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Rafael Nadal's Secrets for Success

The No. 1 world tennis champ talks about his childhood, his training, his diet, and the sacrifices he has made for his sport.

The Rafa Nadal Foundation

Not all of his free time is spent on fun. In 2008, he officially launched the Rafa Nadal Foundation (www.fundacionrafanadal.com), a nonprofit dedicated to creating opportunities for disabled children, as well as those who are underprivileged. In October 2010, the foundation celebrated the opening of a school in the Anantapur district in southeast India, in collaboration with the Vicente Ferrer Foundation, an India-based nonprofit focused on improving living conditions among the poorest and most marginalized people in the region.

The aim of the school is to provide its 150 students -- from some of the most impoverished parts of India -- with an education, health care, nutrition, and, of course, sports, with a focus on one sport in particular. At the opening ceremony, Nadal spent time on the school's courts, giving the new students their first tennis lesson.

"I always wanted to do things for others, and I wanted to start already something that I could also be doing in the future," says Nadal. "Right now I don't have much time, but I have also my mother and some people working with me. I give some time now but will dedicate more in the future."

For now, though, tennis is the thing. "I love to be in a match and see that I can play at my best," Nadal says. "I love to compete, to win, to be there, to feel the support from the crowds."

Nadal's Tips on Training Young Athletes

There may be only one Rafael Nadal, but there's no shortage of intensely driven young athletes eager to enter the ranks of the elite. But no matter the sport -- tennis, swimming, football, gymnastics -- it will take a toll on a child's body and mind. Laurel Blakemore, MD, chief of orthopaedic surgery and sports medicine at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., offers a few tips to keep kids off the injured list and at the top of their game.

Play the field. Even if your child is focused on being the best at one sport, his body will benefit from branching out from time to time and giving other muscle groups a workout. "It's physically difficult to always play a single sport," says Blakemore. "Cross-training doesn't put the same amount of stress on the body. And mentally, it's good to mix things up. There's less burnout that way."If your kid is into soccer, suggest a season of track or basketball.

Keep it light. Muscles don't really start building until well into puberty. Until then, no amount of heavy lifting will help them grow any faster. Instead, it may cause injuries, particularly to growth plates, sensitive areas of tissue that determine the final length and shape of growing bones. Best to start with low weights and increase gradually, lifting on two or three nonconsecutive days during the week, says Blakemore, who also advises focusing on form and technique and not lifting to exhaustion. Use "low weights and frequent repetitions," Blakemore advises.

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