Tiger Woods and sporting experiences

I’ve been involved with golf throughout my coaching life, and I’ve been following the many talented male and female golfers we have in our region with interest.

I never thought golf would be a sport I would experience, but a contact I had within a medical company put me in touch with one of Colin Montgomerie’s support team because of my expertise in movement. We hit it off immediately and agreed to work together to create a movement system for golf.

I was lucky enough to be invited to The Belfry, the PGA Headquarters and National Training Academy to present the system. The Belfry is a very impressive place to visit, it is steeped in history and a joy to just walk around, but more than that, it is an environment where excellence is expected, and state of the art equipment is helping them to push the boundaries of sports science – a major component of supporting golf in the UK.

The PGA accepted the training system I co-developed and this opened up many exciting experiences for me. The one I remember most involved the great Tiger Woods. After developing the training programme, I needed to address manufacturing issues with the equipment, which meant working with a company called EXF who were producers of sports training equipment for some of the biggest venues and sporting stars in the world.

While I was having a few days holiday, attending my best friend’s wedding in Italy, I received a call from the director of EXF telling me that Tiger Woods was staying at Eddie Jordan’s house on the Wentworth estate, and he had the personal job of overseeing the creation of a gym fit for one of the best golfers that has ever lived. He asked me to fly back immediately to add my equipment to the gym, which of course, I did.

The drive through the Wentworth Estate to the house was an experience in itself, with royalty and celebrities such as Elton John, the Bee Gees, Sir Bruce Forsyth and Ron Dennis (owner of Mclaren) who have all owned or own properties on the estate.  The most expensive property would be on the market for around £80m if it were to be sold today. It was a life experience I will never forget, for sure.

The experience with the sport of golf led to many opportunities, and eventually to me using my movement coaching skills with my wife Elena Baltacha-Severino. The skills she perfected helped her achieve the status of a WTA top 50 player. Based on her performances we were both selected to join the great Britain Olympic Team during the 2012 Olympic in London and experience many great events at Grand Slams and on the WTA tour.

GOLF 1 NEW
During the French Open Grand Slam on the world famous Philippe Chatrier court with Elena, warming up with Ana Ivanovic, French Open Grand Slam Champion.
GOLF 2 NEW
After our top 10 win against Li Na at a Premier WTA tournament, the highest status tournament on the tour. With Nigel Sears and Eleanor Preston

I have designed a fitness programme for a global company who have a UK base here in the UK, and they manage the dinners for over 600 schools in England.

I’m so excited about this role; I join a talented team including the ex-Blue Peter gardener Chris Collins who focuses on part of the programme called “from seed to plate”. Children’s health and well-being has become a very big part of my life and of course exercise and food can have a major impact in this area. I have been watching a number of interviews and reading quite a bit about Jamie Oliver, who I think has done an amazing job in highlighting how important school dinners are, because of this, he has had a very important effect on the quality of food served to children.

Design team

The team Elena and I built are dedicated to continuing the work we started while we were on the world tour, designing training programmes and systems.

I have written a number of blogs on this subject, and I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that there is a nuclear health bomb ready to hit humanity if children’s health and fitness is not addressed, and addressed now.

All you need to do is study the statistics, yes, you could say we are all living longer now, but this is the generation that was brought up on the good old-fashioned meat and two veg meals, cooked from scratch, and they were not exposed to massive amounts of sugar, saturated fats and lack of exercise.

I hope to share with you my thoughts and experience and do my bit to reverse the lifestyle culture our children are exposed to and support parental and child education through our school network.

Danny and kids

Encouraging children to join a sport, any sport is part of the solution

The health-related nuclear bomb we’re trying to defuse…

I’m passionate about children’s health and well-being, and I have touched on this subject before.

I’ve already talked about a nuclear bomb that’s threatening the health of the world; one that I believe much of the civilised world would experience. I know it sounds dramatic, but I believe this is what we are heading for if we do not act now.

When I say that we need to act now, I’m not talking about using pretty power points and pages and pages of data or figures on thousands of documents presented by many of the associations and entities studying this area. To address this, we need an army of professionals, schools, sports, parents, governing bodies and the government all working together in an integrated, sophisticated, logical and intelligent fashion. This will go a long way to reversing the trend that if not addressed, will ultimately affect our children and the young adults of today in a catastrophic way, causing serious illness and premature death.

SPORT 1
There is a power in sport participation, this can be part of the health solution for children across the UK

As we say in sport, talk is cheap.

Dealing with the decline in children’s health and fitness will take a large and committed army who are willing to get their finger nails dirty, getting out there, face to face delivery and actions that will affect kids in a dynamic way.

I passionately believe that sport could be a major contributor to the solution; I have witnessed the power of sport and how it can change lives through The Elena Baltacha Foundation and my own work as a fitness, health and sports professional. We need to all work together, and this is what I am currently committing to through my work.

I have seen the power of sport, I live this every day, and I know it changes lives – we just need millions more children to take part. Sport will develop their bodies and their minds, will give them a life focus, bond the families together through commitment to participation and training.

It will encourage children to live a healthier life, and carry this into adulthood, where they can pass the fitness culture onto their children. But how can this be achieved in an effective way?

SPORT 2
I love coaching; I can see how the children commit and are affected by a healthy culture of sport

We need a powerful network that can deliver a strong and meaningful message, a message that will have an incredible effect. What better network than the thousands of schools spread across Great Britain, nurturing millions of children?

We need a meaningful message, and for me that is awareness of the need for a positive lifestyle culture for children, both physical and psychological. A culture like this could be motivated by sport, which is a very positive influencer on children’s and families lives, It doesn’t need to be elite, and it doesn’t need to be expensive.

This is where the integrated element of the approach is critical. Many of our schools do an amazing job, but it’s very hard to have that penetrating effect into families’ home lives.

Many of our sporting governing bodies also deliver valuable work, and are always looking for children to join their sport to increase participation. This is where the point of integration must happen much more effectively, and what I am committed to presently. Don’t get me wrong, sports do link with schools, but I don’t think we have yet tapped into the potential power of this relationship. We need to ensure that schools can deliver a meaningful message into the heart of the family, and this message is, get involved in a sport, individually or as a family.

Parents need to understand the physical and psychological benefits sport has for their children. From a collective perspective, we then need to remove limiting factors and barriers, roll our sleeves up and make the process of committing to a sport exciting and rewarding.

I see the incredible affect sport can have every day. Tawana below is one very small part of a very big culture we have developed in Ipswich as part of my wife Elena’s legacy. Tawana’s mother has told that if Elena did hadn’t taken tennis to her school, Tawana would have probably remained a couch potato; this is far from an isolated example.

We create great life experiences, and this is part of the process, we are lucky enough to have many foundation friends who support us. Recently Tawana had the opportunity to train in London with Nigel Sears, former Head of Women’s British Tennis, and coach to Ana Ivanovic. It’s fair to say as Andy Murrays father-in-law knows a thing or two about how sport can affect lives!

SPORT 3
Tawana the player Elena and I discovered all those years ago, now leading a healthy, fulfilling life in tennis and enjoying experiences like on court coaching with Nigel Sears, ex Head of British Tennis and coach to Ana Ivanovic

 

 

Tennis – not just for Wimbledon!

If you are a tennis fan, you will be very aware of the spectacular end of year WTA Finals that have just taken place in Singapore, involving the biggest names in women’s world tennis, players such as Venus Williams, Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza and Caroline Wozniacki.

When I think back to some of the conversations I had with my wife, Elena Baltacha-Severino when we were on the world tennis tour, I can remember some of the very funny questions she could be asked. The funniest one I remember came just after Wimbledon one year, when a lady asked Elena,

“What do you do now that Wimbledon has finished for you, do you have another job to go back to?”

I’m sure that for many people in the UK, tennis awareness in is all about Wimbledon, and then for the rest of the year it’s forgotten until the world’s top tennis players once again arrive in Wimbledon.

1 - MEETING THE QUEEN
Wimbledon brought Elena and I so many privileges and experiences, and one of the events that stands out was when the Queen visited Wimbledon.

 

2 - QUEEN ON BALCONY
Elena was one of the players chosen to meet the Queen along with players like Serena and Venus Williams, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. It was truly fantastic to see the crowds react in such a positive and supportive way to the Queen.

This could not be further from the truth, I travelled the world tennis tour by Elena’s side for eight years and our tournament schedule always started in December. I remember this vividly as we would always have to tear ourselves away from the family after Boxing Day Lunch at exactly 3pm, when our transport arrived to take us to Heathrow Airport.

This was a bittersweet occasion, it was the start of the new tennis year and everything we worked so hard for, but it was also the beginning of a six-week block away from our home and family, starting with the hugs and kisses and the goodbyes which ended the Christmas period for Elena and I.

3 - AUSTRALIA OPEN
Elena at the Australian Open, ready to compete against the best in the world.
Elena Baltacha, Justine Henin
Justine Henin, arguably one of the best tennis female tennis players ever, giving Elena the respect she so rightly deserved.

This trip was a long one. From our door in Ipswich to our hotel in New Zealand took 33 hours – that’s pretty mind blowing when I think about it now. Back then, we took it in our stride as it was part of our very abnormal life on the world tennis tour, which always delivered many strange, interesting and funny experiences.

One year we were in the lounge in Dubai, waiting for our connection, relaxing and having a coffee, a bite to eat and a chat, when ex Ipswich Town Manager Roy Keane and his family came into view.

It was a striking sight, Roy striding forwards to the restaurant area with the rest of the family all behind him trying to keep up with the pace, his wife and all five children. It really is quite amazing who you can bump into, literally on the other side of the world.

5 - RAFAEL NADAL
Playing on the WTA Tour and at the biggest tennis tournaments in the world such as the Australian Open, a Grand Slam, means you work around some of the best players in the world, such as the one and only Rafael Nadal.

The tournament in New Zealand started a relentless year for us which included around 40 weeks of travelling, from New Zealand we would travel to Australia for the first Grand Slam of the year in January.  This would lead into another run of tournaments which would lead to the French Open in May, which would be followed by another run of tournaments which included a phase, affectionately known as “The Grass”, which of course leads into Wimbledon.

This period included tournaments in Birmingham, Eastbourne finishing with the The Wimbledon championships in July. We would leave the grass courts to go back on the hard courts and the phase entering into the last of the four Grand Slams, the US Open in New York, which started at the end of August. Our competitive year finished with tournaments in Asia and Russia taking us to the end of October.

IMAGE 6

IMAGE 7
As you walk down the hall to the competition courts, the walls celebrate past glorious champions such as Monica Seles, Boris Becker, Steffi Graf, Ivan Lendl.

The Tennis Tour finale would include the World’s top eight players all competing in the end of year WTA Finals which has just been completed last week.

The two players that made the final were Caroline Wozniacki and the tennis legend Venus Williams, who is an incredible 37 years old. It’s strange, as life on the tennis tour is one big travelling sporting family, and both these players were a big part of our lives as we played our role on the world tour.

Both players, I must say, are incredible individuals, great athletes, competitors and great champions who know how to handle their responsibilities as tennis role models and sporting celebrities, always treating their support teams and fans with great respect. It’s a shame only one could come out of the finals in Singapore a champion, on this occasion it was Caroline Wozniacki.

It was an incredible victory for Caroline, as she entered the final having lost to Venus seven times, in their last seven encounters, it took the Dane 89 minutes to achieve this victory, which was accompanied by a fantastic trophy, 1,375 ranking points and a staggering $2,247,000 in total prize money. I think Caroline has now deserved her close season and some family time, before it all starts again for her in December!

8 - BALLY AND WOZNIAKI
The big WTA events such as the WTA finals in Singapore can draw massive media attention. Here at such an event is Elena and Caroline Wozniaki entering an event with rows and rows of paparazzi.

 

 

Rio, Manchester United and pivotal moments…

It’s fantastic to read that the ex-England defender Rio Ferdinand has found love again.

As a widower I know the emotional trauma that this man has had to endure, and I wish him and Kate Wright the TOWIE star all the best for the future.

Losing Elena has been traumatic for me on many levels, as I lost my wife, my best friend, the business of sport we were both involved in, and of course, the biggest loss, my soul mate.

Some treasured memories of the loving times I spent with Elena

 

We were together 24/7 on the WTA World Tour, and shared some fantastic experiences 

Reading this story took me back to when Rio and my life paths crossed. It was one of those pivotal events that affected my whole life.

I invented a training system called Footsport Dynamics and presented it at a professional sports conference at the NEC in Birmingham.

Some of the Manchester United Football Club representatives attended and watched my demonstration and on my drive back home, I got a call from my office saying that they had bought the system.

Within a week I was on my way to the world renowned Manchester United Training ground, Carrington. I met the Manchester United coaching staff led by a great man called Joe Filo who made this experience outstanding.

Nino and Man Utd coaches

Great memories of the time I spent with Jo Filho and the Manchester United FC Coaching Team

I set my equipment out and waited for the under-18 squad to appear, there was a door that I was told they were going to come through and I was expecting a group of young players with big dreams. What happened next was a moment I will never forget.

There was a big bang, the door was flung open and a young first team player called Wayne Rooney came bounding energetically into the training area. He was followed by Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand.

Rooney was very friendly and started some banter, I had an inspirational conversation with Ole, before seeing Rio and the rest of the first team members all moving outside for their training session.

I then did what I was there to do and delivered the session for the under 18 players.

We all experience life changing moments and for me, this one validated how much I loved working with elite athletes, and motivated me even further to keep developing my craft and seeing where the path of coaching would take my life.

 

Sport as a Saviour

I recently posted a blog about sport being a solution for those finding themselves veering off the straight and narrow and into unacceptable behaviour; I wanted to follow this up by looking at a high profile sports personality who found sport was their saviour.

Both Elena and I were very interested in the sport of fighting, we both recognised the similarities between fighting and tennis, and the benefits that sport can give to young children.

While we were on the WTA World Tour, Elena took full advantage of a player event commitment run by the WTA, which was attending a Muay Thai tournament in Thailand. We were both very impressed with the young fighters, their discipline and level of skill.

 

Muay Thai Boxing
Elena with a young Muay Thai fighter in Thailand

The person I wanted to focus on is Anthony Joshua, currently the unified World Champion, holding the IBF, WBA and IBO titles.

This is an incredible achievement in itself, but anyone with a knowledge of the fighting world knows that what makes this near to a minor miracle is the fact that Anthony didn’t even start boxing until he was 18. As an ex fighter, I find this mind blowing.

To put this into perspective, Floyd Mayweather started boxing at the age of 7, Robert Duran at 8, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, and Lennox Lewis at 12 years old.  You could say that these fighters all had between 6-11 years head start on Anthony, which is a massive amount of time in terms of sports skill development.

 

 

Nino with England boxing team
Great memories of the England fighters at Crystal Palace, during an England training camp

Anthony would be the first to admit that he has not always been the great role model that he is today – he had a list of criminal behaviour that doesn’t make good reading, and had previously remanded in Reading Prison for fighting, possession of cannabis, and supplying class B drugs.

It could have all been so different if he had not committed 100% to a sport.

Sport embeds certain aspects into your life, focus, routine, mental and physical discipline, all great elements that protect young people from the negative temptations in life.

Anthony Joshua is not the only young man to be saved by sport, the list is endless, I believe the earlier a child adds sport to their life, the better.

 

The Elena Baltacha Awards 2017

I’m very happy to announce that the 2017 Elena Baltacha Foundation Awards will be the most prestigious so far. From humble beginnings we have secured the support of the Women’s World Tennis Governing body, the WTA who will be our event partners.

Picture1

I’ve had a number of very exciting conference calls with the WTA Miami office, discussing how we would work together. This has been emotional for me, as it shows the respect our world governing body has for Elena and all she achieved off court with her foundation.

During Elena’s illness and the fight that she put up against cancer, a cruel disease, the WTA offered us both so much support.

From my perspective I can tell you that this world-wide organisation has a massive heart and compassion, and when one of their own confronted this life trauma, they were there to help on many levels.

 

This support extended to our foundation, supported by attendance at events from many of the stars of the tennis world, and led by our incredible Patron Judy Murray. The outpouring of emotion and support was overwhelming and made a big difference to us both during this very traumatic time.

It’s incredible to think that this is the fourth Elena Baltacha Foundation Awards since my wife and I were separated.

To be honest, although I love watching the children receiving the awards, the first three award ceremonies had an edge of sadness for me. I was thinking about Elena all the way through, she absolutely loved the awards and had so much fun with the children.

 

This year is different, I feel very positive, and I see the event as a major celebration of Elena’s life and what she is still achieving through the children. It’s a very special year, as our very good friend Anne Keothavong will be attending as our guest of honour. Anne grew up with Elena in tennis, with both reaching the professional ranks, and in 2012, competing as members of Team GB, partnering each other in doubles.

Bally and Ann

Anne, who is now Great Britain Fed Cup Captain and BT Sport Commentator, is also one of our valued foundation Ambassadors. She will be joined by James Burridge, from the BBC, who will be presenting the evening, James has supported both Elena and I with BBC coverage while we travelled and competed on the world tour. He continued this support by always having time for the foundation and featuring us on the BBC sports news programmes on a regular basis.

JamesB

The event will also be attended by many of our local sporting stars, who will be there to celebrate Elena’s life, support the young children who have all worked so hard, and of course enjoy the glittering evening which will include a red carpet experience for all.

 

If you would be interested in joining us for this very special event on the 10th December at Trinity Park, please contact lindsay@elenabaltachafoundation.org, it will be a pleasure to share the evening with you. You can attend on your own, with a partner or take a full or part corporate table.

 

 

 

 

 

Working with Parents in Sport

wwpislogo

We have an announcement – our founder Nino Severino is now an ambassador for the Working With Parents in Sport organisation (WWPIS), and will be collaborating with them on a range of projects that will be great for parents of any kids involved in sport, whether it’s at beginner level or more advanced.

Working With Parents in Sport’ is a UK based company which has been set up with the aim of helping parents to give their children the best possible sporting experience, and help them, and their children, get as much from taking part in sport as they possibly can.

Gordon-1

The company was set up by Gordon MacLelland, who has over 20 years’ teaching and coaching experience, and has been Director of Sport at an independent prep school in the UK.

Gordon has also written two books, ‘Parenting in Football’ and the ‘Sporting Do’s and Don’ts- A pocket guide for parents of children in sport.

WWPIS says:

“In the UK we need to go back to basics and see sport for what it is, a chance for our children to learn experiences for life. Teamwork, dealing with adversity, friendships, sportsmanship are all valuable traits in life and not just in sport. We need to work hard to link the triangle back together. The working relationship between parent, coach and child in the hope that we can give the next generation of children every chance of maximising all the positives that sport has to offer.”

We couldn’t agree more with these sentiments, and Nino is absolutely delighted to have the chance to work with like-minded people on bringing the benefits of sport and activity to people all over the UK.

Buy the book here

Sporting dos and donts

Elena, Judy and the Strictly effect

Embed from Getty Images

I’m privileged to say I have some great people from the world of sport in my life, from all different areas. They include commentators, pundits and athletes from many different sports, and Judy Murray is one of them.

Not only was she a great support to me when Elena my wife and I were going through our biggest battle, but also after Elena passed, she was there, unconditionally for me, even making special trips to Ipswich for me personally and for the children of The Elena Baltacha Foundation – which she is patron of.

LPG BLOG GW 3

Judy has in the past, wrongly been seen as quite a hard personality, a tough tennis mum, this could not be further from the truth. Being a tennis parent is a very tough gig; after all, it involves the person, or people in Judy’s case who mean the most to you. Sport, especially tennis, is demanding, and can take a toll on an athlete’s body and mind. A parent has to witness it all, so it’s no wonder that Judy often had a very intense look on her face, during Andy and Jamie’s matches – this gave a lot of people the wrong impression.

I’m so pleased that through her involvement in Strictly Come Dancing the public have connected with her and have got to know the real Judy Murray, a warm, intelligent lady with a great personality. Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting her will tell you this; she gives you her time and makes you feel special.

I was fortunate enough to be invited by Judy to attend her first evening on Strictly, what a fantastic experience this was. I used to dance myself, ballroom and Latin, and we are a big dancing family, including a couple of family members who teach internationally. My sister Anna came with me, she teaches and is a massive Strictly fan, so as you can imagine, she had an unbelievable experience.

It was great to see Judy with all the Strictly stars in the teachers’ and dancers’ lounge, and the genuinely close relationship that she had developed with her partner Anton Du Beke. In fact, watching Judy interact with all the dancers and celebrities, it was clear that she was genuinely very popular. It goes without saying that my sister made the most of this opportunity and talked to many of the stars of Strictly Come Dancing.

Both Judy and Anton Du Beke gave the Strictly crowds and viewers so much entertainment; they stayed in the competition all the way to the Blackpool Tower special week, which is an impressive achievement for someone who confessed “I am the worst dancer!”

Judy would be the first to admit that she is not the best dancer in the world, but she gave it everything, every week, and was massively popular with the watching viewers.

Judy’s sons have achieved much through the tennis world, they are both Grand Slam Champions, including Wimbledon, Andy is also a multiple ATP title holder and Olympic Champion.

Nino Severino and Leon Smth
Nino with Leon Smith

I think Judy has done an incredible job, not only bringing up the boys and guiding them through their early years, but also building the development pathway for Scotland Tennis, which many great tennis players have emerged from, coincidentally, including the great Leon Smith, Captain of our world beating Davis Cup Champions.

Embed from Getty Images

She then went on to support the boys on the professional tour, seeing both Andy Murray and Jamie Murray achieve incredible successes, and if this was not enough, go on to create programmes and training systems, such as Miss Hits, Tennis on the Road and She Rallies that have had a major effect on girls and women in tennis.

Judy has much, much more to offer, it will be very interesting to watch her personal story unfold now.

If you would like to find out more about Judy Murray and the Murray story, here is a link to her book: Knowing the Score, My Family and Our Tennis Story

 

What we’ve been up to…

Leeming and Londonderry talking about sporting heroes

Our Nino has been all over the UK this week, talking to owners and potential owners about Learn Play Grow, and getting to know some of the kids who are Learn Play Grow regulars!

He popped into Leeming and Harrogate Primary  to join in with some fun, chatting to the kids at the local Learn Play Grow session about their favourite sporting heroes and heroines, including David Beckham, Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis-Hill. The kids loved it and got very excited talking about their heroes.

Here’s a bit more of the fun and games from the day.

 

Nino in the News

Nino First Column

Our Learn Play Grow founder, Nino Severino, is one of the best-known sporting faces in Suffolk.

We’re excited to announce that he’s writing a weekly column for the East Anglian Daily Times. This week, he talks about sport, how it can save young men from a life that’s going in the wrong direction, Judy Murray, and how Nino empathises with Rio Ferdinand…

“I recently posted a blog about sport being a solution for those finding themselves straying off the straight and narrow and into unacceptable behaviour. I wanted to follow this up by using a high profile sports personality who found sport as their saviour.”

Read the rest of Nino’s wise words here:

How Sport Can Change Lives – East Anglian Daily Times