On this episode of The #AskASwimPro Show, we caught up with James Gibson, the Head Coach and General Manager of Energy Standard, the elite team that won the International Swimming League’s inaugural season. He shared how he’s adjusting his team’s training due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and his tips for keeping athletes positive and engaged during this time.
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Making a Tough Decision
As Europe began to lock down, James chose to suspend training with his swimmers in Turkey to keep his athletes healthy and safe. When he made this decision, the Olympics hadn’t been postponed. James said this was the hardest choice he has made in his career.
Leading up to the training suspension, James explained that he wasn’t getting the best from his swimmers. They were stressed about their loved ones’ safety and health, and were concerned about stories they were hearing about the virus. He hosted a daily briefing with the team, sharing the latest news and information to ensure everyone was up to date. James knew that this was not time to focus on training — it was time to get people home. He could work with each swimmer’s local swimming federation to create a plan.
Things moved fast as borders began to close, and thankfully all of the Energy Standard athletes and staff were able to make it home to their loved ones.
Energy Standard was at a great place, training-wise, when James made the call suspend future sessions. He gave his swimmers a week off to decompress, and plans to work with each swimmer to reset their goals and create a training plan to keep them fit.
Only one of the Energy Standard athletes has access to a pool at this time, so James is providing a variety of different workouts, including swimming, weight training and bodyweight circuit training that swimmers can choose from depending on what they can access. Swimmers must complete one workout per day of their choice.
Advice for Coaches
James’ message to coaches is that we’re all in this together. A lot of swim coaches have been put in a difficult position, and the future is uncertain. What’s the right thing to do?
James said coaches should communicate in the way that’s best for them and their athletes. Coaches know their swimmers best!
This is a stressful period for everyone involved, James explained. Athletes don’t have access to proper facilities, and the last thing they need is a strict training program that they might not be able to complete.
It’s important to stay connected and share information. James hosts team Zoom calls a few times per week to help the athletes stay connected. These conversations allow people to share concerns and feel heard. James tries to talk with athletes every day, via text, video or call too.
From September 2020 to April 2021, Energy Standard had 27 meets scheduled. However, due to COVID-19, those competitions are up in the air at the moment. James said developments in the pandemic in the coming weeks and months will dictate the team’s schedule for the coming year.
James noted that the coronavirus doesn’t discriminate — elite athletes and recreational swimmers can be affected. We’re a community and we will get through this together!
Behind the Scenes
For James, coaching is a pleasure and a privilege! He gets to work with some of the world’s best athletes on a daily basis, and it doesn’t feel like a job. He learns so much working with athletes from different backgrounds and lifestyles.
About Energy Standard & the International Swimming League
Energy Standard is a full-time professional swimming team with a training facility in Turkey. The team has been in existence since 2012, but has grown in popularity with the rise of the International Swimming League (ISL). James has served as Head Coach of Energy Standard since 2016, overseeing 14 full-time athletes and 6 staff.
The ISL is made up of 10 elite teams from around the world. The goal of the ISL is to create a larger culture around professional swimming and allow elite swimmers to earn money. The ISL takes a new look at the traditional swim meet, making it more spectator-friendly and fast paced. Energy Standard won the first season of the ISL in 2019.