The Rafa Nadal Tennis Academy
It was a dream for Heath Paul to work with Toni Nadal… not sure how it happened… as evidently it was NOT supposed to…Although, when originally inquiring, “admissions” told us we could work with Toni and even gave us a day and time that it was supposed to take place (Friday at 10 AM), upon our arrival Thursday evening we were adamantly informed by the actual Academy tennis head coach that Toni does NOT train one on one with anyone other than Rafa…
Yamma mamma we thought… did we waste an entire trip flying all the way from London to Manacor, Spain?
Then we were told Toni was only going to be at the Academy practice that Heath Paul was attending for only 5-10 minutes or so as he had to prepare for a big event that evening … OK, by this time, although the Academy was really beautiful and he was going to get to practice with good players, we were 2nd guessing our decision to come to Nadal‘s academy (we can train with good players most anywhere)… but we were here so we would try to make the best of it.
So Friday came, Toni indeed showed up and was watching the Academy group practice…I reckon early on Heath Paul must have caught Toni’s eye in the distance (HP was on the end court and Toni was initially on the first court)…
Toni, talking briefly to each coach on each court… slowly meandered 5 courts down to where Heath Paul was, sat on Heath Paul‘s court-side bench, and proceeded to observe Heath Paul for about 10 minutes without saying a word… The next thing you know Toni waived the three Academy coaches who were on the other courts to come over… then the coaches and Toni all proceeded to observe Heath Paul…click and zoom the image to see Toni on the bench…
Toni Nadal and Coaches asking Heath Paul his age…They thought he was 16 originally…not 13
They had Heath Paul play points against their top 14U (from The Czech Republic) meanwhile Toni was talking to the coaches and pointing at Heath Paul… The first few balls after Toni walked onto the court Heath Paul hit the back fence in the air lol…Heath Paul was very nervous. Then Heath Paul settled down and began hitting many winners against their top 14U player while moving with extreme intensity… more than we’ve ever seen him lol… reckon it’s easy to get inspired when the coach of a 19 time Grand slam champion walks onto your court :-)
Heath Paul played two more games and beat this player each time decisively (He was 1.5 years older than Heath Paul… about to turn 15). What was neat, is after this, Toni then waived to some of the other academy players to come to Heath Paul’s court to observe…they then put Heath Paul against their 2nd best 14U academy player (from Germany)… Heath Paul played him in point play for two ground games and also decisively beat him as well… all the while Toni was now talking to the players and coaches at the same time discussing and observing Heath Paul as he was playing points and then he would bring Heath Paul in for a quick chat and back off again.
Toni Nadal speaking with Heath Paul while a few Nadal Academy players observe…
After the point play, Toni stood up and approached Heath Paul, gave him a few words, and then enthusiastically began training him with inspiring intensity.
Toni ended up working with Heath Paul for the next 3 hours…taking video of him, hand tossing and feeding balls while shouting words of encouragement to do what he was asking of him.
Toni Nadal filming Heath Paul’s serve technique
Click Play button below to view video of Toni Nadal training Heath Paul
Toni Nadal Training Heath Paul one on one at 13 yrs old…
After an hour or so working with Heath Paul, he asked me to come down to speak with him in private, away from the kids, but in front of a couple of coaches (I was standing about 100 yards away watching from afar so he had a coach come get me). After telling me a few things about Heath Paul’s game that he would advise to continue to grow, he went on to say something that I did not expect…
Toni Nadal said, “I have not seen a player in many years that gives this much effort and has this attitude at 13 years old… other than my nephew…it is not normal”. I just stood there in disbelief…and said thank you…as obviously his nephew is Heath Paul’s hero…Rafa.
I was speechless and greatly encouraged… Heath Paul gave the effort of his life on this day… which was helpful :-).
Toni then spent an extra 30 minutes after practice just speaking with Heath Paul, downloading what he thought Heath Paul needs to do to achieve his stated goals (basically Toni spoke about hard work, the necessary attitude, about process focus, quality of practices, the quality of each ball, and the willingness to suffer), and shared stories of how Rafa approaches his tennis and life…the good and bad…We both were clinging to every word he spoke…they were from the heart, and immense words of wisdom about what it takes from his perspective to achieve 19 Grand Slams as his nephew has done…
Needless to say, the words of encouragement, coming from the coach of the 2nd winningest player of all time, and Heath Paul’s hero, has had a huge impact on Heath Paul’s belief in himself and what he can do in the sport… We’ve never seen Heath Paul work harder the day following and he said, “Daddy, I’m going to work harder than ever before because I want to win more grand slams than anyone in history and I really believe I can do it even more now”…Thanks, Toni!
2018 World no. 14 Kyle Edmund with Heath Paul Sep 2019
The National Training Center
Rewind two weeks before training with Toni and we find ourselves in London, hitting on the same courts as Andy Murray and Kyle Edmund. We were waiting for Lindsay to hopefully get into the 25K pro event held at the LTA National Training Center. Lindsay signed in but ended up being one out of the tournament, so did not get to play… although she beat all the girls in practice that she played that actually made it into the tournament prior to the event start. That’s a positive…
We had great practices this week and Heath Paul was blessed with another amazing and fortunate experience… Heath Paul was able to have a one on one 20 minute Q&A with Kyle Edmund (last year # 14 in the world with wins over Djokovic, Murray, Kyrgios etc.)
Kyle’s primary advice when asked “What was his mindset when he was growing up as a young player in the juniors that helped him reach top 15 in the world?
Kyle said, “The players at the younger ages that didn’t care as much about the wins as they did about improving for the future seem to be the ones that ended up being there alongside him today.”
That is some strong food for thought from Kyle…
On a side note…We have made our primary objective and mission on this trip to Europe to expose Heath Paul to primarily ONLY coaches that have developed players from a young age to Grand Slam Champion…
Our aim in Europe is to see, hear, feel and experience these world-class coaches’ philosophies in person, as well as to obtain honest feedback on Heath Paul’s current game. We also have sought each individual coach’s advice on “what are some of the most important things to nurture/do from their perspective in order to allow for even the possibility of a potential Grand Slam Champion?”
Bruguera Tennis Academy
After training at the Rafa Nadal Academy on the Island of Mallorca Spain, we then headed to train with another Grand Slam Champion producing coach, Luis Bruguera. He helped develop recent Grand Slam Champion Garbiñe Muguruza (2016 French Open and 2017 Wimbledon Champion) from 8-18 Yrs old, and of course his son Sergio Bruguera (1994 and 1995 French Open Champion).
The setting of the Bruguera Tennis Academy was on the side of a mountain on the outskirts of Barcelona that has an entire view of the city…quite a majestic experience.
Heath Paul trained one on one with Mr. Bruguera for two successive days 3 hours each day. It was again very inspiring and informative. Mr. Bruguera was very passionate in his approach to coaching as you can tell by the image above.
Just as Toni stayed much longer on the court than he was supposed to with Heath Paul, so did Mr. Bruguera. When a student is giving the maximum effort with an enthusiastic attitude, and trying to apply what they are being taught, a true teacher at heart has no time limits…they lose track of time in this scenario, as true teachers, after pouring their heart into a student, want to see immediate transformation from their hard work…When this occurs it is magic for a coach and both Mr. Nadal and Mr. Bruguera shared this trait! It was helpful that Heath Paul was successfully implementing what he was being taught.
Click the Play button below to see Luis Bruguera training Heath Paul
How We Were Able to Train with All These Legendary Coaches?
Well, we discovered at the beginning of our journey that it was not possible or in general did not happen just by request… unless the coach deemed it worth their time.
These coaches evidently receive requests from parents every day from all over the world that think their kid is going to be the next Grand Slam Champion…haha…so the Rafa Nadal Academy Admissions asked us to send a video of Heath Paul practicing and once this was done and seen by the coaches… doors began to open…well…kind of.
You might be wondering how we were able to actually get time one on one time with all these legendary coaches…This is the video we created and shared with the coaches.
Now in Italy and leaving today to France to try and get time with Patrick Mouratoglou (Serena’s coach… Tsitsipas as well as the last 3 number 1 ranked boys 18’s ITF players and many others) in hope of more growth and learning.
To be continued…