The following is an analysis of Softball BC’s current programs and our renewed focus on meeting all the requirements of the Long Term Player Development Model (LTPD).

We have seen the benefits of the “Own the Podium” program and if, through the efforts of members, we can put the same amount of energy into our Long Term Player Development program there is no telling how great the rewards may be. We need to give the LTPD model a chance to influence the way we are structuring our league and Association schedules to allow for more time to learn the sport of Softball and less time trying to compete to win a place on the Podium. Why change? Do we define our sport by competition or do we use competition to achieve our core purpose, vision values and strategic objectives which at the core is about player development? Implementation of Softball’s Long Term Player Development model is crucial for Softball Canada, Softball BC and our partners to achieve our organizations’ stated vision and strategic objectives. If we are to serve the long-term interest of all participants, the objective(s) for each stage of development must be considered in defining events/competitions and establishing benchmarks of success.

Please familiarize yourself with the Vision, Mission and Value statements of the organization and to consider the strategic priorities of the Board of Directors reviewed with the members at the Annual General Meeting in October 2010. The success of meeting our strategic priorities can only be achieved with the commitment of Volunteers, Coaches and Parents.

What Is Long Term Player Development (LTPD)?

In 2005, as a result of the creation of the Canadian Sport Policy, Canada began a major project to re-invigorate our national sport system. The new approach was in response to concerns about Canadians’ lack of physical activity, the growing obesity epidemic, particularly among children, and the perceived poor performance of Canadian teams internationally. Under the direction of Sport Canada, the Canadian Sport Centre-Vancouver and PacificSport (now PacificSport Vancouver and PacificSport Victoria) were charged with the task of transforming the sport system. As a result, a Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) Expert Group created the generic Canadian LTAD model for able-bodied athletes followed by the LTAD model for athletes with a disability.

The Canadian Sport for Life: Long-Term Athlete Development Resource Paper, which describes the generic LTAD model, is based on a comprehensive review of coaching literature, sport science research, and best practices from effective sports programs within Canada and around the world. Exercise and sport science research and
Experience provided insight and information regarding the role of growth, development, and maturation in athletic development. These sciences included pediatric exercise science, exercise physiology, sport psychology, psychomotor learning, sport sociology, biomechanics, and nutrition. Analysis of the literature on organizational development also contributed significantly to the development of the generic model. Out of this research came the “10 Key Factors Influencing LTAD” and the “10 S’s of Training and Performance”. The generic model presents a framework for optimal athlete development with particular reference to growth, maturation, and development, appropriate training, and suitable competition exposure. It provides a clear pathway for the development of athletes that is easily understood by all stakeholders.

The Federal and Provincial/Territorial Ministers of Sport identified LTAD as the framework for sport and physical activity development and agreed to proceed with its implementation in consultation with national (NSOs) and provincial/territorial sport organizations (P/TSOs). As a result, all sports are developing their sport-specific LTAD models through the leadership of their respective NSOs.

In March 2005, Softball Canada formed its Long- Term Player Development (LTPD) Steering Committee, made up of softball experts from across Canada, to lead the development of its model. In April 2005, over 20 of the most prominent and experienced softball coaches, players, and administrators gathered in Ottawa for the LTPD Summit to discuss the current state of our sport, the desired state, and what we need to do to achieve that state. Next, the steering committee began the task of writing the Long- Term Player Development Guide for Softball in Canada. Along the way, feedback on the content was solicited from age category sub-committees formed from participants in the LTPD Summit and selected softball experts. The process to develop softball’s LTPD guide was extensive, inclusive, and comprehensive.

Stages Of Player Development

In keeping with the generic Canadian LTAD model, Softball’s LTPD model, outlined in Figure 5, consists of eight seamlessly linked stages — Active Start, FUNdamentals, Learning to Train, Training to Train, Training to Compete, Learning and Training to Win, Living to Win, and Active for Life. The model has a softball-specific focus that reflects the realities and demands of the game at the highest level while retaining at its core the notion of age- and ability- appropriate programming and evaluation. The titles of the various stages imply the general intent of the programming within each stage. Learning to Train, for example, refers to systematic programming aimed at establishing key skill elements of softball while Living to Win refers to a period of time where the focus is on performing skills at a very high level in order to win medals LTPD recognizes that during the early stages, other settings such as elementary school physical education programs and community sport programs may contribute to a child’s physical, mental, emotional, and social development. As well, it should be noted that the stages overlap as players’ progress at different rates.

Active Start

0 to 6 years
Is about getting children interested in physical activity, learning the fundamental movement skills of running, jumping, catching, twisting, kicking and throwing, and linking them in play

FUNdamentals

Females 6 to 8 and Males 6 to 9
Emphasizes further development of fundamental movement skills and lays a general foundation of physical capacities

Learning To Train, Training To Train And Training To Compete

Females 8 to 21 and Males 9 – 23
Focus on developing softball specific skills, ensuring an appropriate level of fun while adding the competitive aspects of the game

Learning And Training To Win

Males and Females 19 +
Emphasizes a shift towards true high performance, including an increased focus on individualized training and performance results at competition

Living To Win

Emphasizes performance results and international excellence

Active For Life

All Ages
Is the final stage of the continuum and may be entered at any time after a player becomes in softball. This stage reflects an individual’s desire, competency and personal interest in the game and emphasizes lifelong participation and activity, not only in softball but in other forms of physical activity. Participants can be a player, coach, official, league administrator, or board member.

For softball to remain successful and contribute to the health of the nation, the sport must continue to learn and evolve. What can we do to improve our performances and make our softball programs consistently strong year after year? How and to what extent does the existing system enhance player development, player performance, and the health of the nation? How does it hinder? Where can we improve? LTPD will guide us in analyzing the Canadian softball system and in highlighting its gaps and shortcomings, and will aid in developing solutions. The implementation of the LTPD principles will enable softball organizations in Canada to provide participants with positive sport experiences.

Competition / Training

Shortcomings

  • Children and youth over-compete and under-train because the focus is on the short-term goal of winning now and not on the long-term goal of player development.
  • Adult training and competition programs are imposed on children and youth.
  • Chronological age rather than biological age is used in training and competition planning.
  • Training methods and competition programs designed for male players are superimposed on female players.
  • Climate and tradition dictate outdoor training and competition calendars that interfere with player development.
  • The competition structure interferes with player development, skewing or reducing training.
  • Across Canada, there are too many variations of the rules for children and youth and they do not properly reflect the difference between the needs of children and the needs of youths and adults.

Consequences

  • Softball skills and physical skills, including strength, stamina, suppleness, and speed are not well developed because players are competing too often and not training enough.
  • Because physical literacy is not well developed, players do not reach their genetic potential, which limits the talent level of players who take up the game and restricts the potential for individuals to enjoy physical activity.
  • There is a lack of systematic development of the next generation of successful international players.
  • National teams at international competitions are experiencing decreasing success.
    Female athletic potential is not reached due to inappropriate programs.
  • Provincial and national team coaches devote precious time on remedial programs to counteract the shortcomings of player preparation.

Coaches

 Shortcomings

  • Male coaches greatly outnumber women coaches.
  • Coaches are not well educated about the critical periods of accelerated adaptation to training or how to develop these athletic abilities — strength, speed, suppleness, stamina, and skill.
  • Lifelong learning and continual professional development are not embraced.
  • Typically, the most knowledgeable coaches work at the elite level with older players.
    Finding volunteer coaches is becoming more difficult.
  • Fundamental movement skills and softball technical skills are not taught properly.
    Early developers are often selected for teams because they are bigger and stronger.

Consequences

  • There is a lack of coach role models for female players.
  • Players do not reach their genetic athletic potential due to a lack of proper fitness training and skill development.
  • Burnout occurs because the same volunteers do all the work.
  • Late developers drop out of softball; had they stayed in the game, they could have become better athletes than early developers.
  • Less experienced and less trained coaches’ work with children and youth at the developmental level where quality coaches are crucial to a player’s development.

Parents

Shortcomings

Consequences

Clubs And Associations

Shortcomings

  • Minor Softball Associations and Adult Softball Associations are not well linked.
    Finding volunteers is getting more difficult, which leads to volunteer burnout.
  • Access to affordable indoor facilities and outdoor fields is limited.
  • There is a lack of a national system for talent identification.
  • There is a lack of a direct communication system with all softball members at all levels across Canada.
  • The competition structure across Canada is not well aligned.
  • There is no integration between school physical education programs, recreational community programs, and elite competitive programs.
  • There is a lack of financial support because the sport is not currently self-sustaining through membership fees, has restricted opportunities for revenue generation, and is overly reliant on government funding. These shortcomings create conflicts between our mission and mandate and those of funding agencies.

Consequences

  • Without proper communication channels, all stakeholders lack the necessary information needed to make decisions.
  • Players are missed due to the lack of a talent identification system and enrichment programs.
  • Individuals who are introduced to softball through the school system do not know where to go to continue in the sport.
  • With the differences between the funding priorities of agencies like governments and the priorities identified by softball’s governing bodies to grow the game, many softball associations and clubs do not currently have the money to provide essential programs and services.