ACPE Alumnus, Jamie Tout, completed a Bachelor of Physical Education as part of the 1994 intake, graduating in 1997. Since then, it goes without saying that Jamie has had a significant impact on both individuals and organisations across all levels of sport across the globe. Currently based in New Zealand, Jamie wears a number of hats. Whether it is being on the grass with athletes (S&C Black Ferns – NZ Women’s Rugby), working in the development of sports technology (VX Sport) and now designing a new sports facility (New Zealand Campus of Innovation and Sport – NZCIS), Jamie continues to make significant strives forward for our industry on a daily basis. We were lucky to catch up with Jamie as part of our ACPE Alumni Game Changer series.
Why did you choose to study with ACPE?
Two weeks prior to starting, I was still unsure where I would end up. I received a phone call from Principal John Butt asking if I would like to come to Sydney for an interview. For a country boy who loved sport… it wasn’t a difficult decision to do a roadie and check out the upcoming Olympic site. During the interview, Mr. Butt spoke about the balance between theory and practice, which really resonated with me. It is something that has stuck with me throughout my career. Being able to coach and connect with people has been as important as any textbook. I met a guy Keith Leyshon that day and he was part of the reason I had the confidence to make the decision to move to Sydney. He was a straight shooter, playing League out in the west and also looking to join ACPE. So, I packed my bags and moved from Scone in the Hunter Valley to Croydon, living in the flats for a couple of years before moving over to North Curl Curl with Scott Webster. The car trips from there to Homebush alongside Scott, Damien Daley and Shannon Nevin were never dull.
What did you enjoy most about your time at ACPE?
Number 1 – The people. Followed by the practicums and the playing around Sydney Olympic Park site… seeing it come to life when the campus moved from Croydon. ACPE presented me with a lot of opportunities I hadn’t considered. One of which was getting my tennis umpiring qualification as part of the coaching modules. I officiated at two NSW Open’s and an Australian Open, including being on-court (linesperson) for the Agassi v Chang semi-final in 1996. I have ACPE to thank for giving me an opportunity that has no doubt led to much of what I am doing today. I am forever thankful that I got that phone call from Principal Butt.
How did ACPE set you up for the career success that you have enjoyed since graduating?
ACPE provided a really diverse course experience. Having a relatively small campus at the time really helped me settle into Sydney and form strong relationships with my intake and those intakes either side of 4/94. I also got a kick out of seeing some of these same people balancing professional sports careers and performing on the world stage. Being a Parramatta ‘fanboy’, I was sharing a classroom or a beer with Mark Barnes and Michael Buettner… how good! Two fellas that I had posters of on my wall. Seriously though, it was inspiring and pushed me to think about what is possible when you have genuine, hardworking people like that alongside you.
The other unique aspect was the focus on coaching and teaching practicums. These ensured you had a chance to convey knowledge and not just learn it. Having the ability to feel comfortable in front of groups, has definitely been a big advantage on and off the field.
Since leaving ACPE, you have gone on to work in the sports industry from grassroots to professional sport as a strength and conditioning coach for more than 20 years. What do you love most about going to work every day?
After teaching for 3 years in rural New Zealand, I made the move to Wellington. Initially doing some PT and working with an 80/20 split between PT and ‘sports training’. Over the next 2 years, that balance switched and I found a niche in speed/agility training. Something I loved doing and that there was a gap in the market. With some experience under my belt and some good connections into the UK sports scene, I took an 18-month working holiday tutoring speed and agility around St Helen’s, teaching P.E in Liverpool and finishing that off managing a Ski Chalet in France. It was then, through a moment (when perhaps at high altitude), that I decided to call home (Scone, N.S.W), have my pushbike sent back to Perth, and ride it back to the Hunter Valley 6357km away. The journey created lifelong memories, time to think, and clarity around what was to happen next.
I decided to move back to Wellington, founded XLR8 Sports Training in 2004, presenting speed and agility courses through the Middle East, Europe, South Africa, United Kingdom and Australasia and consultancy for the likes of NSW Cricket, Hurricanes Rugby and St. George Illawarra Dragons. Whilst gaining this experience, it meant looking after a lot of athletes remotely and I became well versed in monitoring solutions for both tracking and programming from afar. Perhaps fortuitous then that in 2007, an electrical engineer, Richard Snow, approached me via High-Performance Sport New Zealand looking for a Strength and Conditioning coach to collaborate on a sports technology project. This was the beginning of VX Sport.
VX Sport are those small little bumps you see sitting in the back of playing jerseys that track an athlete’s physical load (GPS, Heart Rate and Inertial Movement Sensors). VX Sport is now in over 30 countries, working with more than 250 teams including the All Blacks and Black Ferns. It offers over 350 variations in metrics e.g. speed, distance, heart rate, sprints, collisions, jumps, and metabolic loads; equal to 1 million data points every 90 minutes. VX Sport has provided broadcast data for Ch9 Cricket (Bupa Tracker), Australian Surf Lifesaving (Telstra Tracker), Quicksilver, Red Bull, and even Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Right now, we are forging into the US College system and also facilitating the use of Sports Technology in schools across the world. By using data to teach principles of math, science, and physical education, using the student’s data in innovative ways to better engage with the sporting mindset of many talented student-athletes.
These days, I wear a few hats. Being on the grass with athletes (S&C Black Ferns – NZ Women’s Rugby), working in the development of sports technology (VX Sport), and now designing a new sports facility (New Zealand Campus of Innovation and Sport – NZCIS) … there are different challenges and rewards every day. It’s probably the diversity in what I still do that keeps things fresh… if not a little manic. But I take the approach of biting off more than you can chew and just chew faster.
You have spent a number of years working in the New Zealand sports industry. How has the move over the ditch been and what has it been like getting to work with organisations such as New Zealand Rugby?
The move over the ditch was to be a stopover on the way to Europe. That was 20 years ago. I loved it from the start and whilst I get to travel a lot usually with work, there is nothing like coming home. I consider myself an ANZAC in every sense. Coming to NZ, I had more of a background in Rugby League, but League is considered a dirty word in New Zealand, and Rugby Union is a way of life. Working within New Zealand Rugby has afforded me opportunities to work alongside world-class athletes, coaches, and people. New Zealand has a vibrant sports industry and the S&C community are good at connecting and supporting each other, it’s something I really do enjoy about New Zealand and no one is ever too far away. COVID proved this once again, with guys like Tim Hurst (Waikato Rugby) and Nic Gill (All Blacks) ensuring we connected regularly to check-in and push out regular workshops online.
You are the co-developer and director of VX Sport and the founder of XLR8 Sports Training. Talk us through what it has been like being involved in these companies from the start and what it means to you to apply your passion every day in the workplace?
Bit like a theme park. Lots of rides, some you can’t go on, some the last guy left his lunch… but if you a willing to go at it 100 mile an hour you are going to have a hell of a time. Both companies have afforded me the opportunities to travel extensively and keep upskilling – it’s one of the things I enjoy most. That is learning what others are doing and spending time on the grass. It’s a competitive landscape and not all ideas are going to be good ones. You will come across people that talk a good game and others that just get it done. Sometimes you need a bit of both, and you have to be willing to stay the course and not compromise your values.
The New Zealand Campus of Innovation and Sport (NZCIS) is due to open in 2021 and will be home to teams such as Wellington Phoenix, NZ Baseball and Wellington Rugby. Could you please tell us more about the NZCIS and what your role is there?
Hugely excited by this project. My role is to make it ‘fit for purpose’. That includes working as the conjugate between the sports teams and the design team to get a world-class facility. Equal to that… finding ways to make it commercially viable. Once the doors open, I will take on the CEO role. It might be a project that I only ever get the chance once to do! In today’s environment, it has only made this facility all the more relevant where sharing of resources, collaboration, and technology all play huge roles in its success. We are really pleased with the partnerships we have identified and whilst most have come directly from sport, the technology partnership we have with NTT is an aspect that helps stand us apart. The partnership is pulling all technologies together, from the fields, training equipment, accommodation, and even the lighting plans to optimise how the athletes use the facility and how we can play smart footy to make our investment more efficient and scalable.
You have gone on to accomplish some amazing things since leaving ACPE. Current students aspire to work in the sports industry like you every single day. What advice would you have for our current ACPE students that are looking to kickstart their careers?
There is never a lost opportunity, if you don’t take it, someone else will. Be prepared to put in the leg work, finding a niche often helps and if you don’t hear back … follow up! I get inquiries weekly of people looking for internships or paid work… my first filter is if they follow up.
What would you say are the three most important skills to have when working in the sports industry, especially in the current climate?
Communication is massive. Put people before products. Stay up to date, invest in your professional development. It’s not all about the money, take the time to visit other professionals in your sport and from outside of it. Be consistent and persistent. We were running a 100m sprint… now it’s a 400m hurdles… keep running.
What does the future have in store for Jamie Tout? Will we see Jamie back in Australia anytime soon?
Always on the move and will be back on a plane when the borders open up. Whether you think of Australia as the West Island of New Zealand or New Zealand a State of Australia, I intend on remaining an ANZAC. My career is probably heading for a transition from being on the grass to more time behind a desk, but just like the hair on my head, I am holding on to that time on the grass as much as I can. With the NZCIS moving ahead, it’s safe to say my immediate future is in Wellington and I am really excited by that.
Quick fire questions with Jamie
- If you could be any athlete, who would it be? Roger Federer
- Most loved sports team? A love hate relationship with the Parramatta Eels
- Who would you suggest students follow on Twitter? @TimGabbett @mart1buch
- Coach you would most like to work with? The late great Vince Lombardi
- What is your bucket list sporting event you would like to attend? Super Bowl and Tour De France which was to happen this year before COVID hit!
- What motto do you live by? There is never a lost opportunity. If you don’t take it, someone else will.
- What have been some of your career highlights? Working across 8+ national sports programs with High-Performance Sport NZ and seeing those athletes compete on the world stage and tracking Kelly Slater with VX Sport on the Quicksilver Pro was a lot of fun. I have been fortunate to visit some great setups…. on my professional development with the New York Giants, Rangers, Knicks and Yankees – getting onto the diamond for batting practice before the game. Special!
- Give us an interesting VX Sport stat? A wicket keeper in cricket can cover more than 25km in a day and complete over 500 bodyweight squats.
- Goals in the next 12 months? Win the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup, keep pushing VX Sport into the USA and get the NZCIS ready to open…. Watch this space!