x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Sports-focused academy opens with 125 students

The school that taught the international tennis stars Andre Agassi and Monica Seles is opening a branch in Dubai Sports City and will hold its first classes on Sunday.

DUBAI // The school that taught the international tennis stars Andre Agassi and Monica Seles is opening a branch in Dubai Sports City and will hold its first classes on Sunday. Bradenton Academy, situated alongside sporting academies such as the Manchester United Soccer School and the ICC Cricket Academy, allows students to spend as much as a quarter of their school day on developing their sporting skills, and encourages them to strive to emulate the success of Agassi and Seles, who attended the original Bradenton Academy in Florida.

That focus on sports was a big reason for choosing Bradenton Academy, said some parents at the school's induction day yesterday. "The partnership with the athletic academies was the biggest selling point of the school," Mike Vander Saak said. "I have two sons who play rugby and icehockey. They will benefit from a flexible curriculum that will enable them to develop their sporting skills." Fady Karim said sport was a great way to motivate children and that his son was looking forward to his first day.

"My son is a sports fanatic and so to have direct access to the sports academies and soccer school is a great advantage," he said. "Another factor is the excitement of being part of a new type of school and that my son will be one of the first graduates." The school will eventually host 900 students, from nursery to senior level, but the majority of the initial 125 students are in Grades 1-3. With seven 45-minute physical education periods built into the weekly schedule, the school dedicates more time for exercise and sport than a standard school, which typically offers one hour a week.

If a student excels in a sport and needs time away from the academy, the school will provide an online curriculum, said Kevin Drew, director of physical education. "The school is designed so that high performance sportsmen can benefit from the world-class facilities in Sports City, and we will ensure their academic needs are fitted around their sporting development," he said. "For example, if a student is a talented golfer, they will spend time practicing at the Butch Harmon Golf School and playing the course at the Els Club. If that student became a junior international, then the school would provide his schooling online to enable the individual to participate in tournaments across the world."

Mudassar Nazar, coach at the ICC Global Cricket Academy, welcomed the greater emphasis on sport. But said a single PE lesson a week was inadequate to develop world-class athletes. Specialised coaching and extra-curricular opportunities are necessary to develop young talent, he said. "We will also identify the leading students and enrol them in an elite programme and work closely with the sporting federations in their selection of age-group teams."

In addition to Seles and Agassi, the UAE golfer Rhea Nair also attended the original Bradenton Academy. This will be the school's first venture outside the US. tbrooks@thenational.ae