Alex and Alex: two IMG Academy soccer program veterans and unlikely best-of-friends. There's Ohio Alex, aka Alex Elliott, a 17 year old junior from Columbus, and there's LA Alex, aka Alex Schuster, a 16 year old sophomore from California. They met as roommates last summer, training and residing at IMG for three weeks. This year, they are back for more: Schuster for another three week stay and Elliott for two. Although not rooming together this summer, they are still best friends on campus, making the most of their first time together in a year.
Arriving in 2009, both were admittedly nervous. It was a long time to be away from home. "Most camps are only a few days. I was nervous because I would be here for so much longer," said Elliott, who feels her time here has made her more confident and gotten her in better shape to return to Ohio and play in the mild heat.
"I was coming all the way across the country for a long time," added Schuster who accredits her toughness and better ball skills to her IMG experience, in particular, spending much of her field time competing with and against the boy campers. Schuster's dad stumbled upon IMG Academy soccer program while searching for a camp to help her improve as a player. Coaches Schuster consulted also highly recommended IMG. Likewise, Elliott also came to IMG to get better.
The Alexes agree: this is the place to go to get more serious about soccer. "If you want to get serious and go to college and play, this is the place to be. Everyone here is serious about it and wants to get better. I also like that people come here from around the world so you get to see so many different styles of play," Schuster said. Both Schuster and Elliott are looking to move their game to the college level, which is a big part of why they would both love to enroll in the IMG Academy soccer program's full-time program. Aside from soccer, both Alexes love English. Elliott spends time on the hardwood as part of her St. Francis Desales' basketball team while Schuster spends time at the podium as part of San Marino High School's Speech and Debate Team.
The benefits for both move beyond the field time. "Everyone is here for the same reason even if they play different sports. Everyone just wants to get better so you also develop really close bonds through that," said Schuster. Speaking of, besides meeting a close friend in Elliott last summer, Schuster also met Sawyer Wilson, the 2010 number one draft pick in the IMG Academy baseball program Academy's Wood Bat League. Sawyer, an East Lake High School (Tarpon Springs, FL) senior is a left- handed pitcher and outfielder for the WBL's Hurricanes. The two stuck together through the year and are back for some time together, between training sessions and games.
After camp breaks for the two Alexes, they will go their separate ways: Elliott back to Ohio to prepare for an intense high school pre-season, her weeks filled with two-a-days; and Schuster back to LA before heading to Monaco with the family at the end of July. But perhaps they will be reunited sooner rather than later as full time IMG Academy students. Then the unlikely best friends can surround themselves with all the things they love about IMG, year round.