MANATEE -- Behind the security gates and landscaped entrance, IMG Academy appears quiet and sequestered this summer, but the campus is still teeming with more than 1,000 summer campers, youth and adults, eager to sharpen their skills in a variety of sports and general physical fitness.
IMG summer camps kicked off at the end of May and run until Aug. 16. IMG had 1,200 campers on its grounds last week, but there is still open enrollment despite the volume, said soccer Coach Scott Dean.
Dean said camps are open to the community at any level.
"We do not want our campers to feel overshadowed by someone with more experience," Dean said. "Each level has an opportunity to work with athletes who are on similar playing fields, whatever your starting point is."
Camps options include half- and full-day options for one week, three and five weeks, with additional weeks available after that.
Dean said three-week camps are the most popular and fill up the quickest across all sports.
IMG offers summer camp programs in soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, football, lacrosse and a fitness and self-improvement program called athletic and personal development. Dean said sports such as football and lacrosse tend to not fill up as fast as the "tried and true" IMG instruction such as tennis and golf.
Camps can cost anywhere between $1,500 to around $10,000, depending on the length of the program, if the camper is staying in IMG resident halls and if the camper chooses to combine and customize programs.
Campers in any summer sport program can take classes in IMG's athletic and personal development program for an extra fee.
Development classes include mental conditioning, leadership and nutrition. Mental conditioning Coach Christian Smith said personal development camp increases confidence, concentration and composure. It also helps with pregame mental preparation.
Summer campers not interested in a specific sport can choose a summer program focused on athletic and personal development.
Campers can choose to add an academic element to their summer camp experience with English as a second language classes and standardized admissions testing study tips.
Carol Binder, academic coordinator for English programs at IMG Academy, said summer English lessons familiarize campers with speaking and listening to English in a fun environment.
"The summer camp English classes are approached from a lighter side," Binder said.
Dean said about half of campers incorporate academics into their athletic summer camps dependent on the age of the camper.
Adult campers tend to go for tennis, golf and athletic and personal development.
Dean said camp allows young athletes to see whether they are interested in attending the school full time.
"They get sports and boarding school experience while eating, sleeping and breathing the programs to see if it something they like," Scott said.
Joseph Dean (no relation to Scott Dean) and Kyle Schmaeling are prep lacrosse campers who returned to the IMG summer program a second time.
Joseph, a Cape Cod, Mass., resident, said he came back to work with coaches he bonded with the year before and for the distance from home, a welcome break for the 17-year-old.
However, the summer camp full-day schedules can be rigorous.
Joseph said he wakes up at 6:30 a.m. to eat breakfast before heading to the weight room, puts in a two-hour lacrosse session, has some free time before personal development classes and returns to the field in the evening for another lacrosse session.
Joseph, entering his junior year of high school, hopes to play lacrosse in college.
Joseph said physical activity at a summer camp keeps his mind active and ready to return to class in the fall.
"This is actually something I am pretty passionate about," Joseph said. "When I am not playing sports, I am drudging along and not activated. It keeps me focused, and I bring my drive to the classroom."
Joseph said one of the harder part about IMG camp is sticking to the routine every day, five days a week. However, he said he realizes dedication is required.
To help foot the bill for the camp fees, Joseph worked part-time at a tour company in Cape Cod last year.
Schmaeling, also from Rhode Island, returned to IMG for summer camp after a one-week lacrosse program in the spring. Schmaeling said he may become a full-time IMG student-athlete in his senior year.
Schmaeling's favorite part of being involved in the sport is the camaraderie.
"It gives you a base of friends," Schmaeling said. "You get to know everyone on the team and hang out with them and their friends."
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.