By Patrick Lujan
Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Maria Sharapova, the Williams Sisters. They’ve all trained at the world-class International Management Group Tennis Academy in Florida.
13-year-old Nadine Del Carmen is following in those footsteps in hopes of continuing the path to tennis stardom.
Playing the sport for the last six years, the defining moment for Del Carmen came when she was only nine-years-old, playing in the finals of a local tournament in the 12-under division.
“I was down by five games and I came back to win,” said Nadine, who chose tennis over golf, soccer and basketball. “I was really happy. I wanted to compete more.”
“We didn’t think she was too serious yet,” remembers her father Nelson Del Carmen. “In that match, the finals, we found out she’s an animal when it comes to losing, so after that, we (with wife Norma) decided to support her more.”
The Del Carmen’s registered Nadine in practically every tournament thereafter including a bunch of international competition in Saipan, Fiji, New Caledonia and New Zealand.
After competing in tournaments such as the North Pacific Qualifier and the Pacific Oceania Junior Championships, Del Carmen followed her older brother Daniel to IMG Academy where he was participating in the basketball academy. During the summer of 2011 at the prestigious camp, Nadine took the Gatorade Standout Award for the player who trained the hardest.
“It was really new to me at first because I’ve never seen anything like the training there. It made my game a lot better and made me stronger,” Nadine said.
“The camp is very structured with a lot of training and a lot of coaches. The camp is not for the drive-by athlete. They train five hours every day and have match plays on the weekend. The caliber that’s over there is amazing,” Nelson added.
After the summer camp, the Del Carmen’s took Nadine to yet another level – enrolling her to a semester of school and tennis at the Academy.
The Academy offers a middle school curriculum that consists of a high level of education in the morning followed by an afternoon of tennis every day.
“I think ‘why spend all this money and my daughter is away from me’, but she hasn’t digressed yet. She still continues to get better and her interest still peaks,” Nelson said.
So it’s back to the Florida campus in August again for Nadine who hopes to one day follow the top pros who are Academy alums.
For her father, though, a more palatable goal would be a college scholarship. “Hopefully, we can get her into a good college (through tennis) and anything after that is bonus.”
Part of any top level athlete is the understanding of one’s body. The young teenager has been under the tutelage of local fitness instructor Tony Morrison and has built her physique with muscle building to become stronger and quicker on the court.
Proper dieting – eating every 2-3 hours – and more muscle have the 5-foot-7 teenager gaining almost 30 pounds in less than two years.
Notes: her favorite tennis players are Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova…and would you believe, she doesn’t know who Martina Navratilova is.
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