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IMG Academy pivots to distance learning

Article Written by Travis Clark
Published: May 20, 2020
Quarantine Corner: Alex Chater
An interview with IMG Academy's General Manager of Soccer, Alex Chater.

Just like every other soccer club around the nation – and world – IMG Academy has gotten used to not having things run as usual.

When the soccer staff at the Florida academy got word that schools may be closing, most of its players were home on a two-week spring break. That allowed the team to get the ball rolling.

According to IMG Academy Director of Soccer Don Cameron, there were several priorities to put into place focused around a central pillar.

“First and foremost, to provide daily structure and support to our student-athletes throughout this period to continue their development,” he told TopDrawerSoccer.

With the school staff taking care of the academic piece, the IMG Academy Soccer staff focused on doing their utmost to deliver and maintain a soccer distance-learning program that best mirrored what they would typically receive in Florida.

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That included the physical conditioning elements, individual technical work, tactical learning over Hudl, weekly online workshops and other basics that would help a player excel on the field. Looking to keep players on course for college ambitions, players could meet with advisors, put together highlight reel and receive feedback.

Then of course, another piece was taking into consideration what each player had available in terms of physical space and workout tools.

“Our head coaches worked with each of the players and supported their ability to adapt to their home environment and encouraged them to be creative depending on the limitations of their environments within their home state or country,” Cameron said.

Already boasting a variety of resources to draw from, IMG Academy put out a Game Day Physical Conditioning module, laying out what each player is responsible for throughout the week. Connecting via the CoachNow app, players were given clear instructions on the check list to run through.

In the backdrop of the pandemic, IMG Academy was also part of the re-shuffling of the American soccer youth landscape. After the U.S. Soccer Federation closed the Development Academy, leaving both their boys and girls teams needing a place to play for the 2020-21 academic year.

The girls teams will be part of the newly-launching Girls Academy League.

“We are excited with this new competitive platform as it gives IMG the opportunity to continue to train and play over the 10-month season,” Cameron said. “The freedom and flexibility in the league with all the Directors coordinating and collaborating together is refreshing. It gives the opportunity for clubs to implement their own philosophy, methodology during the training week and then go and play a meaningful game at the weekend.”

Cameron is also excited about the prospect of MLS launching and running a youth league of their own. IMG Academy was announced as part of that group last week, which is also hoping to launch later this fall.

“The collaboration between the clubs and MLS leadership has been very positive and will be broken down into working groups to co-create the competitive platform structure,” he said. “The commitment and intent from the MLS and the Elite clubs are deeply aligned in wanting to provide a top-level development platform based around a 10-month calendar with quality games played in a positive learning environment.”

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For now, the focus is on getting the senior class to the finish line, while continuing to support and aid players in their development as best as they can from Florida. Part of that has included special leadership messages from U.S. greats in sports, including Landon Donovan, Tim Howard, Damarcus Beasley, Tony Meola, Deion Sanders and David Ortiz. A virtual banquet is planned for the end of the year, and awards will be handed out – over a web call as opposed to in person of course.

On the whole, Cameron and his staff have been exceptionally pleased about how their players, no matter where they are based, have thrived despite an unprecedented challenge.

“The players have shown outstanding leadership attributes in overcoming adversity by adapting, showing great initiative and resilience to continue with their own individual development and keep working towards their soccer goals,” he said. “Our players engagement in the process has been nothing short of spectacular. We are very proud of them.”

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