Things to Consider When Choosing a Boarding School or Sport Academy

Sports Academies have been in the media a lot lately, and you are probably wondering how to go about choosing a sports academy for your child. 

If you could wave a realistic magic wand, what would you like your child’s boarding school life to look like? What are your priorities for your child? What are his or her priorities? Here are some questions to ask and consider when choosing a boarding school, particularly a golf boarding school.

  1. Youth away from home during their adolescent years need clear boundaries, to be supervised sensibly and consistently by “skilled house-parents”, as well as emotional support to guide them through challenges. What type of challenges do you think your child might encounter? What systems are in place in the boarding school to guide your child through those challenges? Does the housing team provide mentoring and life skills coaching, developing the whole person and building character?

The focus at IJGA from the very start was on intrinsic motivation, character development and doing things differently – better – than other golf academies. Students attending academies need emotional support, academic support and an individualized approach so that each student-athlete receives what they need to improve their game.

IJGA set about to create a character development and student ambassador program, as well as social impact projects. Students are housed in private homes and condos in a gated community and are supervised and supported by a mix of experienced and youthful house parents. These are homes, not dorms. This is their home away from home. We replicate what living at home brings – balancing the necessary discipline with down time to bring out the best in our students. Our approach has been tested over many years.

IJGA was founded on the belief that every young athlete should be given the best opportunity for success in sport and in education.  Our executive team, who has nearly 200 years of combined sport academy experience, constantly emphasizes the importance of holding ourselves to those standards when managing the business and each child’s development.

  1. What is the size of the student body? Many boarding schools look and sound impressive, but one must dig deeper.

Small academies generally end up with 10 to 30 students. If you are considering a full-time immersive learning academy, is that sufficient enough for real interaction and sociability,or to support good college placement, mental and physical programs, character and leadership work?And how do you avoid becoming another sport academy factory when the student body is over 150, which doesn’t ultimately serve the student-athlete once they are in college (and possibly have to quit the golf team to focus on studies as a result of being academically unprepared)?

  1. How important is education to you and to your child? To prepare a child for college, grades are important, but learning to study and creating a love of learning is imperative for success. What programs are in place after school hours to mentor and provide quiet study time?

With over 100 years of educational experience, Montverde Academy is an international, co-educational, college preparatory school that offers considerable advantages to IJGA student-athletes seeking the highest quality education. Discipline and rigor in our academic curriculum are a feature of life here. The majority of students will be here because they seek to play golf at a leading college. In order to do this, they will not only need to excel on the golf course, but also demonstrate a track record of academic achievement in their school work. Starting in the ninth grade, students build their GPA for college acceptance. Focus and success is an important part of college preparation.

IJGA has a Learning Center on campus headed by the Director of Academics, with specialist tutors for most subjects and also for ESL, SAT and ACT, as well as supervised Study Hall.

  1. How is your child’s mental side of the game? How does he/she manage competition? There are many good golf instructors but an excellent coaching program flexible to the needs of youth which develops the mental side and guides them to being competitors and has the experts and programs to support these things is critical. How often will my child receive mental conditioning and by whom? What background and experience does this mental coach have?

IJGA places a strong emphasis on building mental skills. From creating clear and compelling process goals, learning to focus on the things they cannot control, and developing on course skills to promote grit and perseverance, the mental performance program helps each athlete manage their own tendencies and become mentally stronger.

  1. How is your child’s fitness? A good team of fitness experts who tailor a program to golf as well as to the child is another critical point. How often will my child receive physical conditioning and by whom? Is there pre-habilitation and rehabilitation offered?

A junior golfer’s functional fitness and strength and conditioning are vital to their success on and off the course. For endurance, injury prevention, and to promote peak performance, strength and conditioning is a core part of the golf program at IJGA.

  1. What type of diet works best for your child? Proper nutrition and hydration before, during and after golf are as important for optimal performance as your equipment. Ask about meal timing, how they balance food groups and manage hydration. How will the boarding school staff help to navigate the food choices they will face on a daily basis and how will they assist to create strategies for healthy eating?

Boarding students eat all of their meals in Champions Hall, the Clubhouse at IJGA. IJGA utilizes an in-house catering service lead by our executive chef and catering team.  We have experts on staff who assist students in how to best navigate the choices they face on a daily basis and help create strategies for healthy eating. Educational sessions throughout the year help to further develop these skills.

  1. Does your child prefer people around or alone time? Would he/she have an easy time making friends? Does your child prefer being in a large or smaller group? Ask about the boarding school’s peer group.

Our most valuable asset at IJGA is our peer group of students whom we believe are second to none.  Our student-athletes share the common experience of sacrifice in leaving home; courage in typically coming to a foreign country to study in a different language, and great ambition to become a professional golfer or at minimum to have a great college golf experience.

Peer group interactions and school culture have consistently been named among the most influential factors on student learning. Further, a mounting body of evidence clearly indicates that students who receive programming focused on leadership, community and character academically outperform their peers, get better grades, and graduate at higher rates.

Maintaining our student body at less than one hundred students preserves the intimacy and familiarity of this peer group.

  1. Integrating character development into sports and academics provides a healthy social experience. Are there any leadership opportunities for the student-athletes? How does the boarding school offer responsibility and tutor in leadership?

IJGA has both a peer-mentoring /leadership model known as IJGA Ambassadors and a college athlete character program called HABITUDES. Through these programs that harness the power of peers, IJGA leverages the leadership potential of students critical to college and career success.

Many experts note that “character, grit, discipline, self-esteem, self-confidence, sociability” are as important in a teenager high school experience, as the pure academic study and development of critical thought gained in the classroom.  And the most important of these is character, as without character there is no reliable route ahead in relationships, friendships and business dealings.  Managers in business often recruit for character, and then develop the skills in staff, knowing that developing character in someone later in life is unlikely.

If character is most important, how do we develop it?  Clearly the influences in the family are important, as well as the peer group of friends, and the teachers at school.  But in our view the most important way to develop character is to test an individual, under pressure, have them experience challenges and failure, and learning to grow stronger through the lessons learned and under the guidance of the “mentor”, who may be a parent, teacher or sports coach.  The most extreme challenges generally come from extreme situations, which is where pursuing a “passion” to a high level is such a positive developmental tool for students.  It takes much hard work and perseverance to develop a golf swing, then add the short game skills and the mental disciplines, just as it does the tennis game, soccer game, equestrian skills, musical skills and so on.  By taking on this passion to become a champion, the student learns the reward from hard work, learns how to gain determination from failure and then to enjoy the sweet taste of success.  The champion learns how to develop purpose in everything they do, how to manage their time and how to set realistic goals to achieve the different stages of success, all important skills for life.  The true champion inspires with their dedication, and through their achievements and character become the leaders in their community.

  1. Does your facility lend itself to the needs of the students? How often is the facility open to them for practice? Is the facility available on the weekend?

IJGA’s facility was built solely for the students. They take priority over everyone else on the course. Students walk out their door to the range, and can practice any time of the day, night or on weekends.

The IJGA golf training facility surpasses all others with no exception. IJGA features a golf course that provides challenges on every shot, a state of the art practice facility that brings the course to the range to simulate competitive conditions in training and an extensive campus which includes tennis courts, swimming pool, well-appointed condominium housing, a full-service catering center and an education and learning building to support academic and college preparation success.

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