Kat Cheng

"Every expert was once a beginner"

What's your background in Ultimate?

​I started playing at Sheffield Hallam University in 2012. Coming from a netball background, I quickly picked up the fast paced nature of the game, person to person marking, moving the disc between the players on pitch keeping possession. Pivoting and cutting took a bit longer to master. I played for LeedsLeedsLeeds in 2013-14, moved to London and played for Iceni 2015, then moved to Nottingham and have played for Hydra since 2017. I also represented GB U23 Women in 2015 in London.

Who do you coach?

University of Nottingham Women (2017-2019) and Hydra Ultimate (2018 to present)

How did you start coaching?

​I completed my UKU Level 1 whilst at Hallam in 2013. Back then, it was the experienced players who led and coached the team during the university season so I took on the coach and captain role. When I moved to Nottingham, a coaching opportunity came up at the University so Pete Garnett and I decided to go for the roles together as Nottingham had only had male coaches previously.

I coached the first year and in 2018 started a Masters at the University of Nottingham so have also been playing for the team too.

Why do you coach Ultimate?

​I enjoy it! Every expert was once a beginner and people invested in me in my early years and showed me their love and passion for the sport so I wanted to convey that enthusiasm to others, from beginners to experienced players. I enjoy helping people improve to be a better version of themselves in whatever form that takes, be it better at decision making, executions, more positive attitudes towards themselves and the team, or being better at time management.

What do you enjoy most about coaching Ultimate?

​Seeing people master skills over time and grow in confidence, then bring those skills to a game and share their smiles and enjoyment when it all comes together, knowing that I've been a part of their journey. Looking at some of the freshers we've had each year who've never picked up a disc before and comparing them to their ability at the end of the year is remarkable. They're throwing with more power, confidence, developing their pitch awareness and starting to think more tactically. For the more experienced players, it's watching them take a concept away like a cutting pattern, defensive positioning or throwing from a power position, apply it in a game and being successful.

What have you learnt from coaching?

​Having a positive mindset or outlook can change everything, even getting players to say "I love running in the rain" immediately lifts spirits.

Players will often look to you for answers, it's ok to admit if you don't know something so open it up to the team to help.

Getting to know the team away the pitch helps solidify your connection with them and team morale.

Everyone learns differently so I've tried to vary the way I explain things either by telling, showing or doing, or a combination. This can be applied to life too.

What’s been your coaching highlight to date?

​Helping the women get to 4th at Div 1 Uni Indoor Nationals - narrowly missing out on a medal but it's the highest achievement for Nottingham Women at Indoors. Seeing players combine their efforts from training and turn it into (mostly) winning performances at the tournament.

What are your top three tips for a new coach / getting started?

1) Keep it simple - especially if you're coaching freshers. They don't know all the Ultimate terminology, so break it down for them to easily understand. Don't try to cover all your offences in a 2 hour session. State the focus for the session so the team knows what area of the game they are developing

2) Be adaptable - you can plan the best session for 14 people and if only 8 turn up, you need to change your plans to make the most of the session or you might plan to teach throwing deep in horrendous conditions so it might be better to cover zone defence (learnt this the hard way so now I have a plan B)

3) Liaise with the captains/committee to ensure you're working towards the same goal, after your first few sessions it may give you an idea of the standard and if there are areas you'll need to spend more time on.

Any other tops tips?

​Give feedback like a sandwich - something good, area to work on, something good. I found writing down a few notes about players after each session helped me prepare more in-depth feedback and recognise when players had improved.

Ask for feedback, and be open to what they say so you can identify areas you're nailing and others you need to address.

Not every session will go how you planned and that's ok. Don't beat yourself up about it, but make sure you debrief with someone else (another coach or a friend in Ultimate).

Be a role model - they will be watching how you react to their play. Celebrate with them, and also be there to console and pick their heads up after a tough loss. ​

​Make sure you get a coach/life balance, be available to answer questions away from the training field but make sure this doesn't eat into your personal life too much.

What’s coming up next for you?

Heading to Malaysia to represent Team UK as part of the University of Nottingham's Tri Campus Games!

Come September I'll be back into Uni season.