Wander around the IMG Academy soccer program Academy clubhouse and chances are you'll spot one, or both, of the Bartol sisters. After all, it's hard to miss them. The blonde- haired, blue- eyed Colorado natives could blend in perfectly on a sunny Florida beach but not so much among a crowd of campers and coaches. But do not be fooled. Get a good look at them, and they look the part of elite level soccer players: tans from hours of training, ponytails to allow them to do their work, and scars from surgeries and spills. Jessica is the taller one. Renae is the younger one. They're never far from one another but soon they'll be a thousand miles apart. On August 4, Jessica, a 2010 Academy graduate and IMG Player of the Year recipient, reports to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, for preseason training while Renae, a high school junior, will stay at the IMG Academy soccer program.
Jessica, 18, arrived at IMG first, as a high school freshman. The Durango, Colorado native had heard about IMG. The Academy appealed to her parents who wanted Jessica to improve her game to earn a soccer scholarship. IMG was a place she could train daily among driven, like- minded student athletes. Renae, 16, followed a year later, a no-brainer agreed upon by both Renae and her parents. Both sisters "love it," at IMG. "Training every day, the mental conditioning, the weights- it just all gives an edge on the other players you're competing against that aren't doing that stuff. I could never go back to a regular club that just trains twice a week," said Jessica.
Their on-field styles could not be more different. For starters, Renae plays the defensive center midfield position while Jessica plays the attacking. And according to their U18 coach Marcelo Carrera, Jessica truly has an attacking mentality, always looking towards goal with her first touch and a great ability to dribble with speed while Renae is strong- in the air and on the ground- with a powerful shot who often looks to receive and switch fields with the ball.
Off the field, they are close friends. In addition to sharing the midfield, they also share a bunk, with the younger Renae having dibs on the top bed. Renae said, "We get along well but we also argue a lot. She has an attitude." "She has an attitude," Jessica pipes in. Their tight bond is not always advantageous. Playing in the State Round of Eight and looking to advance to the Final Four, opponent Team Boca took Renae out of the game mentally by picking on older sis Jessica. The loss may mark their last game together but not the final one.
Jessica is currently at IMG preparing for pre-season training with the Division I Mustangs. She splits her time between on-field play and the Athletic & Personal Development program. She plays conditions, plays twice day, and trains with Performance Specialist Stacey Daniels three times a week where she focuses on weights and speed training. Renae is her training partner. They both agree that weights are their favorite part of IPI. Jessica also considered Florida State, Alabama, and Louisiana State but ultimately chose SMU for its coaches, campus, and setting.
A thousand miles apart for the next two years, Renae has plans to reunite . When asked where she would like the play collegiately, "SMU," she responded without hesitation. Wouldn't that be a treat for the Mustangs: same blonde- haired sisters, same back-and-forth banter, still eating and breathing soccer, but this time ruling a different clubhouse.