Learn Play Grow was created from the shared passion and vision of Elena Baltacha-Severino and Nino Severino.
Elena Baltacha-Severino – known as Bally – loved sport from an early age. She was playing tennis on the junior circuit from the age of 13 and in 2000 Bally was given a wild card entry to Wimbledon – a dream come true. Bally won the AEGON Award four times and was British No. 1 intermittently between 2002 and 2012.
She also loved children and had a natural affinity with them. After retiring due to a long-term injury in 2012, Bally reached for another dream and along with her then partner, Nino Severino, set up the Elena Baltacha Tennis Academy (EBAT). Bally wanted to pass on her passion for sport to children who might not have otherwise been able to afford to get involved.
Nino Severino is also passionate about sport and has been involved with professional football, boxing, golf, cricket and karate as well as specialising in tennis coaching, where he met Bally and became her long-term coach, partner and in 2013, her husband.
Nino spent nearly two years on the coaching team at the Ipswich Town football academy and worked on education programmes for what’s now the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) coaching the coaches at Loughborough university, Lords and the Oval. Through his business, the Sports Performance Academy, he also coached two official English Institute of Sport (EIS) world class athletes and 12 England Internationals.
Nino went on to coach Bally and a perfect partnership was created. Along with her determination to succeed as an athlete, Bally passionately believed that the earlier children are introduced to sport, including important principles like team work, perseverance and sportsmanship which will serve them well in everyday life, the better. Both Nino and Bally wanted to develop a programme that engaged children, let them be creative and use their imaginations and have a fantastic time with their friends would give them a great start in life.
Elena passed away from liver cancer, aged 30, in May 2014. Her legacy lives on in EBAT, The Elena Baltacha Foundation, and the vision she shared with Nino that inspires Learn Play Grow.