Newly announced sponsorship of the Caribbean Cup tennis series by IMG Academy could help bolster the sport locally in Cayman, officials said.
Cayman is the second stop on what is now the IMG Academy Caribbean Cup Tennis Series. Play began Monday and runs through the week, with finals on Saturday.
IMG’s Jairo Aldana is an athlete adviser and was at the tournament Monday. He said this is the first junior tournament tour the company has put its name on. IMG is the largest sports academy in the world. It has a school for students who are aiming towards a college or professional career in a host of sports and also runs camps, clinics and other training programmes. Scores of top athletes have gone to school or trained there.
Aldana said IMG will have a presence at each of the tour stops. There are eight other island tournaments on the tour. He said his job is to provide parents and athletes with information on the academy’s programmes.
“The opportunity to be part of this circuit would be a good starting point to promote IMG in the Caribbean,” Aldana said. “It’s good for the people, it’s good for the tournament and it’s good for IMG.”
Ryan Borczon, Cayman Cup manager, said having the prestigious school as a participant helps elevate the tournament.
“It really brings things up a notch,” Borczon said, adding that IMG’s presence has created a buzz among the young players. “You can really feel it.”
Most players are aware of the IMG name, he said.
“It’s like the most reputable brand in tennis,” Borczon said. “All the players know about IMG.”
One Cayman player, Jade Wilkinson, is a current student at the academy. While there are close to 10 players from IMG playing in the Cayman Cup, Wilkinson is not among them. But her mother LaRene was there along with Jade’s younger sister, Willow, who is also a player.
Wilkinson said IMG has been good for her older daughter.
“She likes it,” Wilkinson said. “She’s always been dedicated to school and tennis.”
IMG offered things not available in Cayman, she said.
“Jade had outgrown the competition on island,” she said. “In order for her to get the competition, she needs to reach her goal, which is to play collegiate tennis. She needed to go there.”
She said Jade will be attending school at Vassar College this fall and will play tennis there.
She was happy to see IMG’s involvement.
“All positive things are a great thing for the tournament,” she said.
Dave Cotrone, director of business development for IMG Academy, said he could not reveal what IMG paid for the naming rights to the tournament series. He said the school gets a double benefit as a tournament sponsor.
“It was not only good branding,” he said of the naming move, “but it’s a way for us to get our players involved.
The academy has sent players to the Cayman tournament and other stops on the series in the past, he said, and knew from working with tournament organiser Karl Hale in the past that it was the kind of event they could associate themselves with.
“We need to do a lot more things like this,” Cotrone said. “It’s great with promoting events and helps us push tennis as a sport.”