Tigg values international learning ahead of ISL return

11 Nov 2021

Britain's swimmers are ready to dive back into intense competition with the start of the International Swimming League play-offs today - and the build-up to the global contest’s restart has seen some international team bonding at the University of Stirling.  

Seven of the eight teams competing in the play-offs had at least one Brit involved during the regular campaign in August and September. London Roar were and remain among the most Brit-heavy squads, with Duncan Scott - Team GB's most-decorated Olympian at one Games - leading the way in dominant fashion across the freestyle, individual medley and relay events, match after match. There is also a big Australian contingent in the London-based franchise, who are targeting a third final appearance in as many years.

When the regular season fixtures finished in Naples, and with the play-off and final stages being hosted at the Pieter van den Hoogenband Zwemstadion in Eindhoven, some of the Australian athletes involved elected to remain in Europe in between the rounds - and so Scott's training centre at the University of Stirling became the base for the likes of Kyle Chalmers, Zac Incerti and Minna Atherton, the former two having been competing against Team GB as recently as Tokyo 2020.

Steven Tigg - coach of Olympic champions Scott and Kathleen Dawson at Stirling - has also taken on the Roar Head Coach's role for 2021, and he has found the presence of a cohort from the Southern Hemisphere to be valuable for all involved.

"It has been really fun accommodating our Australian friends over the past weeks. They have added great value with their willingness to immerse themselves into our environment, be open-minded to different training methods and sharing their own expertise with us," said Tigg, pictured above during the 2020 ISL season. 

"We've been incredibly impressed with their independent and professional approach when going about their business. Having the likes of Kyle, Minna and Zac around is great - they're incredibly humble and down to earth. 

Duncan Scott Kyle Chalmers Chad le Clos Commonwealth Games 2018 [Getty]
Duncan Scott (centre) and Kyle Chalmers (left) at the 2018 Commonwealth Games

"They're a great advert for how any world-class sportspeople should conduct themselves. They normalise excellence, and this is something others see as evident."

Fresh from being involved on the coaching team that oversaw a record-breaking British performance at an Olympics in the summer, Tigg's position at the head of the London Roar squad is helping him to learn new things, as well as the athletes involved.

"London Roar is an exciting team to be a part of. Being an international event, it brings together athletes from different federations and cultural backgrounds," he added.

"That presents challenges, but also opportunities to share good practice and learn more broadly about differing perspectives. The focus on 'team' relies on everyone putting their own interests aside, working together and often taking on board events they wouldn't ordinarily swim.

"We are often pleasantly surprised with some of the outcomes and reminded that we shouldn't always overly specialise or dismiss having a more multi-event approach, even in senior athletes."

That multi-event approach is one that saw British swimmers shining across a multitude of teams during the regular ISL season. There were repeated triumphs for Scott, a series of eye-catching performances in medley and breaststroke races by Abbie Wood for New York Breakers and some pacy freestyle sprinting, across individual and relay events, from Anna Hopkin, Ben Proud and Matt Richards.

After the momentous long-course results in Tokyo and the European Championships in Budapest, the elite coach in Tigg means he is still looking for improvements to be made across the short-course season, including next month's World Short Course Championships, and into a packed 2022.

"Things have been pretty relaxed post-Tokyo, we're taking time to reflect and evaluate. The achievements not only of our own athletes but the wider British aquatic disciplines were historic. We want to learn as much as we can from it and implement improved practices where appropriate," he explained.

Anna Hopkin 50m Free win BSST 2021
Anna Hopkin

"Next year, 2022 will be a balancing act with World Championships, Commonwealth Games and Europeans. What is suitable for one athlete won't be suitable for another.

"So we will take a very individual approach to how we plan and prepare each of them. For some, it is about gathering as much international experience as possible, others prioritising what is most beneficial long-term."

For now, the focus is on Eindhoven and the ISL play-offs, and there is set to be British involvement wherever you look. Double Olympic champion Tom Dean returns to the London Roar side after missing the regular season, while James Guy and Hopkin - a couple more gold medallists from Tokyo 2020 - are representing Energy Standard and DC Trident respectively. There is also more valuable experience for some of GB's younger athletes, with Ed Mildred and Katie Shanahan - both swimming for the Roar - building towards the World Short Course in Abu Dhabi.

The opening match of the play-offs sees Energy Standard, DC Trident, Cali Condors and Team Iron face off over Thursday 11th and Friday 12th November, with the Roar, Aqua Centurions, LA Current and Toronto Titans joining the fray on Saturday and Sunday (13th and 14th November). 

Every match is live on the BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website and app. For more information on their coverage, click HERE. 

ISL 2021 Play-off and Grand Final fixtures (Pieter van den Hoogenband Zwemstadion, Eindhoven): 

Match 12 (11th+ 12th November):  Cali Condors, DC Trident, Energy Standard, Iron 

Match 13 (13th + 14th November): London Roar, Aqua Centurions, Toronto Titans, LA Current

Match 14 (18th + 19th November): DC Trident, Aqua Centurions, Energy Standard, Toronto Titans 

Match 15 (20th + 21st November): London Roar, Cali Condors, Iron, LA Current 

Match 16 (25th + 26th November): London Roar, DC Trident, Energy Standard, LA Current

Match 17 (27th + 28th November): Aqua Centurions, Cali Condors, Iron, Toronto Titans

Grand Final (3rd + 4th December): TBC, TBC, TBC, TBC