Welcome to the Learn Play Grow blog from Nino

Welcome to the Learn Play Grow blog. I’m Nino Severino, one of the founders of Learn Play Grow, and I thought it would be nice to introduce myself and tell you a bit about the background story.

One of my favourite films is ‘Sliding Doors’ staring Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah, and without a doubt, looking back at everything I experienced with my wife Elena, it started with  a real Sliding Doors moment.



How Learn Play Grow began

I was invited to Spain to deliver a presentation on movement. and was scheduled to present in the morning, but because the director of sport got held up, it was re-scheduled for the afternoon. Elena’s London based academy was also there; they were training at the same time as I was delivering.

The head coach watched some of my presentation and then asked me to deliver a session for his players. Through this twist of fate, I ended up working at Elena’s academy in London for five years and this was where I met Elena. If the director hadn’t been late that morning, a massively important part of my life would never have happened!

…how Elena and I met

I travelled to London every week, each trip sometimes taking me four hours, just because the British Number one player Elena Baltacha trained at this academy, so that’s where I needed to be. I was there for nearly five years, but didn’t get the opportunity to work with Elena until she was experiencing real difficulties in terms of her tennis performance and ranking.

I remember the day it all started, at a Christmas luncheon. Elena approached me to ask me about her nutritional programme – that was the moment that changed the whole course of my life, produced a unique partnership in British tennis history, and of course a relationship that would eventually lead to the Learn Play Grow programme.

Nino and Bally2

The work we did together on nutrition started a sequence of events that would eventually see Elena and I team up as a player coach partnership; at this time Elena had lost her British number one status and was ranked 170 in the world. The next  eight years saw us regaining the British number one position, realising a coveted top 50 WTA status, and having our best year where we achieved three top 10 wins, beat a reigning Grand Slam champion and made the quarter finals of a WTA Premier event.

Nino and Bally1

Elena and Nino on the 25,000 seater Rod Laver Arena, before the match with Justin Henin

Li Na

Li Na at the Premier event in Palm Springs – Elena earned her first top 10 victory against her.

We started to think about professional retirement, and all the exciting opportunities we had in front of us. Elena was absolutely passionate about working with young children, at this point we had already launched The Elena Baltacha Foundation, focusing on children who went to schools located in deprived areas.

We both had a lot of experience in visiting schools and working with children, because Elena always pushed me to organise school visits for her whenever she was back in her home town of Ipswich in-between the world tennis tour schedule.

Bally with kids

I remember clearly the time we started to talk about the Learn Play Grow concept, it was at a tournament we were attending in Miami, during some rest time in the players’ lounge, and the rest as they say is history. The image below is of Bally – when we were having that conversation!


I look forward to telling you all about our Learn Play Grow life, how the concept that Elena and I developed has touched thousands of children’s lives and has established itself as one of the fastest growing franchises of its type in Great Britain.

Bye for now


Nino Severino

Sliding Doors Image credit: Fair use, Link

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