Nino Severino: Sports can be the route to a more positive body image

Nino Severino with some of the young athletes, discovered through the Elena Balatcha Foundation, who

Nino Severino with some of the young athletes, discovered through the Elena Balatcha Foundation, who are living healthier and more positive lives as a result of sport. Picture: NINO SEVERINO - Credit: Archant

In his latest column, Nino Severino discusses body image and the way in which sport can help youngsters escape the pitfalls of social media pressure and expectation.

It was quite a drive to Scotland - what a beautiful scene! Picture: NINO SEVERINO

It was quite a drive to Scotland - what a beautiful scene! Picture: NINO SEVERINO - Credit: Archant

It’s been a very busy week, including a road trip to Gleneagles in Scotland – I decided to drive as I simply wanted to take in the beautiful scenery you can experience on the journey.

It was an eight-hour drive, but well worthwhile as I was not disappointed, mother nature decided to cover the mountains with a beautiful sprinkle of snow which gave me a Christmas card driving experience.

Gleneagles has played its part in golfing history, as the site of Europe’s memorable Ryder Cup victory over the USA team in 2014.

The reason for my visit was to meet Diane McGhee, who will become the latest addition to the coaching professional network I am developing across Great Britain, a big part of the plan that Elena and I had dreamt for our post-retirement life.

We both had a very clear vision of how we wanted to influence young children’s lives and we knew that if we wanted our local work in Ipswich to spread across Great Britain, we had to think big.

Elena left me a great plan and I have the honour and privilege of protecting this vision and legacy and will ensure I do all I can to make it a reality.

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We have coaches now placed along the length and breadth of Great Britain, these coaches will enable me and my team to offer physical, mental and emotional support and coaching to thousands of children across Great Britain.

We currently have coaches in Scotland, Wales and England, and the network is growing rapidly.

Part of this plan is the work we are carrying out with a world sport governing body, who have chosen Elena’s team to work with them to deliver areas of support and education such as personal health, emotional, mental and physical development – all areas that Elena and I would talk about constantly, as we thought much more could be achieved in these areas for our children.

One of the representatives from the global governing body we are now working with, said of Elena and her commitment to her foundation as an elite athlete: “She was ahead of her time.”

This reflects my wife perfectly – as far as I am aware, there was no other elite player on the world tennis stage who was prepared to make the sacrifices and deliver coaching in large volumes in their private time.

Elena’s legacy is stronger now than it’s ever been, and living through the girls who she found in our local Ipswich schools who live a healthy life through sport, and of course the effect she had on me and her team, who are energised by all she achieved.

There is no better time for us to be developing the coaches network across Great Britain. I was recently reading an article on the pressures that social media is inflicting on our young children, in particular young girls.

It focused on celebrities and other females who posted images of their ripped bodies, all focused purely and simply around body image, and in no way connected to health or training, preparation and competing.

I had a very long discussion with a friend recently about body image and how sport and the arts are a much healthier focus for young girls and boys to connect with their body image.

As an example, joining a Latin and Ballroom dancing school, and being involved on a recreational or competitive level.

Without doubt, dancing is very much focused on image, but it’s achieved through hard work, commitment to training and the clothes needed for competition.

The body and fashion image are connected to a life objective, a skill, a craft, a commitment to yourself and others – not simply the way you look and what others think of the way you look.

Creating an image only for others to cheaply comment on can leave young people feeling emotionally devastated – young girls and boys posting images on social media which do not achieve the level of “likes” expected are left crushed.

This leaves many with feelings of low self-worth and this negative effect is slowly creeping over our children like a dark and sinister shadow, in the most extreme cases influencing some young children to take their own lives.

Surely this can not continue be allowed to happen in our modern world?

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