Check out a snippet of "IMG more than a boarding school" by Tom Lakin on ESPN RISE:
Kirk Dirschl is not your average jock. For one, the 5-foot 10-inch, 175-pound senior is a bit of a bookworm. This season, on the bus ride to away games while his teammates fiddled with iPods or bobbed under their Dr. Dre headphones, Dirschl could be found curled up with an encyclopedic history of Ancient Rome. The third baseman liked the book so much he kept it in his baseball bag all year.
Even Dirschl admits he's a little different. But then so are many of his teammates at IMG Academy, a sprawling, sport-specific boarding school megaplex nestled along Sarasota Bay in Bradenton, Fla.
âWe get all different types of kids here,â says Kevin Sharp, a Temple baseball alum and current IMG coach. âIn my five years here, I've seen it all. You name it. I've had a boy from every far-reaching part of the country. Two from Alaska. One from Hawaii. We get international kids. We have the sons of major leaguers. We have kids who are overly talented and then we have regular kids who just love the game.â
The Baseball Academy is just one of several specialized training schools dotting IMG's gated, 350-acre campus, joined by academies for basketball, football, golf, soccer, lacrosse and tennis. Students study at the IMG Academy School, taking classes each weekday from 7:20 a.m. until noon, after which they'll head either to the Performance Institute, a giant, 10,000-square-foot workout facility, or to one of the many lushly manicured playing fields for practice. The Baseball Academy alone has three full fields, four practice fields and 18 batting cages - four of which are indoors. The program has sent two players to the pros every year for the past four years. Bobby Bonilla's son Brandon is a teammate of Dirschl's. Adam Dunn, Vernon Wells, and Mike Cuddyer are alums.
But ask Sharp and he'll tell you: the experience at IMG isn't actually all that abnormal.
âIMG is a boarding school,â Sharp says. âThat's really one thing that gets lost in the whole shuffle. We are a boarding school, and like any other boarding school, when you decide to come here, the intensity of everything that you do - whether it's in the academic or athletic environment - it all starts with a lot of dedication. You need to be able to manage your time very well, because it's an immediate challenge to settle into a routine. It can take a long time for some people who aren't prepared.â