Last Thursday, it was announced that Bradenton IMG Academy (Fla.) would be adding a girls’ varsity lacrosse program beginning this fall.
IMG Academy is a fully-developed sports academy formed from the Nick Bolletieri Tennis Academy that produced players such as Hall-of-Famers Andre Agassi and Monica Seles. The Academy has also gained a certain degree of notoriety for signing on players as young as the age of nine to get them primed for professional tennis careers.
IMG Academy has gotten more recent fame (or infamy, depending on your perspective) for developing high-school all-star teams that play the best competition from all over the nation.
Take, for example, the varsity football team at IMG. Last fall, the school played not only teams from Florida, but teams from Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma, California, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. The Ascenders finished with an 11-0 record and a No. 4 ranking from the MaxPreps computer ranking service.
In boys’ lacrosse, IMG already has a 4-0 record this year, and the team’s regular season, as per usual, stretches only until mid-March. But the varsity season is not the ultimate goal of the IMG program. Indeed, the varsity season is only one of three components for IMG players. There is a box lacrosse season for the student-athletes to work on skills during the winter, and the team also relies heavily on fall ball for development.
Given the growth of the sport of lacrosse in Florida and Georgia the last few years, I’m interested to see how the presence of IMG will affect the competitive balance of the sport. Yes, the fall-ball component, where a lot of the college recruiting currently takes place, will be a draw for some players. But I think the program has a chance to draw players from a nationwide base if the program’s ambition is big enough.
I guess we’ll know once the first group of young women hit campus this fall.