The USSA's "Athlete Development Pipelines" have been a cornerstone in its program design for over a decade. During that time, pipelines were developed to illustrate how an athlete moves through the USSA competition system, and who is primarily responsible for the development of athletes at those different stages (clubs, divisions, U.S. Ski Team).
This spring, USSA undertook a revision of its pipelines to also illustrate the other factors that influence athlete development at each stage, including training, technical and tactical markers. This further development of the pipelines places an appropriate emphasis on fun, fitness and fundamentals at each of the various levels, as these are all core factors of recruitment, retention, participation and athlete development.
The pipelines are are intended to define the pace of development, to lead program design both at the club and national level, and to educate stakeholders such as parents and athletes about program design at the local level, through the national team.
The USSA Athlete Pipeline
Active Introduction to Sport: Age 0-6
Sport and activity become a fun and integral part of life where children learn basic athletic motions, develop basic strength, flexibility and fitness all while focused on having fun.
Athletic Fundamentals: Age 6-8
Youth participants learn athletic coordination, balance, and agility while continuing to develop overall strength, flexibility, speed and basic fitness. The importance of teamwork and fair play are learned. Fun continues to be the major focus.
Learning to Prepare for Sport: Age 8-12
Youth athletes learn skills across a variety of sports that will be the foundation for all future development in athletics. These young athletes should participate in a number of athletic activities including sports that focus on strength, flexibility, agility, coordination, balance, speed and endurance. Fair play, teamwork and fun continue to be emphasized.
Preparing for Sport: Age 12-15
Young athletes must develop sport-specific skills as well as fitness. Athletes should begin to focus their attention on fewer sports as they discover their aptitude and enjoyment for a few specific sports. The athletes’ rate of growth and development dictates the stage of progress and specialization.
Preparing to Compete: Age 15 or 16+
The athlete begins to optimize specific sport skills and fitness toward competing in the sport. A single sport should be chosen as the primary focus, though other sports can be played as a part of preparation. All aspects of the specific sport must be addressed and incorporated. Fair play, teamwork and the enjoyment of the process of preparation toward accomplishments should be emphasized.
By age 17, a skier must be training over 500 quality hours and be working with a coach and racing at the appropriate national and international level including SuperTour, Jr. Qualifiers, NCAA, JWC or J1, in addition to some international level racing.
Preparing to Win: Age 18+
Excellence in all aspects of the athlete’s specific sport must be the goal of preparation at this stage.
By age 19, a skier must be training over 600 quality hours and be working with a coach and racing at the appropriate national and international level including SuperTour, NCAA, JWC and some OPA level racing.
By age 21, a skier must be training around or over 650 quality hours and be working with a professional coach and racing a full schedule of SuperTour, National and appropriate international events.
By age 23, a skier must be training near or over 700 professional hours depending on the amount of intensity and training focus. Athletes must be working with a professional coach and competing at the appropriate domestic and international level.
Life-long Participation: All ages
Sport and activity should remain a consistent, important and positive part of life. This is also an excellent time to give back to the sports and activities that have nourished ones own life.