After a younger Andre Agassi gained an vital match whereas sporting denims, make-up and earrings, his coach Nick Bollettieri summoned him to look in entrance of his 200 tennis academy classmates. As punishment for having “defiled” the centre of excellence, Agassi was sentenced to clean all of the bogs on web site. On the subsequent match, his coach threatened him, he must play sporting a skirt.
Few folks can declare to have produced extra champions than the self-styled “Michelangelo of tennis”. Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles, Maria Sharapova and each the Williams sisters all educated underneath the watchful eye of Bollettieri, the groundbreaking teacher, who has died aged 91.
Within the late Seventies, Bollettieri pioneered the live-in academy for younger athletes trying to obtain greatness. However his strategies have been as infamous as they have been progressive. He would stand bare-chested on the courtroom, berating his younger protégés over each stray shot or wrongly angled grip, as they repeated the identical actions 1000’s of occasions over.
The imaginative and prescient was to assemble collectively one of the best younger gamers in a single place the place they might “play, break rackets, gamble, combat, punch”. College students have been banned from watching TV, listening to the radio, consuming junk meals or calling dwelling through the week. Punishment for misdemeanours on the courtroom concerned pressured runs with out water. However on the finish of each coaching session, the youngsters would file previous their mentor uttering the mantra, “Thanks, Nick.”
In his memoirs, Agassi described the academy as a “glorified jail camp. And never all that glorified.” But these aiming for the highest continued to flock there. And regardless of Bollettieri’s abrasive and obsessive popularity — he woke each morning at 4:30am to stretch and elevate weights — lots of these he taught converse of him affectionately as an alternative mother or father. They grew to become winners too. Of the tens of 1000’s of gamers who educated underneath him, ten would attain the rank of world primary.
“I used to be dwelling my dream”, Sharapova, who joined the academy aged eight, informed the FT in 2015. “I noticed all these nice champions come by means of and practise. And I awoke each morning and couldn’t anticipate my alarm to ring at 6.30am and go and have my lesson.”
Nicholas James Bollettieri was born in 1931 within the city of Pelham, New York. His dad and mom have been Italian immigrants. He was a quarterback on the highschool soccer staff, earlier than his uncle satisfied him to strive the “sissy sport” of tennis.
After finding out philosophy at school in Alabama, Bollettieri joined the military, turning into a paratrooper and reaching the rank of lieutenant. His time within the navy can be central to his teaching ethos later in life. “I started to be taught so much being a paratrooper — self-discipline, the sensation you’re one of the best on this planet, that you are able to do something,” he mentioned.
After leaving the armed forces in 1957, he enrolled to review legislation on the College of Miami. To assist make ends meet, he started providing tennis classes for $1.50 an hour, regardless of having no expertise as a coach and never rather more as a participant. After lower than a 12 months, he dropped his research to commit himself to tennis.
“A number of coaches know way more tennis than I do”, he mentioned. “What I do know is find out how to work with you as an individual.”
In 1961, he noticed Brian Gottfried, then 9 years previous, on the courtroom and took him underneath his wing. Gottfried would later grow to be Bollettieri’s first profitable product, reaching quantity 3 on this planet in 1977.
That very same 12 months, after a spell educating wealthy resort shoppers to play tennis, he landed on the Colony Seashore and Tennis Resort close to Sarasota, Florida. A 12 months later, he would set up the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy.
He went on to borrow $1mn to show 40 acres of tomato vegetation in Bradenton, Florida right into a sprawling tennis boot camp, which opened in 1981. Agassi referred to his time there as “Lord of the Flies with forehands”, however attended without cost. His father solely had the cash to pay for 3 months tuition, however Bollettieri known as him to say he was “tearing up the cheque” after seeing how good he was. The pair had an emotional break up in 1993, quickly after Agassi gained the primary of his eight Grand Slam titles.
Bollettieri was identified for his hassle managing cash. And with monetary issues looming, he offered the academy to IMG in 1987. However he stayed on to run it.
At present the location covers round 600 acres, and teaches a variety of sports activities to 1,200 full-time boarders and 1000’s extra youngsters and adults who attend sports activities camps there. In 2014, Bollettieri was inducted into the Tennis Corridor of Fame, considered one of solely 4 coaches to obtain the accolade.