Development Zone®


PCA Resource Center

Athlete Development Models: From Fun To Training To High Performance

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Dan Gould, a PCA National Advisory Board Member and Director of Michigan State’s Institute for the Study of Youth Sports, is renowned for his work in sport psychology and mental training for athletic competition. He conducts research on the psychological foundations of coaching and has consulted for the U.S. Olympic Committee, the U.S. Tennis Association, and athletes of all ages and skill levels.

This clip describes how USA Hockey, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the USTA have implemented long term, multi-tiered development systems to get their athletes to the highest level. However, Gould notes that these development models are important for the way certain experiences, other than performance, are emphasized during various stages of development. Although the ultimate goal is often high-level performance, each level of development is important and adds to the life of an athlete in different ways.

Having fun is emphasized at younger stages of development, learning how to train is next, and high performance is emphasized when an athlete gets older and more skilled. It is important that the correct experiences are given for athletes at the appropriate stage of development. This way athletes can stay both mentally and physically engaged in the sport as they grow and they are not overwhelmed at any point during the development process. Although each stage of development does not focus on performance itself, each part is indeed important in helping the athlete improve as a complete person and player.