"Buy comfortable trainers, you spend a lot of time standing up!"
What's your background in Ultimate?
I found out about the sport after watching an episode of Trans World Sport on Saturday morning, they featured Santa Barbara Condors and it got my attention. However, I only started playing properly when I went to university and joined the team.
My playing career was a little shorter than I had hoped it would be. After a few years of playing at university and for Bristol, I injured my shoulder in 2005 which led to a number of surgeries and ongoing issues. I effectively retired then, but have from time to time played the odd tournament, and currently train in Birmingham.
Since 2005 I have mainly spent my time coaching ultimate. I almost accidentally became the Great Britain Under 20s Coach/Manager in 2006 and was involved in the Great Britain Junior set up through to 2012.
Where and who do you coach?
I currently coach at school (Twycross House School, Flux ultimate) alongside Matt and Sophie Beavan. I am also coaching the GB Masters alongside two captain-coaches during the next cycle of GB Masters. I've previously coached a number of the GB Junior cycles.
How did you start coaching?
I had enjoyed supporting a local school’s ultimate program whilst at university, but had not made any plans to do any more coaching until my injury. Just after getting injured, I was chatting to the younger players involved with Stourbridge Ultimate who were still GB Juniors during a social event. They spent a chunk of the evening persuading me to get involved with Junior coaching, and after a while I agreed.
My first year was a serious baptism of fire, 18 players and myself headed out to Boston to the World Championships with little idea of what was going to happen. It was an incredible week and a lot of my coaching philosophy started to take shape during that tournament. I am still grateful to every one of those players for having a big impact on how I look at the game of ultimate and what I want players to get out of it.
Why do you coach Ultimate?
I have always been very appreciative of how much I have gained from ultimate, from some of my closest friends to some of the greatest (and most ridiculous) experiences I’ve had in my life. I hope that by introducing our sport to people, and helping them improve they will also get some amazing opportunities in the future.
I also felt, it played to some of my strengths. I am a big communicator, and enjoy the tactical element to all sports.
What do you love about coaching Ultimate?
- Watching people learn, progress and improve is a great joy. Not just during the time I have spent coaching them, but whenever I see them play after that time too.
- Having the opportunity to help players and teams grow and reach their full potential is a real honour and something I feel very fortunate to be able to do.
- I love the tactical element to sport, and trying to create strategies that will give your team/players an edge when they play.
- I really enjoy watching how other teams play and then reflecting on how I view the sport.
What have you learnt from coaching Ultimate?
Look at the big picture more and only focus on the things you can control. Wasting time worrying or being frustrated about uncontrollable variables will not help you or your team.
- It is rarely one single moment in a match that wins or loses the game. But most people view it that way. There are often many opportunities to change a match outcome, be ready for the next one.
- Make friends not enemies. You never know when it will be helpful to have others support.
- Always try and spend time with other coaches and try and learn from how they coach. Reflecting on your own practice will make you continue to improve.
- The reset is the most fundamental part of every offence.
What’s been your coaching highlight to date?
My highlight is an ongoing one. Every time I see a player that I have coached and I have the chance to spend time catching up with them. I am incredibly grateful to have worked with so many incredible individuals over the past 13 years coaching and I still get a huge amount of joy spending time with them and finding out how they are. On-pitch success is great, but the relationships I have with former players is much more special to me.
What are your top three tips for a new coach / getting started?
- Be positive. I have not met a person who performs better from continuous negative feedback. So give players the knowledge so that they can make fewer mistakes in the future.
- Keep things simple. Over complicating strategies, structures, drills will lead to confusion not clarity. The game is simple, the more complicated you make it, the more likely it is that something will go wrong.
- Always tell players why you want them to do something. What is the aim of a drill, a cutting pattern, a defensive look?
Knowing the aimed outcome will help the process.
- Ask for help and you will get it! We’re a small community and helping people out is what we do.
Any other tops tips?
- Don’t try and give too much information at once
- Buy comfortable trainers, you spend a lot of time standing up
- Always prepare properly for sessions and tournaments
- Make having you as a coach as fun as possible. People will give more if they enjoy themselves.
- I have always found writing a diary at week long tournaments helps me get my thoughts in order and prepare for the next day/tournament.
What’s coming up next for you?
I will be involved in the GB Masters set up for the next two years. However, next year will be my last. Some of my original GB Juniors will be eligible to play masters in 2020, and that feels like the right time to stop.
At school, we want to continue to grow the number of junior women we have playing. We have had great success in increasing our female numbers over the past few years, but there is always room for more growth.