James Phillips is currently mentoring Grace Wang’ondu as part of Project Mbio – a project in partnership with Project Africa Athletics to build capacity, opportunity and broaden the economic horizons of runners from rural Kenya.

The project was conceived to breakdown knowledge silos on injury prevention, performance-optimisation and athlete education and to disseminate global best practice to some of the most under-served athletic communities in the world.

At the heart of the project is the determination to see sustainable development lead the growth of running in the region, with equitysport working hard through our internship and mentorship programmes to develop the local workforce and facilitate significant job creation across the communities we are working.

Thus far, James and Grace have been working on the delivery of a truly innovative education programme for communities with low-bandwidth or no internet access at all. Find out more about the project, visit www.equitysport.org/projectmbio.

To the interview with James…

Tell us about your background in sport, both personally and as a practitioner?

My sporting background was solely devoted towards middle distance track running.  I competed at 800m at club & county until the end of university which coincided with the start of my strength and conditioning career.  Fortuitously, Saracens RFC had an S&C internship available which sparked my love for the industry.  I have since hopped from differing sport environments in S&C including British Fencing, British Athletics, English Institute of Sport & have subsequently stayed with Pure Sports Medicine for the past 4 years.

Why are you a mentor with equitysport?

Mentoring with equitysport gave me an opportunity to learn, think & experience sport science in an environment I had not done before.  Coupled with the opportunity to help someone in their career, it was a no brainer!

You’ve recently started working with Grace, a sports scientist in Kenya, what can you tell us about your mentorship relationship?

Our mentorship started when the whole world seemed to be in lockdown which meant we were meeting in challenging times. And although we are at the beginning of this relationship (I hope), I think it’s safe to say, I’m learning a lot from Grace! 

Has anything surprised you about sport in Kenya? 

The lack of overall support and there is available to athletes.  This is why charities like equitysport are so necessary.

Away from your mentoring role with equitysport, what else are you working on at the moment?

Since lockdown, I have had the time to start working on setting up my own business, Optimal Strength (www.optimalstrength.co.uk).  Aimed at providing individualised strength and conditioning services to sports men & women both locally and remotely.

I also try to provide strength & conditioning information through Instagram (@jamesphillipssc).  As well as, providing content to an online running community, Coopah Running (www.coopah.com).

Last thing, if you could give one piece of advice to someone in the Global South who aspires to work in sport, what would it be?

Something I’ve learnt from Grace – perseverance goes a long way.

Thanks James! We look forward to hearing more about the work you and Grace are doing in Kenya over the coming months!