Coach Profile: Miranda Knowles
The Atlanta Hustle's Assistant Coach Brings an Undeniable Positivity to New Franchise
By Adam Ruffner & Caitlin Cieslik-Miskimen
Ask ultimate legend and Atlanta Hustle Assistant Coach Miranda (Roth) Knowles a question—any question, really—and you’re likely to get a thoughtful and passionate response. Topics can range—the high school science teacher, ultimate legend and coach is used to addressing both the interesting and inane, but her responses are consistently insightful, sincere and unhesitatingly nice.
Her favorite sound? The solid, affirming thock of a two-handed catch.
“There’s nothing like that sound when you gain possession,” Knowles said matter-of-factly.
The most gratifying part about being a coach? Working one-on-one with players, and watching them transform from an anxious ball of nerves that agonizes over every throw to a confident playmaker.
“I really love being an assistant coach,” Knowles said. “I’m excited about helping players discover new facets of their game. I love really trying to help people figure things out.”
She’s even meditated on the Atlanta Hustle team name.
“I like our name—we’re going to be all about hard work,” Knowles said. “We’re getting everybody tuned up so they all fit together.”
It’s little wonder she’s able to craft purposeful responses and answer any question you throw at her. Her two decade-long playing career has taken her from Atlanta to Minnesota to Seattle, and then from Israel to Shanghai to Singapore and back to Atlanta, with hundreds of tournament stops, coaching camps and training clinics in between. And just try mentioning her name to anyone who’s been around her, and they’re prone to use many superlatives that are surely over-emphasized, but never entirely exaggerated.
She’s the type of person whose name is usually accompanied by laudatory titles—she’s a superstar, an inspiration and “quite possibly the top ultimate female athlete of all time,” with the hardware and world titles to back that claim up. Knowles is also an ultimate advocate, and, along with Montreal Royal assistant coaches Caroline Cadotte and Guylaine Girard as well as the DC Breeze’s Sarah Itoh among others, part of the small group of women breaking into the world of professional ultimate coaching.
“This is a really new challenge, and part of the allure for me is there is a very different quality of ultimate,” Roth said of her decision to join the Hustle franchise, and her first time coaching elite level men in particular. “This is another new puzzle that my friends and I are going to talk about all the time.”
By “friends,” Knowles means Hustle Head Coach Greg Swanson and Advance Scout and strategist Martin Aguilera. Both are longtime friends of Knowles’ and fixtures in the Atlanta ultimate community, and both share many of the same values of hard work, preparation and mindfulness. Knowles and Aguilera even share a hallway at the Paideia School, where she teaches biology and he teaches physics, and uses breaks between classes to go over ultimate tactics.
“Martin would just appear in my room and say ‘Hey Miranda, I have this new drill’ and we’d go over it in between periods,” Knowles said. “We had all these ideas about everything. We never stop talking about ultimate.”
More importantly, they share a desire to make a bigger mark on the ultimate community beyond winning games. An outspoken advocate for ultimate, Knowles has taken on the additional responsibility as the Clinic Program Director for the Hustle, and is constantly preaching the values of accessible and inclusive ultimate—her coaching is as cultural as it is tactical.
“Being in a dual role makes a lot of sense to me,” Knowles said. “I can really contribute to the team’s development, as well as accomplish a lot of my goals with outreach. We want to cultivate a really strong community for the Hustle.”
Back in her hometown, Knowles is focused on bringing the professional brand of ultimate and its opportunities to the city’s many different communities. Her longtime work with youth development programs, especially with women, coupled with her unbridled and contagious excitement has already caught on with a lot of people on the Hustle.
“A lot of guys have already come up to me and talked about participating in clinics,” Knowles said, noting that it is equally rewarding for a player to share their knowledge as it is to receive instruction.
A self-described details person, Knowles’ own ultimate knowledge is deep and kaleidoscopic, often branching from a central topic to many more nuanced workings within the same general idea. After describing her favorite sound (the two-hand grab), she then digressed into a breakdown of the precise kinetics of such a grab—body positioning, the particular overhand grip of both hands securing the disc as well as the velocity and angle of the throw itself. It’s no wonder then that she has an extensive bibliography as an author and ultimate strategist.
But what really makes Knowles instruction so effective is her ability to communicate and work in cooperation with others, all while being uncompromisingly kind.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about the really beneficial effect positivity has on our play,” Knowles said. She cites the overwhelming evidence she’s seen that points to how players flourish in constructive environments, as opposed to the rigid, sometimes harsh criticisms of disciplinarian systems.
“It’s about having the players feel like they are really getting better.”
Knowles, Swanson and Aguilera plan to collaborate to make sure the Hustle creates its own identity as a team, and that the work they do makes the team and the Atlanta ultimate community better by the end of the AUDL season.
“We’re definitely going to make everybody better, and also try to take some people who haven’t gotten opportunities and turn them into great players,” Knowles said.
There are still a lot of questions for the Hustle, but that’s OK—Knowles is used to providing answers.