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SIRC is pleased to be working together with Sport Canada to share current research on topics informing policy and promoting quality sport programming. This week we are sharing highlights of a recent article reviewing a research study on THE SKILLS TAUGHT BY VOLLEYBALL COACHES AND THEIR RELATION TO LONG-TERM ATHLETE DEVELOPMENT.

Skills trained by coaches of Canadian male volleyball teams: A comparison with long-term athlete development guidelines. Chevrier J, Roy M, Turcotte S, Culver DM, and Cybulski S. (2016). International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, 11(3), 410-421.

SIRC Highlights from the research

Long term athlete development (LTAD) models have been developed at the national level and in Quebec in order to address appropriate training and competition philosophies for developing young athletes. Coaches are trained in this model throughout their coaching certification. Volleyball Canada (VC) has, according to the mandate by Sport Canada, developed an LTAD model that addresses issues identified by an LTAD expert committee created by Volleyball Canada in their initial examination of the LTAD model. Volleyball Quebec (VBQ) has written their own version of an LTAD model that responds to the mandate of their provincial government while still adapting the Volleyball Canada model. Volleyball Canada has applied targeted sport-specific training and competition guidelines within their LTAD model. In order to examine how coaches apply LTAD model guidelines within their coaching practices, three stages of the LTAD plan that most closely align with Volleyball Quebec stages ‘Train to Train’ (T2T)=high school (12-16 years), ‘Learn to Compete’ (L2C)=college (17-19 years), and ‘Train to Compete’ (T2C)=university (20+ years), were targeted to be studied. The purpose of this study was to “examine if volleyball coaches applied LTAD guidelines in practice during season, following the instruction they received during the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) [training]. More specifically, the objectives of this study were (a) to describe the skills trained by athletes in three different LTAD stages and (b) to compare the percentage of time allotted by the coaches in training sessions to each of the skill categories when they attempt to base their practice design on the VBQ and VC LTAD model guidelines”. Using a multiple case study, 4 coaches of male athletes at the high school, college or university level in Quebec were studied through semi-structured interviews and observation.

Study observations:

  • Coaches followed VBQ and VC LTAD guidelines in regards to time spent on technical and team tactical training; 90% for three out of the 4 coaches, with the fourth coach coming in at 75%.
  • In the T2T stage, time devoted to technical skills respected the VBQ LTAD guidelines but were allotted more time than prescribed by LTAD guidelines for L2C and T2C stages.
  • Individual tactical skills were under-trained in the T2T and T2C stages, and team tactical skills were over-trained at the high school level.
  • In-season training sees a priority given to team tactical skills with a majority of training time being focused here.T2T stage coaches followed similar training skill goals as the T2C coach despite age difference in players.
  • No coach followed either the VBQ or VC LTAD guidelines in terms of total volume of activity (skills, physical training, motor skills, and competition). [VBQ and VC guidelines are different as VC takes into account recommendations achievable by all provinces]. Coaches indicated volume guidelines were difficult to follow because: (1) the amount of training hours allotted by school institutions (gym time, etc.); and (2) pre-assigned competition schedules, made them at the mercy of others in administration.
  • Lack of time devoted by all coaches to motor skills training, which is contrary to LTAD guidelines.
  • All coaches answered “very limited” or “limited” with regard to their knowledge level and understanding of LTAD models and guidelines.

Feasibility for coaches to apply VBQ/VC LTAD guidelines:

  • At the T2T high school stage, it was shown that teams train less than half the time prescribed by LTAD guidelines.
  • It is difficult for coaches with limited knowledge/competencies in the areas of physical and motor skills training and conditioning to meet the LTAD guidelines.
  • Availability of gym hours and ability of athletes to commit to the hours of training required by LTAD guidelines make it a challenge for coaches to meet the guidelines.
  • The Quebec curriculum offers a variety of activities, thus students have less time to devote to a single sport.
  • The linear nature of the LTAD guidelines makes it difficult for Quebec athletes to follow the standards as they enter some sports at later ages than the LTAD stages (volleyball). Therefore, the extra time seen devoted to technical training may be explained by this late start phenomena.
  • Differences in VC and VBQ guidelines regarding number of hours devoted to training and competition are explained due to the national versus province-specific context of the guideline development.
  • A suggestion is to modify the VC and VBQ guidelines to integrate extra-curricular sport training in terms of training volume.

Capacity of the current sport system to apply LTAD models

  • Coaches knowledge of LTAD models were limited or erroneous. Are coach education programs on LTAD sufficient for coaches to be able to apply the guidelines? The hope is that coaches who are trained at the Level 1 and 2 stages and then left to their own devises within their own training environments can apply the learnings. Many other studies show that (1) this memorize then take back and apply theory does not usually apply; and (2) formal coach education does not necessarily change the competencies of the coaches.
  • The suggestion put out by the authors is: If another study on cross-country ski coaches shows that at earlier stages (active start and fundamentals) LTAD principles were more successfully integrated for coaches, perhaps Volleyball should examine how Cross-country Canada supports its coaches past the formalized workshop training into practice.
  • Suggestions for success based on the study data:
    • Create and promote programs and initiatives to better inform coaches about LTAD guidelines, how to apply them in practice, and how to develop skills connected to LTAD guidelines application (mentoring programs, supervision programs, communities of practice, etc.). An evaluation of the feasibility of these solutions would need to be conducted.
    • VBQ and VC could instigate projects to support LTAD friendly programs: grants, recognition events, etc. The challenge is to have projects parallel with how coaches’ successes are usually measured. How does athlete development success measure against competition success or talent identification? Are these compatible or at odds?
    • Implementation of an “LTAD-multisport school program, which focuses on physical, mental, emotional, and cognitive development of student-athletes”.

While results of this studied cannot be generalized due to the small sample size and narrow geographical location, they may be transferrable. The author suggest learnings from this study can be used to further develop research in the subject area such as LTAD coach education effectiveness, competition scheduling (school-based) and its relation to LTAD guidelines, as well as comparison to other sports and/or other provinces.

The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.