Long Term Athlete Development Stages 1 & 2

(Excerpt from Speed Skating Canada's Find Your Edge, beginning on Page. 17) 

FUNdamental movements and skills should be introduced through fun and games. These should follow and include basic overall sport movement skills.

• FUNdamental movement skills and FUNdamental sports skills = physical literacy

• Physical literacy refers to competency in movement and sports skills

• Physical literacy should be developed before the onset of the adolescent growth spurt.


STAGE 1 – FUNdamentals

Basic Movement Skills

Age: Males 6–9 and Females 6–8 (Short & Long Track)


Physical Objectives 

The focus of this stage is on critical skill and speed skating literacy. Speed Skating Canada’s programs provide a learn to skate program, which consists of

• Speed, power, and endurance through fun and games

• Introduction to core stability through fun and games

• General overall athleticism through programs introducing the:

• ABC’s of athleticism (agility, balance, coordination, speed)

• RJT’s (run, jump, throw)

• KGB’s (kinesthesia, gliding, buoyancy, striking with implements)

• CK’s (catching, kicking with body parts)


The 5 S’s of Training and Performance

“Windows of Trainability” 


Stamina (Endurance)

• Programs should not concentrate on energy system development specifically, but include aerobic activities through fun and games. 



• Introduction to strength exercises using the skaters own body weight, as well as medicine and Swiss ball exercises. Again, implementation should be done using a game environment.



• First window of speed development for boys aged 7-9

• First window of speed development for girls aged 6-8

• Speed should be done at the end of each warm-up

• Emphasis should be on doing the speed work prior to fatigue - low volume and high intensity



• Optimal window of skill training starts for girls near the end of this stage, between ages 8-11

• Emphasis on motor development to produce skaters who have a better trainability for long-term sport specific development



• Optimal window for flexibility for both girls and boys is at the beginning of this stage, ages 6-10.



• Emphasis should be on general skating skills and having fun

• Obstacle courses can be used for fun and a way to observe improvements


Psychological Objectives 

During this stage there are not any specific mental training skills that should be implemented. The coach should be promoting all of the mental capacities that are appropriate for young skaters in this stage, which include positive attitude, confidence and concentration.


Mental Capacities 

At this stage in a skater’s development, coaches should be aware of the skater’s mental capacities, as well as promote the development of them. The mental capacities during this stage include:

• A positive attitude to sport

• Confidence

• Concentration

• Achieve success and receive positive reinforcement


Lifestyle and Personal Objectives 

Involvement in more than one sport should be promoted. The aim of these skaters is to have enjoyment in sport while learning fair play, development of a positive attitude, develop interaction skills, and the ability for teamwork.


Sport Specific Objectives 

There are no arena size recommendations for this stage of development. Along with the multi-sport approach, the skater will be introduced to the simple rules and ethics of sport, as well as speed skating specific regulations. The introduction of simple rules, ethics in sport, and speed skating specific regulations in Stage 1 is supported by the data mining of both our long and short track team members. It was found though our data mining that our national teams started speed skating at an average age of 6.8 for short track and 9.4 for long track.


Equipment Objectives 

• Learning proper maintenance of skates (ie drying)

• Learning to tie and fit skates

• Supplied with a properly fitted boot with a blade that is straight or a bend up to 0.5

• Properly fitting helmet, knee pads, gloves, and neck guard


Skill objectives are to introduce basic skating skills 


• Forward • Backward

• Balance • Edge control

• Cross over both ways • Basic speed skating position

• Stopping • Starts

• Agility


Training and Competition Objectives 

• There is no periodization in the FUNdamentals stage, however, all programs are structured and monitored.

• Training camps should emphasize the components of general athleticism and implement when ever possible (ie different sports, swimming lessons for safety reasons).

• Fun races in practice should be promoted before “organized events”.

• The type of competition at this stage should be at the club level, with the recommended approximate number of competitions for this stage between 0 to 6.

• Competition strategies should consist of having fun and competition preparation and include a group warm-up and warm-down lead by the coach.

• Average sessions should be 45 minutes in duration and 1-3 sessions per week for 22-24 weeks are recommended.

• Skaters should not exceed the recommended sessions, as we are promoting athleticism in this stage, skaters should be involved in 4 different sports at this stage of their development.


STAGE 2 – Learning to Train

FUNdamental Sports Skills Including Speed Skating Skills

Age: Males 9-12 and Females 8-11 (Short & Long Track)


Physical Objectives 

The focus of this stage is on critical skill and speed skating literacy. Further development of all fundamental movement skills is critical during this stage of development. If missed, a significant window of opportunity is lost which will compromise the ability of the young skater to reach their full potential. Attention to the following should be considered

• Learn to speed skate long and short track.

• Develop endurance through fun and games.

• Flexibility exercises introduced through fun and games.

• Speed through agility, quickness, and change of direction. This should be done as part of warm-ups, dryland, and ice sessions. They should also incorporate lateral, multidirectional, and random movements.

• Continued development of core stability through fun games.

• Introduce generic ankle and knee stability, as well as body alignment.

• Development of physical literacy through fun and games.

• Advanced ABC’s, RJT’s, and KGB’s, CK’s.

• PHV in girls could start as early as 9 years old.


The 5 S’s of Training and Performance

“Windows of Trainability” 


Stamina (Endurance)

• Programs should increase with an emphasis on aerobic development. This should be done through games, relays, and unstructured play.



• Foundational athletic skills (ABC’s) are the focus of strength development.

• Circuit training as a progression in strength development is encouraged. High repetitions and/or timed sets are suggested when developing programs.

• Hopping and bounding exercises can be introduced to aid in strength development.

• Continue to develop strength using exercises that incorporate the skaters own body weight as well as medicine and Swiss balls.

• Introduction to proper lifting technique should be incorporated into exercises using body weight and the two types of balls.



• Second window of trainability for girls is near the end of this stage, ages 11-13.



• It should be noted that this stage is one of the most important periods of motor development for children. This generally happens between the ages of 9 and 12.

• This is a window of accelerated adaptation to motor co-ordination.

• Optimal window of skill training continues for girls, but closes at the end of this stage, ages 8-11.

• Optimal window of skill training for boys occurs in this stage, and continues through the end of this stage, age 9-12.



• Optimal window for flexibility for both girls and boys continues through Stage 2.

• Special attention to flexibility for girls due to the onset of PHV. Factors include the physical, mental, and cognitive aspects of the skater’s stage of development, as well as the aims of progression to properly and optimally align all stages

of development.


Psychological Objectives 

During this stage there is an introduction to mental training skills which include:

• Introduction to goal setting sheets

• Emphasis on the process of setting goals, introduce the concept of goal outcomes

• Set daily and realistic goals

• Ability to imagine themselves skating

• Introduction to basic ideal performance state (IPS) exercises (ie. relaxation, activation, refocusing, and parking)


Mental Capacities 

• Introduction to mental preparation

• Understanding of the role of practice

• Perseverance

• Confidence

• Concentration

• Achieve success and receive positive reinforcement


Lifestyle and Personal Objectives 

• Continued involvement in multi-sports should be promoted.

• The inclusion of sport in the skater’s lifestyle should start during this phase.

• Participation in complementary sports, some of which classically include cycling (road&mtn), running, and inline skating.

• Introduction to sport cultural and lifestyle habits, which include nutrition, hydration, recovery and regeneration. This should include both skater and parental education with respect these issues.

• There should be an understanding of the changes which puberty will bring.

• The skater learns discipline and structure, as well as relationship between effort and outcome.

• Teamwork and group interaction skills remain a focus of development.


Sport Specific Objectives 

The recommended arena size for this stage should be National Hockey League (NHL) or Olympic sized. During this stage, an emphasis starts to develop with regards to Short and Long Track Speed Skating skills. A continuation and progression should continue with regards to the education of simple rules and ethics in sport. This will allow for increased understanding of the simple rules and ethics in speed skating, as well as ensure the basics are covered for skaters entering the system. This reinforcement of simple rules is supported by the average age of 6.8-9.4, which covers the trend in starting ages of both our Long and Short Track team members.


Equipment Objectives 

• The introduction to sharpening and the purchase of sharpening equipment should be encouraged.

• An off-set adjustment should start with the blade centered on the boot. Progression of an off-set adjustment should consider the following:

• Assessment of ankle strength (straight line of force).

• Timing of push and ability to glide on edges (consider hip, knee, and shoulder alignment).

• Skater should have proper training equipment, such as running shoes, cycling shorts, warm-ups

• Skaters should be dressed appropriately for environmental factors.

• Bend recommendations include 0.5-1.0 ST and 0.5 for LT

• Coaches and clubs should have access to bending equipment (bender and gauge).

• Introduction to bending by the athletes can take place near the end of this stage. This will assist in the progression of skater’s equipment skills in the following stages.

• Skaters should be introduced to both Short and Long Track speed skating. The introduction to the Klap skate can be done in this stage with the determining factor being availability and funds. Age does not play a factor.

• Appropriate skates and blades for a developmental skater. Due to the accelerated 

window of motor coordination, it is important that properly fitted boots (comfort & performance) are available. As well as boots, a properly sized and maintained blade is critical for this stage of development.

• Skill objectives are to refine skating skills with an emphasis on specific speed skating skills.

• Skaters should be working toward achieving a “gold level” in the SSC Cutting Edge program.

• Emphasis should be on developing correct timing in the execution of the skating push.

• Continued reinforcement of the basic skills from Stage1.

• Introduce off-ice speed skating skill development (imitations) during training sessions beginning with implementation in group warm-ups.

• Introduction to relay technique and patterns should be introduced. Both traditional and modified relays can be done to develop general skating skills.


Training and Competition Objectives 

• The introduction of single periodization for the Learning to Train stage.

• Competition recommendations for this stage include 4 to 8 per year, which includes both Long and Short Track. Competition events should include both club and provincial level.

• It should be noted that fun races during practice time should be incorporated into the program. As a result,

traveling for competition will be reduced, therefore increasing available time for training, skill development, additional activities, and fewer missed school days.

• Competition strategies should be on skating technique, while introducing the skaters to race plans.

• The coach should continue to lead group warm-ups and warm downs with a progression of leadership of these activities to the skaters. These activities should still be done in a group setting.

• Average sessions should be 60 minutes in duration and 4 sessions per week for 22-29 weeks. It is recommended that skaters participate in 3 on-ice sessions along with 3 other organized activities. Participation in these activities should follow the seasonal sports schedule.

• Recommended training to competition ratio is 70% training to 30% competition.

• At competitions, emphasis should be on personal bests, not on ranking


For more information on these and others stages, A Parents Guide to Speed Skating: A Speed Skating Canada Long Term Athlete Development Initiative 

For Speed Skating Canada's comments on the Melville Rodeo on Speed Skates, click here 

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