BRANDON, Fla. -- United Global Academy, the school expected to be headquartered at the future Sarah Vande Berg Tennis Center in Zephyrhills, revealed it plans to add a skydiving program to its offerings.
- 10 minutes of flight equates to about 12-15 skydives
- School will blend athletics, academics
- LINK: iFly
- More Hillsborough County headlines
"I think a lot of people don't realize it's a sport, but if you go to China for example, they have lots of those tunnels," said SVB Center CEO and UGA Founder Pascal Collard, referring to wind tunnels like the one at iFLY in Brandon. "It's booming over there."
Two-to-three times a week, students will train at iFLY in 10-minute sessions. That might not sound like a lot, but iFLY employee and UGA skydiving instructor David Lang said 10 minutes of flight equates to about 12-15 skydives' worth of experience. He said that amount of time could take weeks to accumulate in traditional plane jumps.
"You go for, like, a minute, you come out, you analyze your movement, your technique, your biomechanics, and then you go back in the tunnel," said Collard.
"To see an individual and break it down specifically for them -- their strengths, their weaknesses, whether it's mental or physical and coming up with their progression is a very unique and individualized experience, just like any other sport," said Lang.
One young indoor skydiver said an academy like the one planned for UGA would be a welcome addition to the area.
"Yeah, absolutely -- it'd be really cool," said James Rogers, 15.
The Lakeland teenager is currently training for several upcoming indoor skydiving competitions. He took it up four years ago, inspired in part by his father, who was a paratrooper in the military.
"It's pretty much just the coolest feeling that you can get," Rogers said.
UGA officials said the school will blend athletics and academics. Headmaster Mark Shepherd said students will do classwork in the morning through the Florida Virtual School. They'll then train in their sport of choice, followed by more classwork -- this time, with the help of certified Florida teachers.
"It's to get these students maximizing their instructional time and time on the court or on the soccer pitch or on the golf course or in the tunnel," said Shepherd.
"The kids will have their own specific fitness program, they will have neuro and bio feedback. There will be so many things that they never will have done before in school or in their clubs," said UGA Athletic Director Gary Blissett.
Collard said scholarships will also be available to help students financially. UGA is expected to open in September 2020.
As for jumping out of airplanes, people younger than 18 can't skydive in the U.S., so some students will have to wait to take that step.