By Roger Cox, Editor
The digital video of my strokes begins with footage of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal as examples of the "modern game." I'd first seen this video on an iPad on court immediately after it had been shot, but now I'm viewing it on my home computer via a link in an email sent after I'd left. There's a voiceover by the then head of adult programming, the pro who shot the video, analyzing my strokes and pointing out the improvements needed to make them more effective. As part of championing the modern game, the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy has also adopted modern technology to enhance its teaching.
I've attended the Bollettieri adult academy more than half a dozen times over the last 20+ years. I've seen it evolve from an afterthought to a well-oiled program enhanced, with a thoughtfully organized curriculum. But a different, and very important change, is coming in October when the Academy opens the 150-room Legacy Hotel. With it comes a suite of hitherto unavailable creature comforts: a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner; a cocktail lounge; 24-hour fitness center; a heated outdoor pool; a health and wellness spa. Although I've yet to visit, its opening stands to really change the off-court social experience of attending adult camp. You still don't have to stay there to participate in camp, but if you do you finally have a place to hang out in the evening with other campers, a place to grab a beer, or talk about which pros you saw working out.
Pro Shop: 941-755-1000
The adult director is James Bryce. Originally from England, he came to the U.S. to play for Samford University outside Birmingham, AL, then turned to college coaching after graduation. He brings that coaching mentality—get the most out of your talents—to his position at IMG. His arrival, shortly before the opening of the hotel, coincides with a change in IMG focus. Bryce believes that the hotel will allow the academy to appear to a broader range of clientele—people still interested in the demanding regimen but happy to retire to a hotel on site, instead of a condo or off-site accommodations.
"This gives us the ability to better tailor programs to the needs of individuals and groups," he told me. "We want to add weekend getaways for ladies' teams." Just now, with the hotel not quite open, he and his staff are trying to evaluate what will work and what to offer, but more resort-like options appear to be high on the list. What will not change is the staff's genuine investment in seeing everyone improve. As the details of any new plans solidify, I'll report about them here.
Courts & Fees. There are 55 courts at the Academy (33 hard, 18 clay, and 4 indoor). Court fees: None.
Caveat: Don't underestimate the demands of a 5-hour-a-day program. (When is the last time you played for five hours let alone drilled?) Anything and everything you can do to get in shape before coming down will help. Make sure the shoes you bring are well broken in and comfortable. The coaches provide water, Gatorade, fruit, and towels to help with dehydration ion court.
Spa & Fitness
The IMG Academy Bollettieri Tennis Program is in fact one of nine sports offered at this 450-acre Bradenton site, allowing juniors to alternatively pursue baseball, basketball, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, track and field, or performance training while adults can choose among tennis, golf, and performance training.
Spa & Fitness Center. The Athletic Performance & Development Facility contains a vast array of fitness and workout equipment but its purpose is much broader. The APD is a professional training center that focuses on enhancing athletic performance, not only for those who attend the various academies but also for professional athletes from a variety of sports. There is also a sports therapy center, which has state-of-the-art equipment for rehabilitation. And finally, there is a 4,000-square-foot Aveda spa which offers massages as well as health and beauty treatments.
When the 150-room Legacy Hotel opens in October 2018 it will bring a new level of creature comforts to overnight stays. Alternatively, those who want the convenience of a kitchen-equipped villa have choices ranging in size up to three bedrooms. It is not necessary to stay on campus: you have a broad choice of places to bed down locally, including several near the Sarasota-Bradenton airport. IMG Academies also has special rates for participants at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota.
Until the hotel restaurant opens, the only option on campus is the adult dining room in the main clubhouse. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, all buffet style and focused on both quality and nutrition. Dinner entrées may include filet mignon, swordfish, sea bass, steak with mushrooms. The desk in the clubhouse has a long list of local restaurants, complete with driving directions.
If you're looking for a demanding camp, one that will have you on court from much of the day, also check out the following:
The academy pricing has two formats: refundable and non-refundable, for half day, full-day, 3-day, or 5-days program. The Game Changer Program is the same as the 3-day and 5-day program with an hour of private instruction added onto your daily program. The pricing itself varies with the week chosen, so visit the website for exact cost of the week you plan to attend. Lodging is also available on site and ranges from a single club room to three-bedroom villas. Other Bradenton/Sarasota lodging.
Core Program: Jan. 1-Dec 31, 2017
Daily: $379-$449. Half day: $229-$279. 3-day: $1029-$1249. 5-day: $1359-$1629
Game changer Program: Jan. 1 – Dec. 31, 2017
3-day: $1248-$1428. 5-day: $1828-$2098
Seasons. Year-round; however, many adults scale back to a half-day program in summer.
Travel Instructions. The nearest airport is Sarasota Bradenton International (SRQ), 6 miles away.
General Tourist Information. Visit the Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau website or contact them at P.O. Box 1000, Bradenton, FL 34206-1000; phone (941) 729-9177.