Nino Severino column: Sport can be such a positive thing for young people

Children enjoying tennis at the Elena Baltacha Tennis Road Show. Photo: Pavel Kricka

Children enjoying tennis at the Elena Baltacha Tennis Road Show. Photo: Pavel Kricka - Credit: Archant

In this week’s column, Nino looks back at a passionate and fruitful week working with young people

Children enjoying tennis at the Elena Baltacha Tennis Road Show. Photo: Pavel Kricka

Children enjoying tennis at the Elena Baltacha Tennis Road Show. Photo: Pavel Kricka - Credit: Archant

It’s no secret that I am very passionate about sport being a hugely positive part of young people’s lives, and the last week has massively validated my thoughts and feelings through two events that I attended.

I was invited to present to the Copdock Ladies Cricket Team, the majority of them, very young girls, the youngest was 11 years old. I met with James Quinton, one of the senior coaches a few months ago and we talked about mental strength in sport and it led onto him asking me if I would be interested in presenting on the subject to the girls in his team. I accepted, and was very glad I did, as the experience was a very positive one, and lasted a lot longer than we had planned.

The presentation started with me just telling the girls how my life path in sport had brought me in front of them to deliver the presentation, and this section included some of Elena Baltacha’s story, and how, through pure mental strength and resilience, she turned her tennis career around and joined the premier ranks of the WTA Tennis World Tour.

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During my presentations I always hope that the subjects I present on are thought provoking, create awareness on some level, and if I do my job properly, the experience inspires and motivates for the audience.

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The presentation includes some of my experiences with other athletes I have worked with, and as part of the inspirational element of the talk, I always include the story of how Abbie Thorrington, Ipswich based Triathlete came into my life when she was a very young athlete. Abbie experienced many life challenges as a young developing competitor, which she overcame, and eventually went on to become an Official EIS World Class Athlete, and an Olympic contender.

You can’t talk about mental strength, without addressing the area of excellence and how this must be a part of an athlete’s life, and how this mind set effects the athlete, and through it offers them empowerment, I use Michael Jordan as an athlete who had abundance of mental strength.

Nino Severino, with the Copdock Ladies Cricket team.

Nino Severino, with the Copdock Ladies Cricket team. - Credit: Archant

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I also explain, that part of becoming the best, is to study the best, for me, this makes total sense, and most athletes who hear me say this, generally nod with agreement. Then I explain how the mind works, if we understand what makes us who we are, and why we act how we do, we can start to control the mind, and not let it control us. As an athlete, control of the mind is such a big focus, can you imagine, in a football match, stepping up for a penalty and negative thoughts ranging through your head, or preparing for a high dive from an incredible height, thinking you will fail!

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I explain why the “Switch” is so important, how an athlete must know how to change from the personality and character they are in their personal lives to the person they need to be when they train and compete, fail to conquer this part of being an athlete and dreaming big becomes much harder!

I use Rafael Nadal, the king of Clay and Usain Bolt as great examples of athletes who have mastered the skill of the “Switch”.

I also cover an area that lots of individuals struggling with, “Fearing Failure”, I explain how, through developing mental strength, an athlete can create an open mind, and manage failure in a very positive way. I use Andy Murray to talk about affirmations, a process that helps athletes think in a very positive way, and how he used to write his affirmations down on paper and take them on court with him.

I also explain, why evolution has left us with the “Fight or Flight” effect, and why athletes can often succumb to nerves. It was fantastic to see so many of the players and parents staying back after the presentation to talk me, what an incredible experience this was for me, and what an outstanding group of coaches and players, I was very impressed with the set up.

My week ended with an incredible day of tennis at Ipswich Sports Club, the product of an Elena Baltacha Foundation School Road Show. These events are part of my wife’s legacy, and how we do our part in terms of attracting more children to tennis, which in turn grows participation numbers, and of course, gives us a better chance of producing the next Andy Murray and Elena Baltacha.

Abbie Thorrington competing on bike during a pro-competition.

Abbie Thorrington competing on bike during a pro-competition. - Credit: Archant

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The Tennis Road Shows are a very intense week, led by the Road Show Manager, Aaron Garwood. He visits the schools with his mobile tennis nets, rackets and balls and ensures that all the pupils have a great experience of tennis. He did his job well as we had 60 children attend the weekend of tennis, its was fantastic seeing them, and of course, explaining to the parents how tennis, and sport in general could be a very positive part of their children’s lives.

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