What is Athletic Development?

athletic development with physical development

Development of the human being can be divided in to two areas: physical and psychological. This division is purely theoretical because, in reality, both of these areas are interdependent.

  • Physical growth deals with the forming of the body build (size, proportion, density, etc.), physiological changes and motoric development (coordination, movement, etc.).
  • Psychological development deals with changes in intellectual development, emotional growth, social behavior and forming of the personality.

When looking at young girls and boys, one can easily see quantitative changes in characteristics such as height and weight. However, it is important to understand that a lot of other characteristics, both physiological and psychological, are not obvious and do not change symmetrically.

  • Introductory: 1-2 times per week, non-competitive
  • Basic: 2-6 times per week, development of all aspects of ability
  • Specialized: specific development-training focus on improvement and competition
  • Elite: specialized training for peak performance
Ability Age 3-6 Age 7-10 Pre-puberty
"perfect child"
Puberty Late Adolescence
(under 23)
Coordination & Flexibility Introductory Basic Specialized Elite Elite
Reaction Time Introductory Introductory Basic Specialized Elite
Speed   Introductory Basic Specialized Elite
Aerobic Endurance   Introductory Basic Specialized Specialized
Anaerobic Endurance     Introductory Basic Specialized
Strength-speed     Basic Specialized Elite
Strength Endurance     Introductory Basic Specialized
Maximum Strength       Introductory & Basic Specialized & Elite

At different times in our life, certain functions go through accelerated growth while others plateau or even slow down. For example, once children reach school age (6 or 7 years old), their growth in height slows down significantly. However, inside the body they are increasing bone density, strengthening muscles and improving motoric coordination. Although these characteristics are not visible on the surface, they tremendously influence what a child physically can and cannot do.

Judging Athletes by External Growth Characteristics is a Big Mistake

One may look at two young athletes who are of similar size and feel that they should have equal abilities, however, this is a mistake which can bring a great deal of frustration to everyone involved. Before making any judgments, one must analyze individual characteristics and their relation to biological (not chronological) age of the child.

Similarly, when athletes go through puberty, especially boys, they have a tendency to grow significantly in a short period of time. This gain of height makes them appear to be mature. But inside they may still have the organs of a child.

Pushing athletes too hard at this stage can be detrimental both physically and psychologically, especially when they are already dealing with other major changes in their lives.

»Read more about the impact of puberty on athletic development.


The process of full athletic development takes many years. Some characteristics such as maximal strength and anaerobic capacity cannot be developed until puberty or later. Introducing training based on these abilities too early is a mistake, but avoiding them completely may have equally bad consequences of future limitations and injuries.

ZB Athletic Development offers services which assure that each of our athletes follows a personalized training program developed exclusively to meet their individual needs at every stage of development.