Mike DePalmer — a 3-sport athlete in Staples High School’s Class of 1951, and a high school and college coach afterward — died Thursday in Knoxville, Tennessee. He was 86.
Few Westporters remember him. But in a way, he helped change youth sports in America forever.
In the 1970s — after coaching high school and college basketball and football in Florida — DePalmer and a partner established a tennis boarding school in Bradenton.
His partner was Nick Bollettieri. The DePalmer-Bollettieri Tennis Academy helped develop players like Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles and Mary Pierce.
In doing so, it popularized the notion that top athletes needed specialized schooling: hours of instruction a day, along with specialized fitness training, nutrition and more, while living away from home and attending boarding school.
It’s unclear how long DePalmer was associated with the academy. But Bollettieri sold it to the sports and entertainment company IMG in 1987. The IMG Academy now includes golf, soccer, baseball, volleyball, football and lacrosse. There was a hockey program for a while too.
Thousands of youngsters attend; their parents pay tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars, hoping they’ll be the next [insert name of your favorite athlete here].
Sports were much simpler when DePalmer played football, basketball and baseball at Staples. After 3 years in the Army, he joined the basketball team at Florida State University.
Following his partnership with Bollettieri, DePalmer served as head tennis coach and assistant athletic director at the University of Tennessee.
He was honored by many organizations, including the Sportsmen of Westport.
For Mike DePalmer’s full obituary, click here.
(Hat tip: Ben Sturner)