Tennis coaching great Nicholas James Bollettieri was born on July 31, 1931, in North Pelham, New York. His parents were Italian immigrants, and he was raised in a close-knit Italian family. In high school, Nick was on his high school’s football team and was their star quarterback. In 1953, Nick graduated college with a degree in philosophy from Springhill College in Mobile, Alabama, where he only played one year of collegiate tennis. Shortly after graduating, Nick joined the 187th Airborne Division of the United States Army as a paratrooper and served in Japan for two years. In 1957, he enrolled at the University of Miami Law School, but dropped out after one year to pursue a career in coaching tennis.
He started teaching tennis at North Miami Beach courts, and moved on to the Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, by the late 1950s. Nick taught at Wayland in the summer and the Dorado Beach Hotel in Puerto Rico in the winter. In 1976, he joined the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort near Sarasota, Florida, and a year later he went out on his own and opened the Bollettieri Tennis Academy. Three years later his program outgrew the space, and the Academy was relocated to Bradenton, Florida, where students lived on the property. His academy was sold in 1987 and was renamed IMG Academy. Nick continues to coach tennis at the campus.
For a man who never seriously played tennis, Nick has become one of the most sought after and successful coaches in the history of the sport. He’s coached numerous players who have reached #1 in the world under his watch. Some of his tennis trainees include Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Martina Hingis, Anna Kournikova, Jelena Jankovic, Boris Becker, Maria Sharapova, and Serena and Venus Williams. Nicknamed the “Michelangelo of Tennis,” Nick was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2014, the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in the 2002, and he has also received countless awards and recognition for his work in the sport.