The Great Britain Ultimate Frisbee player explains how she gets in the zone for a big match.
Interviewed by Tim Sanders, BBC Blast Reporter.
Raise Your Game: Why did you start playing Ultimate?
Maria Cahill: My housemate at university was involved with the university team and after a few years of taunting him for his interest in this rather peculiar sport I succumbed. I spent a year in the States during university and got involved in Ultimate there. When I came back to the UK I was obsessed about Ultimate, and I took it from there.
RYG: What do you find so rewarding about playing Ultimate?
MC: It's quite a close community so you get to know people well. When you play tournaments there's a real social aspect to it as well as the sporting element. We play for an entire weekend and the Saturday night often involves an evening meal or party in the company of team-mates and opponents. And playing for Great Britain (GB) means we mix with players from other teams, which makes for really good friendships as well. The community is important as well as the sport.
14 January 1977
Position (when playing):
- Winning the World Beach Championships in Rimini
- Fifth in World Ultimate and Guts Championships in 2008 with Great Britain.
- Playing for the Great Britain mixed team at 2009 World Games.
First Tour win with Iceni
RYG: When did your preparations for the World Games in July 2009 begin?
MC: The first training regime for the World Games arrived two or three days before the Christmas holidays in 2008. All the team played in the European Championships (2007) and then the World Championships (2008), so we'd been training hard for three years pretty solidly. As a result there was a level of fitness there that we were maintaining and building on.
RYG: How extensive was the training? How much time did you have to dedicate to it every week?
MC: I think everyone on the team has said it's probably the most effort that we've put into training, which is really where being an amateur sportsperson gets tricky. We trained five or six days a week, typically an hour or two hours every night. Our hard work paid off though, the American team complimented our fitness saying that we were one of the teams in the best physical condition.
RYG: How do you motivate yourselves to get through your training sessions?
MC: You definitely have to be very dedicated and persistent. Most of us felt privileged that we had been selected for the team. There were a limited number of places and knowing that some great players had not made the squad was enough to motivate us.
It helped that I live with Sue Pioli, who was also in the GB World Games team. Training with a friend is huge motivation. There were nights when one of us would come home tired from a day's work, and we spurred each other on.
The anticipation of competition was strong motivation as well. You knew you were going to compete against the best in the world, so getting yourself in the right shape to do your best was in the forefront of our minds.
RYG: How did you prepare yourself mentally for the 2009 World Games in Taiwan?
MC: Over the course of the previous six months we developed a pattern in the hour and a half prior to each game. We started in the changing room, got our kit on, then had a quick strategical chat with our coaching team. After that we went outside to warm up and finally, before the start of each game we were called on to the field and greeted the crowd. When the hour and half period was over we were both physically and mentally ready to play.
RYG: What skills have you learnt from organising tournaments and as a captain?
MC: In the past I helped to organise a Mixed Tour event. We put a committee together and project managed it. I've definitely learnt skills from organising sport which are then really applicable to a workplace and in other spheres of your life. And then vice-versa, they transfer the other way as well. Actually for me the thing that was most useful in that respect was captaining the GB Women's team over the last couple of years.
Myself, Sue Pioli and Sally Fraser captained together. I picked up all kinds of skills: how to motivate a team, how to motivate individuals, learning about different people's personalities, what makes them tick and how to get the most out of people. It's important to know which people respond to gentle coaxing and need their confidence building, and who needs straight talking and to be told where they need to improve. At a similar time I took a man management role at work and it was amazing the transferable skills between the two.
RYG: What advice would you give to young people wanting to follow in your footsteps?
MC: To be honest I don't regard myself as a particularly gifted athlete. I think there is a certain amount of talent involved, but I look at incredibly talented athletes with envy. The thing that often differentiates people is how much hard work they're prepared to put in. I would definitely regard myself as somebody who's prepared to put in a fair amount of hard work, and I think that's what's got me to where I am, rather than having oodles of natural talent. If you want something, be prepared to work really hard for it and you are quite likely to get there.