Photos: Original artwork from James Bates. View gallery here.

From Football to Swim Dad

James Bates was a football player. A good one.

An All-SEC linebacker at the University of Florida, James was team captain for Steve Spurrier and helped lead the Gators to a national championship in 1996.


Photos: From @jb8sy

Since then James has been a featured sports anchor on FOX and CBS and has even won a Regional Emmy as on-air talent while with Fox Sports South.


Photos: From @jb8sy

So how did this big tough guy find his way to painting and somehow including swimming subjects in his repertoire?

Becoming a Swim Dad

Well, James started by marrying Gator swimmer Tina Hinton, whom he met while still at Florida. Two decades later, the Bates have three active children: Jake (who is a standout baseball player), Talia (who was two-time high state champ and was a winner of a B Final at Senior Nats this year), and Georgia (who is also a dominate swimmer). Both girls swim for Gator Swim Club.


Photos: From @jb8sy

Taking the family even deeper into the swim world, Tina now coaches swimming at Buchholz High School, and has won the girls’ FHSAA 4A State Title for the past two years. In addition, her girls’ team has been two-time the winner of the Florida Swim Network Mythical State Meet, beating out the likes of Bolles, Pine Crest and Gulliver Prep.

Embracing his role as a swim dad, James is a regular at meets unless work takes hime away, at which point he tunes in remotely if possible.


Photos: From @jb8sy

Becoming an Artist

James never took a formal art class, but instead was a doodler, often drawing on the team’s whiteboard inside the Gator locker room. It was at this time that Steve Spurrier’s wife, Jerri, who was leading the Gator Swim team in aerobics, asked James if he would create a t-shirt logo for the swim team. This was his first official foray into creating a formal piece of art.

After graduating, he learned to paint on canvas from a former college roommate, which only strengthened his desire to create.

He says he started with landscapes but then made his way into painting sports figures, especially football players and coaches.

Now, James is in demand, even taking on commissioned pieces, including an album cover for the band Sister Hazel, which is on display in the House of Blues in Orlando.

Featuring Swimmers

It would make sense that in addition to the many sports figures he has painted, James would turn his artistic eye toward the GOAT (Greatest Olympian of All Time), Michael Phelps. Take a look at James’ painting process as he created the larger-than-life swimmer:

Other Swim Topics

James still paints quite a variety of topics, ranging from beach landscapes, architecture, abstracts, to folk artsy sports figures. Many of his paintings feature a keen sense of humor. James even created a tongue-in-cheek “swim meat” print, which he turned into a t-shirt available in his online store.


Photos: From @jb8sy

Most recently, James delivered a commissioned piece to Lake Highland High School: a painting of the Highlander pool.


Photos: From @jb8sy

From Studio to Poolside

So how popular is James and his artwork? Well, his creations extend past his paintings. He also uses video as art, creating a series called “The Head Ball Coach Stories” which receive tens of thousands of views per video between his youtube channel and Facebook plays.

James was also featured in his own Reddit AMA, but his painting has become such a passion, he now has a dedicated studio, where his creations come to fruition.


Photo: From B8syPaint.com

However, don’t think that James is limited by location. He has also been know to bring his painting poolside, because as all good swim dads know, there is plenty of downtime at swim meets!


Photos: From @jb8sy

You may also remember seeing James guest-hosting our very own College SwimDay, along with SwimmerJoe and Elizabeth Beisel. Although he didn’t grow up a swimmer, he has certainly made up for lost time!

So, parents, let this be a lesson that all those long hours at the pool, whether for practices or meets, don’t have to be wasted time. If you are clever, you can even put that time to good use and create a second career!

To learn more about James, connect with him on his website, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook fan page.