Nino Severino column: A new challenge back in his home town of Ipswich

Professor Mohamed Abdel-Maguid, Nino Severino and Dr Gavin Devereux Photo: PAVEL KRICKA

Professor Mohamed Abdel-Maguid, Nino Severino and Dr Gavin Devereux Photo: PAVEL KRICKA - Credit: Archant

Just like most professionals, during different phases of my sporting life I have continually set myself goals.

The start of my coaching journey began in Ipswich, and I honestly never believed that after many years of travelling around the world, coaching Olympians, Official EIS World Class Athletes, and also having millionaire, billionaire and celebrity clients, I would find my next big challenge here in my home town of Ipswich.

Coaching for me begun more than 30 years ago locally on a part=time basis. I was running a large local business which had no connection with sport.

In 2001 I started to think a lot about a massive career change, this was a very big decision because my business was growing at a rapid pace, and it was very successful.

But I felt that after competing many years as a fighter in karate and kickboxing, and winning national titles in both, sport was still very much in my blood. I started to feel very demotivated about my business, and truly felt that there was a much bigger and wider world to be explored, and the business of sport I was so passionate about, could lead me to the big experiences I believed I was capable of.

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My massive life change arrived early one Wednesday morning.

I woke up, and after weeks of thinking, contemplation and self-talk, I decided I would walk away from my business and start on my journey to fulfilling my dream of becoming a World Class coach.

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Looking back, this was an incredibly naïve quest, for many reasons, the most important one, was the odds of transitioning from a company Director of a business that had no connection to sport, into professional coaching were extremely slim!

The first truth I discovered pretty quickly was that sport is divided up into two categories, high income and no income.

If you compete in football, tennis, golf or boxing for example, as a top competitor you could potentially earn huge amounts of money. On the other hand, in the sports of karate, hockey, badminton, gymnastics, netball, swimming as an example, there is very little earning power.

With the development of social media, celebrity, pundits and commentating, this has changed somewhat, so athletes from non-money sports, can actually transition into careers after competing that actually earn them a good living.

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It was this disparity between rich and poor sports that focused my attention to the needs of our local elite athletes, and the lack of local support that seemed to be available to them.

If you were a professional footballer, Ipswich Town Football Club would literally provide you with all you needed as an aspirational athlete. If you were a tennis player with big dreams, the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) ran a large, powerful and very rich governing body, that again would look after all your aspirational needs.

Other athletes from other sports faced much bigger challenges than those of the day to day hardships of dreaming big.

I discovered that many of the sporting national governing bodies did offer resource at their National Training Centres, but for many of our local athletes, these were normally located many miles away from their home town.

I identified this a gap in the market, particularly in my own sport of karate, where support for the fighters was very minimal outside of the technical coaching support, and I used this as my starting point.

The very first athletes I started to support where two official EIS World Class athletes, Milo Hodge and Joe Mongan. Both talented, and supported by an extremely skilful coach, namely Lenny Austin.

But in terms of programme management, sports science, PR and media support, they were very much left needing.

They joined a support programme called SPA (Sports Performance Academy) which I launched in Ipswich, and we worked very closely with coaches like Lenny. Back in these early days, I literally had no resource, no finance, and very little help or support.

So now, I am back in Ipswich, and after many years of world class coaching, knowledge, experience and some influential friends from sport, I have the chance to once again address this area.

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Now, it is a completely different opportunity, I am pleased to say that I have the support from The University of Suffolk, and some very forward-thinking individuals who are part of the team, namely Dr Gavin Devereux, who is the Director of Sports Sciences and Coaching, and Professor Mohamed Abdel-Maguid, the Dean of School.

With the resource of the multi-million-pound high performance unit at the university, and the talented team of specialists, we are now in a position to offer, what potentially could be a life changing opportunity for our local athletes and their technical coaches.

I have signed a contract to become the Director of The Hub, at the University of Suffolk, the UoS Hub, will become a centre of programme support for any athletes that needs it, or seeks it.

If you are a local coach or athlete and want further information about the UoS Hub, please contact Nino

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