Developing our Athletes | An Age Appropriate Model

As coaches, we are responsible for helping our young athletes develop their basketball skills as well life skills, mental skills, and fitness. These four elements make up the basketball pyramid that Canada Basketball uses to aid coaches in planning and teaching our sport.

Canada Basketball’s Athlete Development Model uses the Long Term Athlete Development Model (LTAD) as it’s guide to help athletes achieve success at all stages of development. West Ottawa supports LTAD as the model that coaches should reference in guiding development of our players. LTAD is also the framework used today for the National Coaching Certification Program.

As a coach, you can use the stages of LTAD as a framework for your coaching plan and athlete development.


Ages 6-8 year old females and 6-9 year old males

The emphasis is on fun games that use basketball to teach fundamental movements and introduce basic basketball skills. Modified basketball games (1-on-1, 2-on-2, 3-on-3, and 4-on-4) are used to consolidate fundamental movements and aid in acquisition of the basic basketball fundamentals. During this stage the basic building blocks on which the game is built are being established.

Basic basketball fundamentals taught in this stage include stance, footwork, dribbling, passing and shooting. The key fundamental in regards to motivation is enjoyment. Players need to develop a love and passion for play. The technical decisions are based around simple decisions: should I pass or shoot? Should I dribble left or right?

Learn to Train

Ages 8-11 year old females and 9-12 year old males

Technical skills can start to be emphasized in this stage. The basic fundamentals are still important since many children will also use this stage as an entry level. Simple developmentally appropriate tactics can be used to allow the children to play team basketball. Emphasis is on applying the basic skills to game-like situations. The players must make decisions on when to use the skills and how the skill should be properly applied. Technical skills can be individual or multi- player. The basic strategies evolve around basic offence and defence. Emphasis is on proper spacing and understanding of team play. Enjoyment is still a major component. Equal playing time and positionless basketball is critical in this stage.

Train to Train

Ages 11-15 year old females and 12-16 year old males

11-13 females and 12 -14 males | The emphasis is still on refining the fundamentals and consolidating the technical skills. Developmentally appropriate tactics become more important.
13-15 females and 14-16 males | Players should be refining their technical skills. Tactics such as zone offence/ defence and presses/press breaks are added during this stage. Near the end of this stage, simple strategies can be employed. When various technical skills are combined to form a system of play, you have created a tactic. These are conceptual in nature and still allow the players freedom to make decisions. Teams will have tactics for transition, offence, defence etc. Individualized training is important for the player to improve.

Train to Compete

Ages 15-18+ females and 16-18+ males

During this phase, players will be introduced to many higher level technical skills that allow them to start to specialize. Players will be exposed to most if not all strategies of the game. When various technical skills are combined to form a system of play you have created a strategy.

These are conceptual in nature and still allow the players freedom to make decisions. Teams will have strategies for transition, offence, defence etc. Athletes should begin to have season plans for conditioning and motivational training. These should be developmentally appropriate and should include quality individualized training.

Learn more about Long-Term Athlete Development