A true soccer player breathes, eats, and sleeps soccer. Nothing is more important than the touch of the ball on your foot, the smell of freshly cut grass, the sound of the ball hitting the back of the net, and the sinking feeling you get when your shot clinks of the post. But for most, soccer is just a game, done for fun and recreation.
Well not at IMG Academy soccer program. At IMG, a player is surrounded by soccer. It is a place where they have access to top-notch training facilities and fields, and some of the best soccer coaches in the country, day in and day out.
IMG Academy soccer program, located in Bradenton, Florida, provides that luxury, combining both the academic aspect of a four-year high school with a program to facilitate the growth of a soccer athlete.
"It's all about trying to develop the kids to the play at the next level," IMG Academy soccer program Director Tom Durkin said. "To address every aspect on and off the field to enhance performance, while dealing with techniques and tactics."
IMG prides itself on their "Total Student-Athlete" program, where each player is taught how to improve strength training, nutrition, and vision training, alongside personal responsibility, leadership, and communication skills.
"It has provided me the best opportunity to becoming a better player," said Pablo Media, current U18 Academy captain.
"We go to school in the morning and accomplish enough to get six periods completed for high school graduation. We break for lunch at the IMG cafeteria and practice starts at three. Three nights a week we have weight lifting."
One thing to understand is that IMG is all encompassing. Players have the opportunity to attend a four-year high school while receiving training at the academy. Housing is provided, as well as nutrition tailored for the individual.
"I was at IGM for two years and it was a great atmosphere," said Zak Boggs, alumni of IMG who plays for the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer.
"It's a one stop shop to be the best that you can be. We focused on many aspects of the game: speed of play, 1v1, 1v2, 8v8, man marking, team shape. There were so many things that it was never the same."
The amount of growth a player experiences through IMG Academy soccer program, let it be through a short stay or for a four-year curriculum, is considerable.
How the coaches and staff approach development of a soccer player, focusing on technique and strength, without allowing the academic side to suffer is something that isn't offered anywhere else. It's no surprise that a great number of well-known soccer players have called IMG home at some point in their careers.
"It's a magical place, a great place to work on their game," Durkin said. Players here are serious about the game and in an environment with like-minded individuals that have and want to accomplish the same goals."