There's a new academy in town, and it is offering juniors the chance to cross-train and learn a couple of "Sports of a Lifetime".
SOAL (Sports of a Lifetime) Academy, based at Emerald Bay, will be teaching youth golf and tennis — sports they can play for a lifetime.
"SOAL Academy is going to give them 16 hours of tennis and golf, lifetime sports — not playing video games, not just riding a bicycle up and down the road, but lifetime sports," said Chris Petty, who will be the tennis instructor.
"We're going to introduce kids to the game," said Randy Sparks, who coaches the golf sessions. "They'll show up, do an hour of golf, then they'll criss-cross.”
SOAL has openings for 24 juniors, ages 9 and up, that will have the opportunity to cross-train in both golf and tennis from 4-6 p.m., Monday and Tuesday at Emerald Bay.
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"Chris will have 12 doing tennis and I'll have 12 doing golf," Sparks said. "When the hour is up they'll cross over."
The unique thing about Emerald Bay is the two lighted clay tennis courts are about 50 yards away from the driving range of the golf course.
"The parents can pull up and drop them off, and Johnny and Susie can do two sports," Petty said. "So you don't have to worry about the logistics of transportation. And this is for any kid in town ... this is community driven and open to the public.”
"One of our missions is to assists parents in getting our youth up, moving and active in a fun learning environment so that well-rounded citizens are developed," Sparks said.
Cost for a month is $230, which includes four hours of training per week in both sports.
"The monthly price is what most camps are for a week," Petty said.
"When it comes down to the mathematics it's $14.37 an hour," Petty continued. "It's something that these kids are going to learn. It's a financial investment that your children will have ... it's like riding bicycles, once you learn you never forget."
Once the 24 spots are filled, SOAL will have a waiting list and then make the decision of possibly adding another group with different dates and times.
Youth can stay "indefinitely" in SOAL Academy all the way through high school, Petty said.
"Most are going to pick a sport, then go into the SOAL high performance," Petty said, where they would concentrate on one sport.
"At some point if you want to take it to the next level … you can't be a master of two, you have to be a master of one," Sparks said. "You really have to devote your time and energy."
"We want to create an athlete," Petty added. "We're going to play catch with them. We're going to do everything to make an athlete …"
In addition to the academy for the youth, they are planning to offer a SOAL Academy for Adults.
The adults will meet from 9-11 a.m. on Wednesday at a cost of $130 per month.
"Now the parents are becoming engaged with their kids in the sports of a lifetime," Petty said. "The sport can bring back a connection to where they have something in common."
"Now on the weekend you have an activity you can share together," Sparks added.
Where: Emerald Bay
When: 4-6 p.m., Mondays and Tuesdays, beginning May 6 and ending Aug. 27.
Who: For ages 9 and up or ability driven.
What: Tennis and golf.
Cost: $230 per month (must prepay by April 23)
Petty began playing tennis at age 7 and played Division 1 college tennis at the University of South Alabama. He was previously at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort from 1995-2011 where he held the position of Head of Junior programming and Director of Tennis. Petty teaches all levels of tennis players from junior and adult beginners to high level adult, Division 1 collegiate players, in both group and private settings.
Sparks, a Medicus master instructor, has been an avid student of the golf swing for more than 20 years. Though he teaches both adult and junior golfers, his central focus and passion is the PureStrike Junior Training Program, a year-round program he developed that today includes more than 45 junior golfers on the Florida Panhandle. Over the last few years, golfers in the program have won more than 100 junior tournaments, and many are high ranked.