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 coaches 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 supposedly he had to prepare for a big event that evening … OK, by this time, although the Academy was really beautiful, we were 2nd guessing our decision to come to Nadal‘s academy… 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 Heath Paul must have caught his 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, sat on Heath Paul‘s court-side bench, and proceeded to observe Heath Paul for about 10 minutes… The next thing you know Toni waived the three Academy coaches who were on the other courts to come over and then the coaches and Toni all proceeded to observe Heath Paul…click and zoom the image to see Toni…
They had Heath Paul play points against their top 14U (from The Czech Republic) and Toni was talking to the coaches and pointing at Heath Paul… The first few balls after Toni walked onto the court hit the back fence in the air as Heath Pual was very nervous. Then he settled down and Heath Paul was hitting many winners against this player and 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 comes onto your court 🙂
Heath Paul played two more games and beat this player each time decisively (He was 1.5 years older than HP 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)… HP played him in point play for two ground games and 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.
After the point play, Toni stood up and approached Heath Paul, gave him a few instructional words, and then began training him intensely.
Toni ended up working with Heath Paul for the next 3 hours…taking video of him, hand tossing and feeding balls and shouting words of encouragement to do what he was asking of him.
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), and after telling me a few things about his game that he would advise continuing 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 he needs to do to achieve his stated goals (basically Toni spoke about hard work, the needed attitude, process focus, quality of practices and quality of 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 his 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!
Rewind two weeks and we find ourselves in London hitting next to Andy Murray and Kyle Edmund. We were waiting for Lindsay to 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.
We had great practice this week and another amazing fortunate experience that Heath Paul was blessed with… 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, 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 and beat the likes of Djokovic, Kyrgios, Murray, etc?
Kyle said, “The players that didn’t care as much about the wins as they did about improving for the future at the younger ages seem to be the ones that who ended up being there with him in the future”.
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 coaches ONLY 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?”