Nino Severino: Talk is cheap – we need action to address children’s health crisis

Nigel Sears coaching Tawana Senah recently. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA

Nigel Sears coaching Tawana Senah recently. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA - Credit: Archant

In his latest weekly column, Nino Severino calls for more action to address the looming crisis in children’s health, and suggests a way forward.

The Elena Baltacha Academy aims to make tennis available to all. Picture: JULIAN SINNEY

The Elena Baltacha Academy aims to make tennis available to all. Picture: JULIAN SINNEY - Credit: Archant

I’m very passionate about children’s health and well-being – I touched on this subject last week, but it’s a massive area and this week I wanted to use my whole column to focus on the issue.

In my column last week I talked about a nuclear health bomb ticking for future generations, which I believe much of the civilised world will experience – it sounds very dramatic, maybe, but I believe this is what we are heading for if we do not act now.

And I’m not talking about pretty power-points and pages and pages of data and figures on thousands of documents presented by many of the associations and entities studying this area.

I’m talking about an army of professionals, schools, sports, parents, governing bodies and the government itself all working together in an integrated, sophisticated, logical and intelligent fashion.

That would go a long way to reversing the trend, the trend, which, if not addressed, will ultimately affect our children and the young adults of today in a catastrophic way, causing serious illness and premature death.

So, as we say in sport, talk is cheap. Dealing with this problem will take a large and committed army and an army who are willing to get their hands dirty, getting out there with face-to-face delivery and actions.

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Standing in front of a pretty power point presentation then going for a nice lunch – and getting paid a fortune to do it – is simply not good enough. It will take much, much more than this.

- Nino Severino: A timebomb ticking in children’s health

I feel that sport could be a major contributor to the solution. I have witnessed the power of sport and how it can change lives, through The Elena Baltacha Foundation and my own work as a fitness, health and sports professional.

We need to all work together, and this is what I am currently committing to through my work.

I live this every day, sport will change lives, we just need millions more children joining in. Sport will develop their bodies and their minds, will give them a life focus, will bond the family together through commitment to participation and training.

It will encourage children to live a healthier life, and then of course, carry this on well into adulthood, where they can then pass this culture onto their children. But how can this be achieved in an effective way?

First we need a powerful network that can deliver a strong and meaningful message, a message that will have an incredible affect. What better network than the thousands of schools spread across Great Britain, nurturing millions of children?

Then we need a meaningful message. For me the message is that children need a positive lifestyle culture, physically and psychologically, and this culture can be motivated by sport.

This is where the point of integration must happen much more effectively, and what I am committed to presently. Don’t get me wrong, sports do link with schools, but I don’t think we have yet tapped into the potential power of this relationship.

We need to ensure that schools can deliver a meaningful message into the heart of the family – get involved in a sport, individually or as a family.

- Nino Severino: Sport saves lives

Parents then really need to understand the physical and psychological benefits sport has for their children. From a collective perspective, we then need to remove limiting factors and barriers, roll our sleeves up and make the process of committing to a sport exciting and rewarding.

As I said, I live this area every day, and I have seen the incredible affect sport can have.

As an example, Tawana Senah is only one very small part of a very big culture we have developed in Ipswich as part of my wife’s legacy.

Tawana’s mother has told me personally that if Elena did not take tennis to their school, Tawana would have probably remained a couch potato and this is far from an isolated example.

We create great life experiences, and this is part of the process. We are lucky enough to have many foundation friends who support us - in fact recently Tawana had the opportunity to train in London with Nigel Sears, former head of British Women’s Tennis, and coach to Ana Ivanovic.

It’s fair to say, with him also being Andy Murray’s father-in-law, he knows a thing or two about how sport can affect lives!

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