"I get super invested in the team, and have a great time coaching. I also love the sport."
What's your background in Ultimate?
I started playing for St Andrews uni in 2009 as one of the least promising but keenest freshers. Keenness paid off, and I eventually learned to throw and started playing for Swift in 2012. After a year out for ACL reconstruction, I played for SMOG as they rose through the UK rankings, had a baby after the end of the 2016 tour season, and was back playing with SMOG in time for the 2017 season, Nationals, Euros, and Worlds 2018. I taught sailing on and off for 10 years and was a maths teacher for 2, so coaching Ultimate seemed like a logical thing to do once the 'frisbee' obsession kicked in!
Who do you coach?
Durham University women
How did you start coaching?
I moved to Durham at a time when there wasn't much club Ultimate here, so wanted to attend trainings with the uni. Initially I just gave a few pointers, and had the title coach in order to justify attending, but I got more and more invested in the team as I got to know the players, and could see ways to help them improve, until eventually Team Durham hired me as an official coach!
Why do you coach ultimate?
I really enjoy it. I get super invested in the team, and have a great time coaching. I also love the sport, and think it has a lot to offer, particularly the Spirit of the Game element, so enjoy promoting it too.
What do you enjoy most about coaching Ultimate?
I love seeing players develop. I particularly enjoy being part of that transition that so many students go through from just playing casually in the sunshine, to crazily obsessed, and then getting really good.
I'm also a nerd about planning. I love a good long-term plan for skill and tactics development.
What’s been your coaching highlight to date?
When I first got involved in Durham Uni, they only managed to get enough players for women's 3v3 about once a month. Now they regularly get 20 committed players to 7am women's trainings every week. I've loved helping the women's scene develop in numbers, confidence and skill.
What are your top three tips for a new coach / getting started?
1. Don't feel like you have to know everything. Any insight is useful.
2. Be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster - I care just as much when they flop, as when my own team does!
3. Keep sight of why the players are there. The perfect session might not have to be the most efficient/effective (unless you're a top club or GB coach). Fun, team bonding or mindset could all be equally important in different situations.
What have you learned from coaching?
Only try to fix what is fixable, for example, at a tournament, when players are just not throwing consistently enough, telling them to be more consistent is totally useless. Sure, you'll need to work on consistency back at training, but for now changing up the offence a bit to allow for easier throws might be a better option.
Similarly, work with your team's strengths where you can. We did much better this year by allowing high-risk/high-reward offence, and then training 'firey D', because it suited the team, rather stopping them taking 50/50 shots as I'd previously tried to do.
What’s coming up next for you?
Exciting times in uni women's ultimate as we switch to BUCS qualifiers. I'm currently wrestling with how to get DUF qualifiers-ready whilst simultaneously keeping everything beginner friendly, and doing recruitment, all in the first 5 weeks of term!
I'm also involved in the introduction of Ultimate to the PE curriculum of a special needs school in Newcastle, so I'm excited to see what that will bring.
And lastly I've got grand plans about grass roots ultimate in the North East developing, so watch this space!