Active play in childhood and the Long Term Athlete Development model: A qualitative examination


This research study examined active play in childhood within the framework of the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) Model. Active play is defined as an unstructured physical activity that takes place in a child’s free time (Veitch et al., 2008). Seven varsity athletes (three males and four females) aged 18-25 participated in a 120 minute semi-structured retrospective focus group. Varsity athletes were interviewed on their active play experiences from three stages of their childhood. These three stages were taken from the LTAD model and included Active Start (0-6 yrs.), FUNdamentals (girls, 6-8 yrs.; boys, 6-9 yrs.), and Learn to Train (girls, 8-11 yrs.; boys, 9-12 yrs.). The focus group was transcribed verbatim and organized into meaning units using a deductive/inductive approach. Deductive analysis involves coding data into a pre-existing framework, whereas inductive analysis involves discovering themes and patterns that emerge out of participants’ responses (Patton, 2002). Coding was completed using QSR NVivo 10, with themes changing throughout the three age stages of the LTAD model. Overall there were eight main themes that emerged including: the environment (where participants completed active play), playmates, fundamental movement skills, barriers to active play, other skills developed through active play, reasons for active play, benefits of active play, and competence in active play. This study is the first to show how childhood active play contributes to the learning and execution of fundamental movement skills.

Acknowledgments: This research was supported by a SSHRC grant awarded to the first author.