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Chatting with James Gibson: General Manager of Energy Standard (Includes interview)

On his team (Energy Standard) winning the inaugural ISL team title in Las Vegas, he said, “It was a totally different feeling to winning with the individual athletes I have coached to international gold medals.”

“Emotionally, it was very overwhelming as the victory looked to have eluded us but ultimately we overturned a deficit in the last two races,” he said. “Coaching a team relies on so many different moving pieces and factors which is a totally different style to traditional coaching. In a team where 28 swimmers race it’s impossible to work single-handedly so I have to credit a lot of the ISL victory to the relentless work of the support staff and in particular, Coach Tom Rushton, who seemed to have it all figured out.”

He is drawn to the ISL due to its “team context.” “The recruitment process is fun and stressful at times but coaching a big group of athletes on the same page is very special. The ISL is also very unpredictable, in the final on paper we had the third strongest team but we were able to win with clever tactics,” he said.

On the impact of technology on the sport of swimming, Gibson said, “For myself, the single best technological advance in swimming is the use of the smartphone. It is quick, easy and gives instant feedback to the athlete. Videos can be sent directly to the swimmers for further analysis. Some federations use camera systems costing $200,000 plus, which are fantastic but are wasted unless there is an exceptional smart operator to translate the data into language both the swimmer and coach can understand.”

Regarding his use of technology in his daily routine as a coach, Gibson said, “I prefer to keep the program basic with few gimmicks. Yes, we use iPads and phones for technical work and lactate pro for testing but I focus on doing the basics better than anyone else in the world and then add small things as marginal gains.”

When asked if there were any moments in his career as a swimmer or as a coach that helped define him, he said, “Absolutely, I know how it feels to be overtrained so I always trust the feedback from the athletes.”

“Furthermore, when we are racing at the World Championships and Olympic Games I know exactly how the athletes feel when they walk to the call room so I am able to be empathetic to their feelings and also help them with their last-minute focus,” he explained.

In 2004, he was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE). “At the time, I didn’t really appreciate the magnitude of what I had achieved, I was too young. I went to Buckingham Palace, met the Queen and then rushed back to training. When I was in the room waiting for my medal I met at least 50 other people who were more deserving than me, war heroes, medics, brilliant scientists, artists, professors, I felt I wasn’t special enough to receive such an honour,” he said.

“Over time I had begun to realize who I was and that medal is now more precious to me than ever,” he admitted. “I shared the ceremony with my parents and my grandmother who is no longer with us and I look back at how proud they were of me. I tell my son stories about when the Queen gave daddy a medal and he got so nervous she had to correct him.”

As a professional swimmer himself, he listed the breaststroke as his personal favorite stroke in the sport. “It was always the breaststroke. We are a rare breed and can’t seem to do much else. It’s kind of ironic that throughout my coaching career I have mainly specialized in coaching everything other than breaststroke. I worked with Cameron van der Burgh throughout late 2017 and 2018 and he didn’t finish off his career too badly,” he said.

For young and aspiring swimmers, Gibson said, “Have fun with what you do and surround your self with like-minded people. Find a coach you have a great fit with, some are data-driven, some are technically driven some all feel. Find a coach you believe in and give 100 percent to the process.”

Regarding the title of the current chapter of his life, he said, “My Greatest work is still to come.”

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Gibson defined the word success as follows: “Being the best version of ‘me’ I can possibly be. Look a sport is a sport and it’s unpredictable, win or lose, I have worked out that as a coach you need to leave the competition arena the same person as you walked in. That makes a long-term career sustainable.”

To learn more about Energy Standard, check out its official website and its Facebook page.

For more information on James Gibson MBE, follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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