I’d spent over 15 years training at professional tennis academies and so I thought it would be an amazing experience to immerse myself in a professional academy doing some padel training in Spain. I wondered how intense the training was and how professional padel academies were versus tennis academies, given that tennis as a sport is so much more developed than padel on a global level. Here’s my take after spending in total close to 3 months at various padel academies across Spain including in Madrid, Alicante and Malaga. If you want to see my training in action, check out a training vlog of my padel training in Spain I did here.
The Training Is Harder Than I Thought
When I trained at tennis academies across the globe – including in Spain – the training was brutal. 5 hours on court followed by 1-2 hours fitness for 6 days per week. Turns out training at padel academies followed a similar pattern. In Madrid at The Diagonal Padel Academy – where I trained the majority of the time – we were on a similar schedule. During my time in Spain, I was lucky enough to train with some of the best padel players in the world including Agustín Gómez Silingo and Adrian Allemandi. And it was hard training. Was it as hard as the training I did as a singles tennis player on the circuit? It was close. It certainly opened my eyes to how professional these padel academies in Spain are and how hard the top professional padel players in the world train.
Never Did I Feel Like An ‘Outsider’
Everywhere I trained, I was blown away by how welcoming the coaches and players were to me joining their programs. I presumed due to the language difference and me being an ‘outsider’ that I would feel a bit isolated from the program – but I’m glad to say I was completely wrong! The coaches did their very best to give me feedback and also share coaching insights with me. The players were happy to play with me and made an effort to understand my (very) broken Spanish! All of this I think is testament to the fact the players and coaches in the sport truly are in it for their passion for the game and happy to see its growth worldwide.
There’s A Deep Running Passion For The Sport Among Padel Players
When you train at tennis academies, every player is in it for themselves because they want to be the next Roger Federer. A lot of the time tennis players may have started their junior careers simply playing for the love of the sport, but by the time they reach professional level, that love for the game can be overshadowed by the drive to succeed – and to succeed ahead of other players. As a result this fosters quite a harshly competitive environment.
This was in stark contrast to the environment I found at these padel academies. Players competed hard against each other but it was always done in good spirits and with good sportsmanship. Win or lose, players shook hands, had a joke with each other and then sat down to eat lunch together afterwards as friends. And I think the explanation for it is that there’s a shared love for the sport between players that makes the result of the game almost meaningless in a way. Of course they want to win and hopefully have a career in padel one day, but first and foremost they are playing for the love of the game and if they do win, well it’s a bonus. I found this environment hugely energising and positive to be around, and made me think how different tennis academies were.
Game-Based Training Trumped Technical Sessions
If I compare tennis to padel, tennis is a very technically challenging sport. Your technique can really make or break you as a player – and it is even more difficult to change your technique as you get older so your junior years are vital. In tennis if you have world-class technique and good hand-eye skills, you can get to a very high level alone, partly because tactically the sport is not so complex. Comparatively, padel is less technically challenging but is hugely tactical. There are so many more variables to consider such as the glass, the cage and the fact there are four players on a relatively small court. For this reason much of the training at the professional padel levels is game-based and tactical-based. They focus heavily on training your decision-making and your ability to adapt to variables which can only really be trained through game situations. Luckily, game-based drills are also the most enjoyable to train in my opinion so it’s a win-win!
Would I recommend players to have professional padel training in Spain? Absolutely. But there are a few things to consider first.
- Find a good coach and academy. Don’t assume every coach or academy in Spain will be world-class, it’s a trap many players fall into. And remember a good player doesn’t always equal a great coach.
- Be prepared to lose a lot. When I first arrived, I was playing at what I thought was a high national level and then realised the depth of players in Spain is just incredibly high. You may lose a lot, but you’ll also learn a hell of a lot too in the process.
- Give yourself enough time. Some players come to train in Spain for a couple of days but if you can, try to spend at least a week at a time there so you can fully immerse yourself. You will find your game will improve so much faster.