– Who are you?
And describe your Ultimate Frisbee history in short. I began playing ultimate at the University of Delaware and quickly fell in love with the sport. I moved to Boston after college and in 2002 joined an amazing men’s team called Twisted Metal, where I was a defensive handler and captain. In 2005 I began coaching the Northeastern University women’s team, and have coached them for 9 of the past 12 seasons. My playing career took me next to a mixed team called Quiet Coyote and we finished 3rd at United States Nationals in 2009, qualifying to play at WUCC 2010 in Prague where we took 4th place. I ended my playing career after the 2010 season and began coaching full time in 2011 with the mixed team The Ghosts. The Ghosts finished 3rd at United States Nationals in 2013 (the same year I coached the Boston Whitecaps the Major League Ultimate Championship and went to Finland to coach at Scoops Camp!) and then finished 3rd at WUCC 2014 in Lecco. I am now coaching a women’s club team in Boston called Siege as well as participating in this amazing project with Team Finland.
– What is your best ultimate memory or success story?
I have a lot of them, but one that sticks out is my mixed club team Quiet Coyote at United States Nationals in 2009. We entered the tournament seeded 14th of 16 teams. On day 1, we beat the 6 seed and the 11 seed to advance into power pools. On day 2 we beat the 1 seed and earned a spot in the quarterfinals. The top 4 teams were guaranteed a spot at WUCC 2010 so if we won our quarterfinal we were advancing to WUCC. We played the 2 seed in the tournament in that quarterfinal and were close all the way to the end. On double game point whoever scored got a bid to WUCC and we had to pull. After a couple throws one of my teammates got a huge layout block and we picked up the disc and threw one pass for the win!
– What are the must have things for a coach in a tournament?
I always like to be prepared for the weather, so I make sure to bring whatever I need to bring in order to stay comfortable (even if that means I need a really big bag!) I also like to make sure I have plenty of food because my brain doesn’t work as well when I am hungry. No real special items for me though.
– What are the best qualities in you as a coach?
And how do you think you are able to utilize these with Team Finland? I would like to think that I am a very positive coach in general and that because I do my best to stay positive the players on my team are more comfortable and can therefore play better. I also think I’m very good at adapting to whatever another team is doing and figuring out the best way to succeed.
With Team Finland a lot of what I have been doing is just trying to figure out the best way for the team to play together. There are a lot of great players on the team but a lot of players have not played very much together so I see my role as trying to establish a way for the team to play and to support the team as they learn to play together. Of course we are going to make a lot of mistakes along the way because no one has ever played for me and a lot players hadn’t played together so me being positive and constantly trying to make little changes to adapt to what the team needs is really important.
– What was your first impression from the team versus your impression now?
The team has come a long way already! When I first came to Finland in March I could tell that people hadn’t played much together and that not many players had really played within a structured offense so I set about trying to change some of that so that we could all grow together and become a team. When I was in Germany a couple weeks ago, the team looked so much more like a team! Obviously people had put in a lot of work and the team leadership of Essi, Karo and Roni had done a lot of work to get the team to be more of a team and I thought we just played great! Our offense looked really smooth and our defense got better as the tournament went along and I can’t wait to see where we can get to by the end of Worlds!
– Are there many differences in coaching Team Finland compared to US teams and players?
The language is obviously a big difference for me. I need to be more patient with how I talk and be sure not to say too much all at once, and that has actually really helped me become a better coach in general. I’ve found that if I take a little more time to figure out the point I really want to make I can cut down on the time I spend talking which makes things easier to understand for everyone. The style of play that I saw at our first training was also a lot different than what I was used to in the US, but I’ve brought some of my ideas to the team so now things look more like what I am used to and I think that helps me make adjustments. Hopefully the things I have brought to the team make things easier for them too!
– You said in Frankfurt: “I know you are excited – I think”. How would you describe this “culture shock”?
Ha! I have such a hard time reading the emotion of the team! I am used to lots and lots of high fives and hugs and celebration during game play so I do sometimes get confused even when I think I know everyone is having fun! I’m trying to get used to knowing that everyone on the team shows their emotion in their own way, but I definitely do have trouble making sure that people are enjoying themselves!
– The team has selected Sisu, Passion and Together as the words to describe this team. How would you like to see these words realize on the field?
I really like this collection of words for us. To me Together might be the most important word of the bunch just because we are trying to bring together players from all over Finland to be one team and to make the country and all of the players involved with the sport proud of us. If the team is not playing together and people try to do too much as individuals or don’t fully invest in what the group is trying to do we can’t be nearly as successful as if we all go after everything as a team. Passion is about playing as hard as you can when you are on the field. We have a big team and a lot of players are playing less than they would with their club teams, but that should allow them to put more energy and effort into everything they are doing for the team on the field and when they show that passion for playing we are going to be at our best. I had never heard of Sisu but I love that selection of a word because it represents Finland so well and we are playing for Finland. We are going to be in games where we are the underdog or where we are not playing well and if we don’t have Sisu then we don’t give ourselves a chance to win or to comeback or to just play really well and everyone is putting so much into this team that we might as well always try to do our best no matter what! Passion. Sisu. Together.
– What was the reaction from you when you received email from Finland?
I was very excited and felt very honored to be considered! I immediately took a liking to the idea and was super happy that everything worked out for this project to happen!
– What are the expectations for the tournament?
I don’t have any specific expectations. I think we saw in Germany that we are a very strong team and I know the team had a lot of success last year too so I’d like to build on that. I would love to make quarterfinals and then see what happens!
– What is the biggest challenge in this project?
The biggest challenges have to be the distance between me and the team and the lack of time I get to spend with the team. I have been trying my best to get to know everyone and have had some email conversations with some members of the team outside our time together which has helped a lot and knowing that Karo and Essi and Roni are doing a great job is really helpful too. I am glad I got to coach the team at a tournament but Worlds is unlike any other tournament so who knows how everything will go once we get there!
– What teams do you see as the front runners in Words?
There are a lot of great teams around the world that I am excited to see. I think Japan, Canada and the US would have to be considered the favorites, but I am sure that like Finland a lot of other countries are making a big effort to be at their best for this tournament.
– You live in Boston. Team is based in FINLAND. You met the team first time in March and second time in May and now third time in London. Are you a bit crazy to go for a project like this?
Of course I am! But so is the team for asking me to go for a project like this! So I think that means we are a good fit together (-; I am really honored to be part of this project and I know that my friends and players I coach are all excited for me to have this opportunity to coach Finland at Worlds so that takes the edge off the ”crazy”!
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