Twenty three year old Tim James is more than just Scotty James’ older brother. He’s also the man charged with FIS World Champion halfpipe snowboarder Scotty’s strength and conditioning plus he is the wax technician. Both vital roles that help the Australian Red Bull snowboarder win podium places on the FIS snowboard world cup circuit on his way to Sochi.
Snow It All caught up with Tim James in the second of our “Behind The Podium” series.
What is your snowboarding history?
I’m actually a skier, which often gets some funny looks when I’m standing at the top of the pipe or slope course behind my tuning table. Scotty and I both learnt at Mt. Buller in Victoria and I went onto compete in ski racing as a junior. I tried snowboarding this season though and really enjoyed it. One thing’s certain, standing at the top of the course in snowboard boots is a lot more comfortable!
How many years have you worked with your brother?
I’ve worked with Scotty full-time for the past two years. Before that he worked with another trainer, during that time I was still able to assist with SJ’s work outside the gym. So all up I’ve really been working with him since the Vancouver Games in 2010.
Why did you decide to work full time with Scotty and how did it come about?
When Scott was looking for a trainer to work with full-time I felt I was the best person for the job so I put myself forward. I wanted to make it as professional a pitch as I could, it was important to me that Scott didn’t choose me as his trainer just because I was his brother. He had to want me, otherwise it wasn’t going to work.
We sat down and I outlined my plan and how I thought he should prepare for taking on two events. I’m so grateful for the opportunity he has given me and the trust he’s shown by allowing me to take control of his off-snow conditioning.
What sacrifices have you had to make to help Scotty reach his first and second Olympics?
A lot of time goes into Scotty’s off-snow training and when I took on prepping the boards as well it felt like it was going to be too much work at first. Once I became competent though it was a good time for me to stick in some headphones and think about what was working and what wasn’t working for SJ and how I could help from a training point of view.
To take the job on and dedicate the time I felt it would be necessary that I deferred from uni and took on less shifts at my work. I knew it meant finishing my degree much later and having less money but I love this stuff. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t.
“Four years ago Scotty and I headed to Quebec for a last minute shot at qualifying for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Today I’m sitting in a hotel room in Quebec thinking about the last four years and all the hard work he has put in on and off the snow to be in the position he is in now. He never missed a training session, never quit when things may have seemed too hard and finished every session with a smile on his face. It’s a special feeling as a trainer to watch an athlete continue to grow and succeed, as a brother it’s a feeling that can’t be described. 19 years old, two-time Olympian and a pleasure to work with.”
What does a ‘trainer’ do and what qualities do you need to be a good one?
As a strength and conditioning coach it’s my job to make sure Scott’s body is physically prepared for the demands of his sport. I think to be a good trainer you have to have a keen interest in the sport your athlete is competing in, you have to be patient, hardworking, passionate, but most of all never think you know it all or have all the answers.
I think my biggest strength as a trainer is that I’m not afraid to ask questions, research and observe good trainers. I think this is the best way to write a program that is going to get results and keep training interesting.
How many are on Scotty’s support team and how do you interact and make decisions?
Abe and I make up the entourage that travel with Scotty. Abe Teter is SJ’s coach and we get along really well. As a coach sometimes it’s difficult to know what kind of approach to use with an athlete. Do they like lots of feedback? A little? Or none at all?
Abe has definitely found a working recipe when giving Scott advice on the hill. Even though I’m not a snowboarder Abe makes me feel like one when we talk strategy, the three of us have a lot of fun! I think that’s been the biggest difference in Scott’s approach to riding in recent times – it’s just snowboarding, have some fun!
What’s the biggest high you’ve had as Scotty’s trainer so far?
When Scotty finished 3rd in pipe and 1st overall for the FIS season in Stoneham I was definitely holding back some tears. As a trainer moments of success are very rewarding but as a brother it’s something that is difficult to describe. I’m very proud.
What’s the biggest low and why?
Most of the challenges we have faced as a team have come from off the snow and have nothing to do with the riding, so we try to ignore as much of it as we can. Sadly I won’t be with SJ in Sochi, I haven’t been successful in obtaining a credential from the Australian team, which we’re really disappointed about.
Routine is something that is extremely important to an athlete’s mental preparation and up until now I have been part of that routine. When we were told I wasn’t going to be allowed to be with Abe and Scotty it was really confusing considering how great Scott’s season has been going.
Why would you want anything to change leading into the biggest event of the season? For me, Sochi was going to be the finishing line of the extraordinary journey I’ve had with both Scott and Abe. I’ll be cheering from home though, very proud of what we have accomplished together.
Do you and Scotty ever fight and if so how do you handle it?
Of course! We’re brothers so it’s only natural that we have little scraps every now and again. It’s never in the gym or on the hill though. It’s usually about whose turn it is to wash dishes or when he plays his banjo right next to me when I’m trying to watch TV or relax.
We have a mutual respect for each other and our roles in the team. He never tells me how I should do my job and I never tell him how he should do his. Every now and again though he will ask me on comp day what I think of his run… I know so little about snowboarding tricks and what the judges are looking for so I usually just say “Looking good SJ!”
What have you got to do that you wouldn’t have if you hadn’t dedicated this part of your career to Scotty?
I’ve seen some great places, made a whole bunch of new friends and now have experience working with an athlete at the elite level of his sport. It’s been awesome! All of the riders on the tour are so friendly and welcoming to new faces, there wasn’t ever a time they made me feel like a dork in my ski boots. Traditionally snowboarders are very cool people so I knew I would be in good hands.
Anything else you’d like to add?
A big thanks to Ryan McDermott from Mono Cera tune shop in Dillon, CO. Ryan took me under his wing and taught me as much as he could about prepping and maintaining boards. His advice was invaluable, a true guru!
Follow Tim James on instagram @timjames101 and twitter @timjames01