IMG Academy: Still groundbreaking after all these years

BRADENTON, Fla. – Walking the vast grounds of IMG Academy with co-Managing Director Chip McCarthy, I inquired about who is IMG’s main competition.

McCarthy took little time responding. “Ourselves,” he said.

After a nearly three-hour tour of the facility, one would be hard-pressed to argue.

Japanese superstar Kei Nishikori is based in Bradenton and trains out of the academy. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

IMG Academy is so many things to so many people, I can’t describe them as the best at what they do. They are the only ones who do what they do.

Set on more than 540 acres in Bradenton, on the gulf coast of Florida, the sprawling IMG campus houses 1,100 different athletes across 8 different sports, across all 50 states with over half of the student body of international descent. The result is a highly diverse and eclectic group of student-athletes dedicated to the highest levels of achievement inside the classroom as well as out.

The tennis academy is now part of a much bigger operation, with athletes from 11 sports on campus trying to be the best they can be. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Begun in 1978 as the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, the first full time boarding school tennis academy of its type, IMG purchased the NBTA in 1987, eventually expanding its high-performance vision to other sports. Yet its model remained the same; bring the best student-athletes all to one place, to train and compete year-round, hoping the intensity of daily competition would bring out everyone’s best.

And did it ever succeed, with the tennis arm of IMG developing future world No. 1s Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles, and Maria Sharapova, as well as developing dozens of other touring professionals on top of hundreds of players who went on to play American college tennis on full scholarships.

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, possibly the highest praise that can be bestowed upon the historic NBTA is how many entrepreneurs copied Nick’s vision, starting tennis academies in the model of the NBTA all around the world.

As IMG became a leader in the cutting edge of sports science, its focus transitioned from being strictly tennis to encompassing many of our favorite sports on their state of the art campus.

But tennis is still a major attraction at IMG, with 55 courts and more to come for its countless world class junior players, as well as a new feature stadium for hosting larger future events.

Xavier Malisse is an NBTA alum; now, he brings fellow Belgian Kimmer Coppejans, the 2012 French Open junior champion now rising the pro ranks, to his old stomping grounds to train. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

What struck me the most as I walked the grounds of the IMG campus was its balance. There’s the academics, there’s the athletics, yet the emphasis on self-improvement is what really stood out me. Each student-athletes every move is monitored and computer analyzed for maximized performance, to every rep of weights lifted, to how many calories are being consumed at the training table.

Their motto is simple.

At IMG Academy, just like the NBTA before, if you want to become the best, train like the best.

After all these years, IMG Academy is still breaking ground. And for up and coming athletes with high hopes of an athletic future, IMG Academy is still the place to go.

(For more information on the IMG Academy and Bollettieri Tennis, click here).

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