Nino Severino: Elena Baltacha Awards 2017 beat the weather and showed the importance of teamwork
PUBLISHED: 12:11 13 December 2017 | UPDATED: 12:19 13 December 2017
Nino Severino reflects on the success of the 2017 Elena Baltacha Awards, which saw guests battling the worst weather of the year to enjoy the event!
After four months of event preparation, our big Elena Baltacha Awards day arrived at the weekend – unfortunately, so did the worst weather Ipswich has experienced this year!
We had VIPs and celebrities arriving from Brighton, Bolton and London and my phone was nonstop from 10am in the morning, communicating with all our guests who were experiencing the same chaos as I was just trying to get around the roads of Ipswich.
The former head of British Tennis and coach to Ana Ivanovic, Nigel Sears, had the worst experience of all.
I was constantly communicating with him to check his progress, every time we talked it was getting worse and at one point he simply was not moving and stuck on the M25.
It took him four hours to drive from Brighton to the junction of the A12, this is when we both made the decision it was just not safe or sensible for him to carry on, he and I were absolutely devastated.
The morning was going from bad to worse, Anne Keothavong, British Federation captain was unable to get in from Wimbledon. Naomi Braody, British Tennis player, was stranded up north, and then the final blow was James Burridge from the BBC, our host for the evening, was stuck on the other side of London.
They all tried desperately to travel in but the weather was getting worse and it was just not safe for them to persist.
As you can imagine, after a six-man events team working on the awards preparation for four months solid, I was getting pretty nervous!
And after numerous discussions with Sarah from Trinity Park, I was 15 minutes from cancelling the event, as I just felt it was too dangerous for our players, parents and coaches to travel in.
One team member told me to hold off cancelling as the forecast was improving and conditions might change, I listened, and decided to plough on and make the event happen.
Everyone pulled together, it’s experiences like this when you discover how committed and talented the team you have around you are.
We all managed to get to Trinity Park, where the staff were completing the finishing touches, and the venue looked simply amazing.
We all stood in the middle of the stage, looking towards the entrance and wondering how many of the guests would arrive.
The arrival time was 4.30pm, and I watched as a player and parent came through the entrance on to the red carpet, but then there was no sign of anyone else – this was a low point, the weather had beaten us, perhaps it was too much to expect our attendees to make the awful journey in after all.
But just as I thought our awards evening had been ruined, a second group of guests arrived, then a third, and fourth, until the whole reception area was completely full, with guests lining up outside to walk through either the fire or ice entrance.
I could not believe what I was seeing, our parents, players, coaches and guests, were not going to be beaten by the extreme weather. I cannot describe exactly how I was feeling at this point, a mix of pure happiness and excitement.
The celebration and recognition of our tennis talent started at 5.30pm. Every player who attended received a beautiful recognition medal, starting with our little nursery players, going all the way through the ranks to British Internationals. The evening continued with messages from the world’s top WTA players being played on the big screens for our guests, and then the awards themselves, 11 main categories in total, each player coming up to the stage accompanied by inspirational music and their own personal videos being played on the screens, it was our local tennis version of Sports Personality of the Year!
We wanted the evening to be truly special for the children, so we hired a full size fairground bumper car experience, watching the fun and happiness of the children was simply outstanding, and if I’m being honest, I think the parents were enjoying it just as much.
The evening included the presenting of the raffle prizes and there were so many, an Ipswich Town shirt, signed by all the players, a signed gift from patron Judy Murray, other gifts from some of the world’s top tennis players, such as Stan Wawrinka, Caroline Wozniaki and Coco Vandeweghe, and a signed boxing glove from Anthony Ogogo, Suffolk’s Olympic bronze medallist.
I’m glad to say that all of us had a simply magical Christmas evening – the Ipswich Town guests, Martyn Waghorn, Tommy Smith, Cole Skuse, Bryan Klug and Nigel Ling, our foundation team, which now includes Leoni Waghorn, and all the players, parents, coaches and guests.