Softball Canada Athlete Development Matrix



Awareness promotes an understanding of opportunities to get involved in sport and physical activity. It highlights opportunities for persons of all abilities to participate in sport, become an athlete, and go as far as their ability and motivation will take them. In Awareness, prospective participants and leaders are informed of the range of activities available and how they can take part.


First Involvement

First involvement refers to the first experiences participants have in sport. In this phase it is critical to ensure individuals have a positive first experience in an activity as negative first experiences can lead to non-participation. Organizations and leaders need to create a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for participants with developmentally appropriate instruction, adapted equipment, and facilities with a program orientation they will nurture the desire and confidence to participate for life. Clear direction should be provided to participants with regarding their second involvement.


Active Start (AS)

Very rapid development of physical skills
with some functional abilities like Executive
Function occur in this stage. Executive
Function is a set of closely related skills that
allow a developing child to work effectively
with the information in their brains, focus
their attention, filter out distractions, and
quickly switch mental gears from one
task to another. Children who miss out on
opportunities to develop these abilities may
have a more difficult time later in life.


FUNdamentals (FUN)

This is a stage of rapid development of a wide range of fundamental movement skills
(FMSs) in different environments. A child’s participation in many different sports and
activities should be encouraged. Unstructured play remains important but there is a shift
to more structured play including instruction. Less skillful kids should not be permitted to
fall too far behind their peers as could lead them to be left out of informal games with their


Learn2Train (L2T)

This is the stage from late childhood
until the onset of the growth spurt at
adolescence. With near-adult sized brains,
these are often called the “skill-hungry”
years. This is one of the most important
periods of motor development. Children are
developmentally ready to acquire softball specific
skills. Children learning to play
softball are NOT miniature adults.


Train2Train (T2T)

This stage can “make-or-break” potential high performance athletes because this is a
major fitness development stage for speed, strength and stamina. The onset of the growth
spurt (typically between the ages of 12-16 in males and 11-15 in females) signifies the entry
into this stage and has significant programming implications. All children go through a
major growth spurt during adolescence, and this growth occurs about 2 years earlier in
girls than in boys. There is also great variation in the age of onset of growth within children
of the same sex. Very early maturing girls may start their adolescent growth as young as
8 or 9 years of age, and late maturing boys may not begin until age 14 or older.


Train2Compete (T2C)

This stage immediately follows the adolescent growth spurt. Train to Compete athletes
are committed with recognized talent who have chosen the high performance pathway
that few others pursue. They must strive to deliver consistent high performance results
in both training and competition. Athletes should receive individualized tailored annual
plans that address their shortcomings as well build on their strengths with an eye to
future needs at the next stage. A one-sport focus towards softball and specializing in one
position (but play 1-2 other positions) is recommended to achieve greatest results. Athletes
are committed to high levels of year-round training and high level competitions and are
striving to be valued members of Provincial and Junior National teams.


Learn & Train to Win (LT2W)

Players in this stage are in the selection pool or have just made the Senior National
Team but might not be role players. During this stage, players begin the transition
from high-level national competitions to national multi-sport games and international
competitions (i.e. Canada Summer Games, World Championships, Pan American
Games and Olympic Games). Players start to learn to deal with the unique demands of
competing on the international stage, which includes travel, jet lag, environmental factors,
food considerations, and culture. The focus in the Learn and Train to Win stage is on
preparing the player and team to consistently give the best possible performance on the
international stage. Year-round, highly individualized, and softball- and position-specific
training is required both within the team setting and by players on their own.


Living to Win (L2W)

There are relatively few athletes who reach this stage of development. The focus of this
stage is to maximize performance in order to win medals at the Pan American Games,
World Championship or Olympic level. Athletes reach full adult maturity in this stage.
They pro-actively take full responsibility for self-assessment of their personal strengths
and weaknesses, and work diligently with team coaches and Integrated Support Team
experts (sport psychologist, strength and conditioning coaches and sport science
specialists) to reduce and eliminate weaknesses.



For those who compete with the formal structure of their sport.  This could be at the u14-U17 level in a house league, all the way to World Masters Competition.  It differs from Fit For Life because of competitive athletes are striving to improve and to win, they train accordingly.



In this stage, athletes and participants enjoy lifelong participation in a variety of
recreational and competitive opportunities in ALL the types of Softball (Fast Pitch, Slo-
Pitch and Orthodox). Softball presents a unique opportunity because it allows players
to challenge themselves mentally and physically, both in a team environment and as an
individual. Not only can a player enjoy playing softball for a lifetime, but she or he can also
become or stay involved in the sport as a coach, official, administrator, or volunteer.


Fit4Life (F4L)

This phase is for those who participated simply because they get satisfaction from sport or physical activity.  They may, from time to time, compete at the recreational level, but that this is not their primary purpose.  Fit 4 Life also describes those who engage in non-sporting physical activity.