Sue Pioli

Sue Pioli (in white) forcing a Finnish player at the European Championships 2007. Copyright: Graham Bailey.

Great Britain Ultimate Frisbee player Sue Pioli talks about the commitment required to play at the highest level.

Interviewed by Tim Sanders, BBC Blast Reporter.

Raise Your Game: Why did you start playing Ultimate?

Sue Pioli: I started about thirteen years ago in university. A friend tried it out and said it was good fun and suggested I try it. I went along and enjoyed myself and have stuck with it ever since.

Profile

Name:
Sue Pioli

Born:
25 June 1977

Game:
Ultimate

Teams:
Nice Bristols
Great Britain

Position (when playing):
Handler

Achievements:

  • Winning the World Beach Championships in Brazil 2007.
  • Finishing second at European Championships 2007.
  • Fifth in World Ultimate and Guts Championships in 2008 with Great Britain.

Personal Highlight:
Competing at the World Games 2009.

RYG: What do you find so rewarding about playing Ultimate?

SP: I enjoy many aspects of it. I enjoy keeping fit and playing is more enjoyable with greater fitness. I like the atmosphere of playing Frisbee. I really enjoy that there are no referees so the players are responsible for their own sportsmanship. That instils a certain amount of respect between players and attracts people with a good sporting attitude.

The aspect of Ultimate that really attracts me is that while it's a team sport there's an element of one-on-one competition, when you're competing for a high disc or you're trying to beat someone to a disc. You have a bit of a one-on-one battle, but within a team sport. Also, being part of a team sport means you get to enjoy team achievements.

RYG: What have you done to progress as far as you have in Ultimate?

SP: Playing Ultimate for Great Britain (GB) is a big commitment. You have to commit to individual fitness training on a weeknight basis, tournaments on weekends and there's the financial commitment of travelling to international tournaments. You've got to ensure that you're preparing for these tournaments and you have to make sacrifices on meeting friends and even attending friends' weddings.

RYG: How do you maintain a positive attitude towards Ultimate despite all these sacrifices?

SP: You have to remember why you do it and that you enjoy it. When you're tired or the weather's bad or your friends are going out and you'd rather be doing that, then you've got to crack on with it because in the long run it will mean you'll perform better and enjoy your Ultimate more.

It helps to have a training buddy. This season Maria and I have been training together and it definitely helps to have someone who is training and making the same sacrifices as you. We motivate each other when we're struggling.

Sue Pioli. Photography by Sophie Watson RYG: You competed at the World Games in Taiwan in 2009. How did you find competing at the world level in front of 8000 spectators?

SP: It was really exciting. We played in a beautiful brand new stadium with a big crowd who were getting behind us. I was concerned that I would be a little bit daunted by that, but for some reason it didn't really seem to affect me. The crowd were really supportive and I took a lot of energy from that.

In terms of the competition, it's brilliant when you're able to match up against the best in the world when man-marking them.

RYG: What skills have you learnt as a team captain?

SP: There's a whole range of skills that you need. Knowing your team and being able to manage people is a key part of it. In a team there's a whole bunch of different personalities and you've got to manage those personalities, making sure everyone's confidence, fitness and commitment is at the highest level.

Then there's the management of strategies for overall performance, strategies for on pitch performance and the administrative side of planning for your training. In the last couple of years I managed the GB team alongside Maria Cahill, Sally Fraser and Anja Haman. Each of us brought different skills and it made quite a successful management team. The skills that you pick up from team sports are transferable to all walks of life, certainly the management skills have been invaluable.

RYG: What's the key to becoming a successful team?

SP: The key is commitment. Everyone needs to be committed: committed to the cause, committed to the training and all singing from the same hymn sheet so that the team together are a success. Team work is essential too, you don't want disruption to the team ethos.

RYG: What advice would you give to young people wanting to follow in your footsteps?

SP: It's about commitment, drive and focus really. It does at times seem like a lot of work, but I think the biggest part is to enjoy what you're doing. If you enjoy it, then the commitment, training and effort that goes on behind the scenes just comes easily. You want to do that if you enjoy what you're doing. Then the focus necessary for skills and fitness training and your commitment to the team will come easily.


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