect. These times are called “sensitive periods of accelerated adaptation to training.”
Science shows that we can maximize each child’s skills and physical abilities if our coaching and instruction takes advantage of the sensitive periods of trainability.
The sensitive periods affect five different areas of physical development that we call “the Five Ss”:
Many of these sensitive periods are best identified by monitoring the growth and development of children and identifying the onset of the growth spurt and Peak Height Velocity as seen in Canadian Sport for Life Figure 8.
To learn more about monitoring growth and development consult Canadian Sport for Life's Monitoring Growth and Development for Long Term Athlete Development.
If sport programs and coaching don’t take advantage of the sensitive periods, children may never develop the strength, speed, skills, flexibility or stamina they could have had.
If we take advantage of the sensitive periods, children are much more likely to reach their peak performance abilities. They have a better chance of staying active for life and even becoming elite level speed skaters.
Speed Skating Canada’s Competition and Events System Review specifically identified this gap in the competitive programming for speed skating making recommendations to introduce new activities, distances and formats that were based on the “sensitive periods” of development so that the competitive objectives that coaches and skaters are preparing for would be aligned with the developmental objectives.
Duration of efforts were matched against skaters speed to determine appropriate distances to reinforce the development of speed and stamina in the appropriate “sensitive periods” and skill based events were recommended for skaters in the FUNdamentals, Learning to Train and Training to Train stages of development. It was also recommended that durations of effort where there was limited long term benefit be avoided.
As sport’s understanding of long term athlete development has evolved, a more holistic approach to athlete development has looked beyond the five physical capacities to include and an additional 5S’s of athlete development:
The contents of this page were prepared using information from SSC's Racing on Skates and Find Your Edge document as well as resources from Canadian Sport for Life. To learn more about the Active Start stage of development and Physical Literacy visit www.canadiansportforlife.ca and www.activeforlife.ca.