Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Pinoy HS tennis player makes waves at Rafa Nadal Academy

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Pinoy HS tennis player makes waves at Rafa Nadal Academy
by rick olivares

Some people experience a life changing experience when they are older. For 15-year old Santino Vistan, it came last July when he trained for a week at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca, Spain.

“There’s something about being in the presence of greatness that rubs off on you,” postulates the young Filipino tennis player of seeing Nadal train in his own academy that he opened in his hometown this past May. “What struck me is that in spite of everything that he has achieved, all the Grand Slam championships he has, he trains just as hard when he was coming up the tennis rankings.”

“He - what? - trained for four, five hours?” chimed in Santino’s father, Leo, who accompanied his son during the trip and saw first hand everything his son experienced. “In the heat. The brutal heat.”

“His focus and work ethic was amazing to see first-hand,” related Santino who came in a Roger Federer fan but left a Nadal convert. “All of us were watching. He didn’t take time off. Just worked hard every minute and every day. I told myself, I want to be just like Rafa."

“I couldn't sleep during the entire flight to Spain because of my excitement. When I got there, I was overwhelmed with what I saw — all these tennis courts (there are 27 regular-sized courts), swimming pools, basketball courts, and football pitches. There was a gym. Even a school where you can attend to your studies. It was like I was given the tools to succeed and now I just had to go out and take advantage of it.”

When the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar was put up, it was to provide a world-class facility for tennis players to learn and hone their craft without sacrificing their studies. This tennis school was built based on Nadal’s experiences with the help of his uncle, Toni who has guided his career. The Nadals with the help of world-class coaches like former pro Carlos Costa, Marc Gorriz, and Joel Figueroa to name a few have made it their mission to impart that knowledge to young tennis hopefuls all over the world.

There was some concern that Vistan would not quite match up to the tennis aspirants from all over the world. In a group that included youth from Puerto Rico, Serbia and Montenegro, and Spain, Vistan quickly learned that he is just as good and could be just as good if not better. “I noticed that the others were very aggressive and confident in their abilities. You level up with that. You have to.”

Santino Vistan made the finals of his age group but lost to his Spanish roommate. 

Vistan cites the passion of the coaches as a huge factor in his experience. “They do this not for the money but the passion,” said the second-year high school student at the Ateneo de Manila. “They do not look at the time; they make you go on until you get it right. When they point things out, it’s for you to get better.”

Upon returning, the young lad’s parents, Leo and mom, Tricia, have noticed a greater dedication to fitness and conditioning, a sharper focus and attention to discipline, and a meaner forehand by their son. “While studies are important, if going to school in Europe, in the Rafa Nadal Academy, is in the cards for his being a professional tennis player, that is where we are going,” pronounced Leo. “Hopefully, that will serve our country well in the future."

“For me, training there opened my eyes to the world,” summed up Santino. "Because of the whole experience there, it pushed me to become a better player and to better opportunities.”

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