One of the early messages I heard from those trying to understand the Russian system of long-term athlete development was the suggestion it takes 18 years to develop and Olympic champion. Some in the West inferred that meant hot-housing talent. My sense of it was a little different. Upon close examination, that 18 year timeline included good quality physical education in schools. Programmes that ensured young children were taught basic movement skills - athletics and gymnastic movement. Today, we call that physical literacy.
From there, the Russian system did start to identify talent through a nationwide system that brought talent through youth, junior, squad programmes. From what I could deduce, there was no one fixed pathway but school sport was central. Even in the specialised sports schools, a full academic programme was followed as in a public school. Youth and junior international competition formed a pathway to a first Olympic Games. As many have observed, many medallists fail to win anything at their first Olympics. In the main, only on return attempts does medal success come. The best New Zealand example is canoeist Ian Fergusson. He went to the Montreal and Moscow Olympics before striking gold in Los Angeles and Seoul in 1984 and 1988.
All this demonstrates is the importance of playing the long game with athlete development. Our junior development coaches should be highly valued and highly skilled. They are central to a sport's athlete development system.They are setting the platform for success. And high quality school physical education is a central piece of the puzzle.
By age 10, children should be able to:
combine movement patterns smoothly including the ability to run
handle a variety of skills including simple gymnastic motion including rolling and balancing
perform a basic throwing overarm and underarm throwing action
throw and catch on the move
strike a ball consistently with a bat or racquet
kick and trap a kicked ball.
And BTW, no performance enhancing drugs required.👈
(photo source: World of Art)