Journey to Becoming Pro
with Kylie Ohlmiller
15 Jun, 2021 · Lacrosse
Kylie Ohlmiller, Pro Lacrosse player, shares the challenges she faced in her lacrosse career, and the lessons she learned during her time in college and on Team USA.
Today's guest is Kylie Ole Miller, a professional lacrosse player for athletes, unlimited team USA, and four time, all American and two time American east conference, offensive player of the year at Stony Brook. She is the NCAA record holder for both single season and career points and assists.
In this episode, Kylie tells us about her journey on becoming a professional athlete and how her journey in college and pro-life has inspired her to give back to young girls and women in sport. In today's conversation, Kylie shares some of the challenges on going professional and women's lacrosse and talks about the program she created called Keio 17 lacrosse app. Kylie not only has worked closely with one of her sponsors, Brian, to develop a new product line that launched in March, 2021, but she also organizes camps and clinics to help inspire young athletes every day.
I loved Kylie story because she's taken everything she has learned from being an athlete and a great lacrosse player and transferred it and to becoming an incredible leader, she is involved in so many incredible developments for the future of women's lacrosse.
And I'm excited to share this conversation with the Vista community. Welcome to the voice in sport podcast, Kylie.
Thanks so much for having me. I'm excited to chat
Your experience is incredible. You have such a track record of taking a division one school from number 70 to number one during your time, which is really incredible to see. And you've been involved in several of the lacrosse leagues. I hate to say several because a few of them have failed. But we're going to talk about that today. And I wanted to kind of go all the way back to like where it started for you. So how are you introduced to the sport of lacrosse?
Yeah, so I grew up on long Island in New York. And if for anyone out there who knows lacrosse, we know that long Island is a hotbed for the sport. So as I was growing up, I grew up in a very athletic family, my sister, alongside of my parents. We were always just outside trying different sports, playing soccer, basketball, all the things. And you know, I got to a certain age around third grade.
I needed a spring sport and my sister, my best friend and I, we picked up a lacrosse stick. We tried it out at one of our pal practices at the local youth program in Islip. I immediately fell in love with it. I thought there was just a finesse to the game. The ability to be creative and be able to try new skills and get better and better with your stick. The more that you had it in your hands. I fell in love with the fast pace of the game and the finesse of it kind of combined. So ever since then, I've just been a lax rat. That's amazing.
So did you play other sports? What point were you like? Yep. I'm going lacrosse all in.
Yeah. So I, I am a big advocate for playing other sports. I swam, I played soccer. I played basketball all growing up. When I got to high school, I actually played varsity volleyball, basketball and lacrosse for four years throughout my high school career. I think, you know, when I knew it was lacrosse for me was around middle school. I knew that I wanted to Excel at the sport. I knew that, you know, playing for a very top prestigious club program with the long Island yellow jackets, I was grateful for those opportunities to be able to play with some of the best who have gone on to have incredible lacrosse careers. And you know, those coaches just provided me opportunities to be able to continue my lacrosse career as well.
So yeah, around that time, around seventh, eighth grade, I knew I want to be able to play this sport at the highest level. And at that point in time, the highest level was division one college across. So that became my goal. That became what I dreamt about when I slept. That became what I thought about when I went outside and I practiced by myself. And I was grateful enough to be able to continue my lacrosse career playing at Stony Brook division one.
That's amazing because we know that not all division one schools have a lacrosse team, it is one of the fastest growing sports. But when you get to the college level, not all those schools have those sport yet. So how did you decide on Stony Brook and, was it something that you had your eyes set on from the very beginning? Or did you go through like a pretty heavy recruiting process? Because that can be one of the most frustrating times I think, in the athletes journeys, but it also can be really exciting. So tell us a little bit about your recruiting journey.
I love the way you put that, you know, it's definitely a stressful time, the recruiting process, but it's also one of the most exciting I try to tell young girls that all the time now is just to enjoy the moment, keep an open mind. There's only one point in your life where you're going to be looking for the home. That's going to house you for the next four years of your life. So it's definitely a special time. When I look back on my recruiting journey you know, it was, it was a handful of division one schools that showed interest in me and I showed interest in them.
You know, I went on a couple of visits, we, myself and my family, we toured a couple of campuses talk to a couple of coaches. And you know, it was actually for me in the beginning, I wanted to. Try to get away from long Island. I wanted to try to get the quote unquote college experience. And that for me was getting away from home. So I was looking a little bit farther off the Island and when Stony Brook had expressed interest in me from a tournament that they saw me play at first it was like, maybe I'll take a step back. I'm not really sure, but I'm very grateful to my family, my parents for pushing me to keep an open mind and being able to say Hey, you never know. Right? Like, let's go see what he has to say. Let's go see what coach Joseph Molina has to say, what he might be able to offer you. You never know where your home might be fine, might be high. So you know, I was very grateful for the interest because the second that I stepped on campus, it was 30 minutes away from my hometown, but I fell in love with it. You know, the stadium is incredible. It was the place where we. did a lot of really special things.
By the time I got there as a Stony Brook program. And just the culture around the program was something so special that really drew me in when I sat across the desk from Joseph Molina and his staff, when I was a 16 year old girl being recruited, they were, painting out dreams for me that I didn't even know I had for myself. You know, let's take this program from where we are now, which might be unseen to places it's never been before places.
The school has never been before places, long Island lacrosse on the women's side has never seen before. Let's do special things with this program. Let's do it together. Let's buy in. And, from that second, I was bought into that belief, that vision and that ultimate belief in my potential as a player, to be able to help that program, reach those Heights.
Well, it sounds like the coach was a big part of your decision. And so what do you tell girls when they're like evaluating schools and, you know, always good to like, make a list of like, okay. The different areas of criteria that you want to evaluate when you're trying to decide which school like the coach is obviously a pretty big component of that. You know, I think it's hard though you were sitting there and there were numbers 70 in the ranking. So yes, it's good to have dreams yet. There was like quite a big gap from 70 to the top school for division one sports. So, how do you coach young girls to think through those different things when they're in the middle of it?
I think it goes so far to say. And I think a lot of, you know, athletes who have been through the recruiting process, when we look back on it, it's easy to say. Okay. Yeah, that was the moment. Right. That's when it clicked or that was the time I stepped on campus. That was the conversation that I had where I just knew. And it's difficult to express that to someone who might be going through it now or to someone who's looking forward to the recruiting process. And it's just like, what do you mean? You're just going to know, like, how am I supposed to know? And that's a question that we get a lot from these younger generations, from these younger girls who are going through the process. And for me, I think the biggest thing is try not to search for it. It will come to you that moment, but at the same time like you said, prepare questions and prepare what you want to get out of your one lacrosse career out of your academic career.
Out of I use this word a lot, but out of the vibe of where you are, right, it might be location. It might be city, it might be suburbs. It might be 30 minutes away from home and you didn't even know. Right. It was amazing for me to be able to have my. Entire family. And then my entire extended family at every single one of my home games. And that might not have been able to happen if I went across the country to play lacrosse. And I'm not sure the type of player I would have been if I didn't have that kind of support system.
So try to find and make a list of what you think is going to be important to you in those very, very vital moments in your life, right? The college experience, it's a very vital time in our lives where we're trying to figure out how to go from teenage girls to young women very quickly. So the people that you surround yourself with, and that's the teammates, that's the culture, that's the coaching staff, that's the professors and the academics. That's the support staff that you're going to get as an athlete on the academic side, that's all different in all different schools. So try to make that list of what's going to be important to you and how it's going to help you Excel as a human overall.
That's such good advice and it's a process, right? It's easier to just say enjoy the process, but it's really important to know it is a process and going in with an open mind, like you said, and just listening to your gut, because sometimes you're going to have a lot of people in your ear about what you should think is important and what you should consider. And ultimately you got to really rely on yourself and listen to what you want. It's so important. Cause you're going to be the one that's going to be there for four years. So important blocking the outside noise. Absolutely. So let's talk about, about like what your experience was in college then. So what was that transition like for you and how would you coach girls today that are about to take that transition and move from like the high school club team, maybe being the best one on their team to a new college team. What advice would you have for those girls for the transition.
It's definitely a transition. I think it's nothing to necessarily be scared of. Because I think it's a step up and it's a growing step up. And I think that's really important, right? As we go through life, like you go from middle school to high school, or you go from your club youth program at your town, and then you go play on a very prestigious club program. Those are steps up in, one your athletic career, but also just in who you are and how you express yourself.
So I think going from high school to college definitely at first it's a shell shock, but I try to tell younger girls that remember that there are people who are going through it with you. You're not alone. And there are people who are there who went through it at some point, whether they're seniors or they're juniors, they had a freshman year and they had their first week of freshman year where they were freaking out as well. Right. So try to look to the left and to the right of you and lean on the people around you. For a little bit of extra help if you need it, or, ask them those questions because everybody's gone through it at one point in their life. And if they haven't yet, they're most likely doing it right alongside you.
So just trying to lean on the people around you. That's something that I did a lot was just trying to ask my upperclassmen for help on, where were buildings, where for classes or what I should be expecting out of a tough week of practice and, look into my teammates who were freshmen alongside me of, okay. Like, are you feeling this too right now feeling this kind of anxiety? Are you feeling this kind of nerve wracking like first games coming up, you know, kind of feeling, are you feeling that too? Cool. Okay. Me too. All right. We're on the same page. Let's get through it together. Let's have each other's back. So yeah, I think that's just a huge thing just to lean on the people around you. I
Love that, you know, a big part of what we're doing at voice and sport is to create a community where girls can really lean on each other, talk about the issues that they have and have that safe space to have those conversations.
So I want to open it up a little bit to your own struggles. Like when you take a look back and think about your biggest challenge in high school and college as a female athlete, what would you say that biggest challenge was for you and that biggest struggle that you had and how did you get through it?
You know, what comes to mind first, when you say that is, going from high school to college, even growing up, I was always one of the most athletic people in my class or in the gym class and, you know, being the girl who was one of the most athletic ones that was something that I was proud of.
That was something that I knew that I surrounded myself with people who had those same kind of. Goals that same kind of, you know, instead of let's go sit around and watch movies and do our nails. We were outside playing sports and we were outside riding our bikes and just being super active.
Not saying there's anything wrong with painting your nails. I always have my nails painted, but I think that just kind of ties into my point of, yes, I'm a girly girl, but I'm also really athletic, like bad-ass on the field or when I'm training and when I want to be awesome at what I'm good at and what I'm passionate about.
And that's my fitness, that's lacrosse and that's what I'm really, really passionate about. So I think just kind of finding that balance of being able to be okay with being the quote unquote girly girl, and also the quote unquote. Athlete and being able to find that mix and just being able to say, like, this is me, I got a little bit of everything.
And I'm proud to say it. Again, I think that kind of confidence to be able to sit here in front of you and say this on this podcast, that I'm super proud to be, that kind of person is because of the support that I've had from friends, from family, from teammates and from people who see me for me.
As I've gone through those struggles and have seen both sides of me.
I'm glad you brought that up, because I think as an athlete, you find your identity in your sport and you feel yourself on the field, like when you're in that zone and then sometimes when you're then put in other environments, you are a little bit thinking well, what else am I and that identity and sort of understanding that you're more than just the athlete on the field and it's okay to have this dynamic view of who
It can be a struggle sometimes, you know? And I'm glad that you mentioned that. I guess I'm just curious, like, how did that actually show up for you in your life? Like how did that struggle show up for you? Was it more of like a mental sort of internal voice struggle? Did you struggle on off the field finding a place in life outside of lacrosse? How did you get to where you are now where you're like so comfortable in your dynamic parts of your life?
You know, it's so funny that you say, super comfortable now, because I think that it wasn't until recently where I really realized lacrosse it's my life. Right? It wasn't just something at first that I used to help get me into school and to college. Right. And then it was something that I excelled at because I put a lot of time and energy and effort into being the best version of myself as a lacrosse player for my teammates and for our common goal of making special things happen for Stony Brook.
Once I graduated and I wanted to continue to play professionally, I want to, you know, continue to hopefully make some more training team weekends with team USA and hopefully chase after a gold medal one day. You know, I want to still be able to be that best version of myself. And at the same time I have gone full lacrosse full-time as a career. So when that kind of comes into play too, you know, off the field, I'm still completely involved in my lacrosse athletic self. So I think to answer your question it's been a continuous struggle to be able to find that balance of off the field and who I am, and what's important to me and how I can separate, like who Kylie is Kao 17 lacrosse. Like when I'm wearing my I black out on the field, that kind of fierce competitor and that kind of person that I'm bringing into my coaching style and how I'm affecting young athletes and then being able to separate it into, you know, the, the girl who does like to get her nails done every two weeks.
I am very religious about that. I spend a lot of time in my own apartment with my puppy. My family is super important to me. I love going on little photo shoots and chasing after sunsets. And that's what's important, right. Is to know that it's okay to have many different passions, right. And so many different sides of you and being able to tap into all of it. So I think to answer your question, it's a little bit of a mental struggle internally, where as someone on the outside, who's looking at my Instagram, I'd be like, Oh, she's the most confident person I've ever seen in my life, on the field, off the field. Whereas that might not be the case for a lot of us, people that you follow. And I think that's important for young athletes to hear we're going through it too. And I think again, just like leaning on the people around us and like you said, having that community and that support system of knowing that, let's not tear each other down, let's bring each other up for what we do love and what we are passionate about. Even if they kind of conflict against each other. I love it. It's such a good message.
And I think so important because we're all struggling a little bit with that, especially when those transitions happen, right? Like when you move from one part of your life to kind of like switching it up. I want to talk about that for you, because you know you were in college, your program was getting to be number one from number 70, you were crushing it, but you didn't really think about, about playing pro right away. And so at a certain point you had that moment where you're like, yeah, I want to go pro I want to like make this my life. I guess when did that happen for you?
And how did that shift, I guess your mentality to everything that you were doing both on the field and off the field. Yeah, so we were just having an awesome four years. When I was at Stony Brook, we were doing some really special things and it's a Testament to a lot of the behind the scenes work. And a lot of the work on and off the field that we put in together as a team, I have to give my girls a shout out. I wouldn't be sitting here on this podcast without, 35 to 40 sisters amongst those teams that we really did special things together at Stony Brook. And we created just this bond that you know, I'm so grateful for and I would not be able to take my lacrosse career further without that time at Stonybrook.
And without those coaches pushing me without a lot of those different things that kind of added into the Kylie that you see sitting in front of you here. So yeah, I think just kind of like that transition going from Stony Brook and halfway through my college career was the first. Women's professional league was founded. And there was men's lacrosse on the professional level for, you know, 15, 20 years.
And it was something that I, as a player, like I'm a student of the game. Really am. And I watched men's professional lacrosse all the time because I thought like, Hey, these are high level players. They're playing our sport at the highest level. So to be able to see something midway through college, where I thought that the highest level of the game that I was playing at was going to be over in two years.
We saw something kind of be born and a little bit of extra hope for some of us who wanted to continue with the passion of playing lacrosse, post collegiately. So the UWL LX was founded that was the first professional women's lacrosse league from then on, by the time I graduated, there was both the UWL LX and the WPLN had just been founded as well. So when I graduated Stony Brook, I was lucky enough to be able to be drafted by both leagues. I had to make a decision. I was very grateful to be able to be on the New York fight the first year of the PLL. And that was in 2018. So that was right after I graduated from Stony Brook.
I think it was. Three weeks after I graduated and our season was cut short in the elite eight. And you know, just kind of all those sad moments with all those teammates at Stony Brook, it was a very quick transition for me. Whereas a lot of people who graduate have a little bit of time to be able to figure out what the next step is for me, it was, Hey, let's continue to play because we have this amazing opportunity in front of us to start something special for the sport of women's lacrosse. And I, wasn't going to miss that for the world. As you can tell, I'm still a huge lax rat as I started off when I was and third grade.
So the opportunity to play at the highest level, I mean, it was a no brainer for me. So I was very grateful to be able to play for the New York fight for summers until the WPML folded this past year in 2020 and sold all of its assets to athletes unlimited, which I'm very excited about. Because I think we are going to have a very sustainable model for women's professional lacrosse with AAU for the coming years.
And for these young women who are looking up to us, who also wants to play at the division one level, but then continue their lacrosse careers, post collegiately as well.
I love that. I mean, that's a big reason why I stopped playing in college was because there wasn't a league for soccer at the time for me to go on to. There was no more path, like division one was the highest and that was it. So unfortunately I stopped playing you know, I want to go back and talk about the leagues and see inability of the leagues. But first I want to talk about your personal decision to go for it because you study business in school. So, you know, the economics of the leagues and the fact that they weren't really sustainable going into it. And you made the decision to go ahead and go for it and become pro. So going back to those moments, did you actually question whether or not you should continue planning or pursue a career in business right away out of school, and I'm sure you had these sort of internal discussions at some point. So how did you make that decision
Honestly, to answer your question very straight up, I had no problem saying yes, I want to continue. And I think as you can tell If you give me from belief in goals and in a vision, and if I can have a play, if I can play a role in making those dreams and those beliefs come true by being involved in it, then I, I want to be involved. And that's what I saw with the WPL. That's what I saw with the future of professional women's across.
And I still continue to see to this day. So yeah, for me going from that business background, I knew that it was going to take a lot from us players to be able to put in our time and put in, our efforts and put in a lot of the work behind the scenes to be able to say that we're professional lacrosse players, that wasn't a possibility, like you said, it wasn't a possibility, you know, five, 10 years ago for these women who came before us, who put us in this position to be able to play at the highest level. So that is something I think a lot of us players, I'm speaking on a lot of our behalf, but definitely myself, I take very seriously because I know that There's a future of this game.
And if we can invest ourselves in, it we might not reap the benefits right now in this day while we're playing. But if the future generations can based off what we can do in these next coming years and in these last couple of years, even though our leagues did fold, we made some really big strides for women's across so far. So you know, I think just kind of continuing on that trend and being able to create something I always go back to this reference, but when you're in a classroom, right, when you're younger and the worksheet says, what do you want to be when you grow up? And these young girls can now, right. I want to be a professional lacrosse player. We want to be able to create that. And by stepping on the field and just by doing what we do for a living and that might be coaching full-time that might be starting your own business like myself while playing. If we can do that and we can show these girls that that's possible I think that's a no brainer and it's completely worth it for me.
I love it. So let's talk about a sustainable lead then. So how do you make a sustainable league? And what went wrong with the first two leagues at WLX and the WP L L why do you think they folded? And what have you learned, I guess, from those two leagues that you want to make sure happens, in the up and coming league with not just athletes and athletes unlimited, but the future of lacrosse.
Yeah. And I think the biggest thing that we lack is one investment and two exposure. And.
Those as you know, with a bunch of other sports we are big followers of the us women's national team, the soccer team the women's soccer pro leagues as well. And a lot of these leagues, especially on the women's side, they didn't just start up and like, it was a success right away, and we like to look back to that and just know that we're not alone in that battle. You know, it's not just our sport, that's going to go through the struggles of a couple different leagues. And until we find the right fit until we find the right investment until we find the right you know, people and support system, that's going to be able to get our sport out in front of eyes. It's never been in front of before.
To answer your question about how we can create this sustainable league, I think we've got a really exciting opportunity ahead in front of us with athletes unlimited you know, they also hold a volleyball and a softball professional league, two of which they just finished their volleyball season and. Both of which we saw on Fox sports, on CBS sports, on major broadcasting channels. That all three of our sports had never been on before, or had never been able to walk past the television in a public space, whether it's a restaurant or a hotel lobby, and you could see professional lacrosse or women's volleyball or softball on the screen, just the same way that you would see an NFL game. Right.
So I think it's all about that kind of exposure, broadcasting deals. It's all about just getting women's across. In front of eyes that have never seen the sport before, and this just goes back to personal story where this happened a couple of weeks ago, actually, I was watching my sister's game. My sister plays for Stoneybrook still. And I was watching her game as a proud alum, a proud big sister, just screaming at my laptop in the middle of a restaurant, first of all, yes, I had my laptop in the restaurant because it's not on a big broadcasting channel yet. Right.
And I think that's where the sport is going to make bigger strides and they have this year, but at the same time to go back to my story, there was a random man that walked past and he was like, like, those girls are tough. Those girls are awesome. Like, I've never seen that before. Like, who is that? What schools, what are they like, whatever. And that's what we want that reaction, you know, from people who have never seen the sport before, because then you ultimately grow fans and you ultimately grow the sport in interest and in what people want to see.
And so I think what we've been lacking up to this point has been exposure and investment. And I think what we're going to build off of is the investment from athletes unlimited has been incredible so far. And the exposure that they're going to give us has also been something that I'm really excited to showcase coming in July, 2021.
It's so cool. You're right. Brands need to step up the investment needs to come and the media partners need to step up. Right. We need to make it more visible for young female athletes to see our professional athletes like yourself. It's so important to be able to see the girls like yourself that are just out there crushing it. And it's a big part of what we're doing at voice sport too, is visibility to role models through our mentorship program. And we really want these girls to be dreaming that they can be it, but first they have to see it. And that's a big part of what you're doing, not just on the field, but off the field with everything you have going on Kylie.
So it's really inspiring. And I want to kind of transition that into the conversation of what you do off the field, because you do a lot. And I think part of it actually ties into what we were just saying, which is as a pro athlete in lacrosse, in the U S. I have to sort of think about your pro-life as multi-dimensional. So you're not just on the field. Being a pro athlete, working hard on your performance, your mental game. You're also having to supplement your income with side businesses, hustling coaching, and it's a bit of a battle, I think, to kind of be in that sort of mindset.
And you gotta be all in like you are. So I first want to talk about what drives you, you know, what is your why? And then I want to dive into some of these amazing brands and businesses that you're a part of. So let's start with your, why, what has driven you so far? Because it is not easy to be a professional lacrosse player in the U S you got to do lot.
Yeah. And, you know, I appreciate you recognizing that. I think that it is true, you got to do a lot and unfortunately not at a spot where we need to supplement our income with other ways. So I know a lot of us professional athletes, a lot of my peers and teammates are college coaches and that's their full-time gig, but at the same time training to be the best version of themselves on the fields a handful of others have corporate jobs, you know and they're still on the weekends on their time off early mornings before work and their sticks in their hand, making sure their performance is there.
So, you know, I give a lot of credit to the women and who do that for a living and then are able to just absolutely crush it on the fields. I think that is a Testament to just the kind of people that I'm surrounded by. That I'm been lucky to be a part of these leagues for but you know, On my personal side, I didn't necessarily know, like out of college that I was going to pursue lacrosse.
Full-time the way that I have. And when I say pursue across full time, I mean, when somebody asks me what I do for a living, I first say that I'm a professional lacrosse player because that's what I'm most proud of. And I think that kind of ties into my why. And then I am an entrepreneur of Kao 17 lacrosse, which is my own company founded, you know started from the ground up right after I graduated in 2018.
And we're at developmental program where we have our own app and we run clinics and events and camps all over the country. We have girls in our database from all over the world, which is incredible to say. I think just being able to take. My experiences from one yes, a lacrosse player. Like I want these girls and these young women to learn from what I know about my practices and my skills, and as a lacrosse player, how they can developmentally get better. But at the same time, a lot of my why derives from, and what I want to pass on to these girls is.
How they can be the best holistic version of themselves. Again, I'm not sitting here in front of you as just a lacrosse player is just someone who knows how to create all on how to shoot and how to get around a defender every once in a while. I'm on a good day, hopefully. But you know, I think it's also the mental game, like you said, as an athlete and what it takes to be a division one athlete at the highest level, what it takes to be able to start your own business as a woman, what it takes to be able to, live on your own and come up with your own nutrition and rely on the people around you, find resources around you to be able to help you keep you in tip top shape, to be able to perform at your best, but also handle the business side of things, handle all the other brands and sponsorships and opportunities that come your way.
I've been very grateful for a lot of the opportunities that the sport of lacrosse has given me. And I think that my wide derives from being able to give those opportunities back to one. That organizations that are providing them to me and to the next generation of girls who want to be able to be in my shoes one day.
It's a great way to have, and you're clearly killing it. You know? I mean, I love what you've done with your app and work that you're doing to help that next generation. So what skills have you learned from playing lacrosse that have helped you start your own business? Because being an entrepreneur is a Rocky road as you know, ups and downs, highs and lows. Right. So tell us about how, actually playing the sport, and sticking with it all the way through college and onto pro has helped you now, build a business.
Yeah. And I think you said that perfectly, right? Like just sticking with it. And there are going to be highs and lows just like there are wins and losses just like there are turnovers and then, you know, game winning goals on the field, it's the same thing when it comes to building a business and keeping it going and trying to creatively find new ways to be unique in the space and to be able to provide opportunities for these young women who you know, might not be seeing it with their club programs or might not be seeing it with their youth programs or are just looking for that extra edge in order to become the athletes that they want to be. So for me as an athlete, I've always wanted to kind of.
Push boundaries. I've always been a very creative player and I take that from a lot of the players that I watched growing up, who I'm very lucky to call my teammates now, shout out to Michelle Tumalo and Kayla trainer and Katrina Dow, just players that have always pushed boundaries in a sense of what they can creatively do with their stick. Again, making this sport, just something that people want to watch. I've been very inspired by that.
And that's the way that I play out on the field. I want to be able to creatively make plays happen out on the field. And when it comes to business off the field, I'm the same way. I want to be able to push boundaries. I want to be able to make Kao 17 lacrosse, something unique in the, in the lacrosse world that maybe the women's side hasn't seen before, which is why we developed our app, which is why we've been able to create this community of.
Girls who are from all over the world, play for all different club programs, play for all different youth teams, but they have this common goal and this common passion for the sport of lacrosse. And they want to ultimately one get better and to find this path to becoming the holistic version of themselves on and off the field that they want to be. So I think just pushing boundaries on and off the field has been something that kind of keeps me going and through the ups and downs
Well, let's talk about holistic. it's an important word for you. I think it's an important word for the work we're both doing. So when you think about the holistic approach to being an amazing athlete break that down for me. What does that mean?
Yeah. And I think I'll tie this into like across, because again, lax rat, but you know, I think it's, it's much more than being able to you know, shoot the ball in the back of the net or as a defender cause a turnover. It's being able to be a great teammate, right? No matter what circumstance you're put in, a lot of these young girls, these days are playing in a lot of showcase type situations where they're playing with girls they've never met before. So, being able to step outside our comfort zone and being.
Mentally comfortable and confident with a situation like that, knowing that we've put in the work outside of practice outside on our own to one, yes. Be able to showcase our skills as a lacrosse player on the field, but also be able to go out of our comfort zone and have a conversation with someone that we've never had met before. Be able to talk through a play out on the field and congratulate again, someone that we've never met before, someone that we've never played before, the same way that you would with a teammate that you've had for 15 years, and I think, again, just being able to work through the mental resiliency wins losses, but also the quick moments as well, the more subtle moments on the field where I just had a turnover. How do I turn this over, turn this back around and be resilient. Be able to bounce back for the next play that mental toughness, that ability to look inward, give a little bit of self criticism, but in a healthy way, that helps move you forward. I think is a big piece of how I've succeeded as an athlete.
It was a big piece of how my training shifted with my personal performance coach throughout my college career and into today. A lot of it sometimes like, yeah, we do the work with the conditioning, with the agility, with the stick in my hand. But sometimes it's not about that, right? Sometimes all those boxes are checked and you got to dig a little bit deeper and what's going on, up here in your mind might be the root of all of the issues.
So I think to answer your question in a long-winded way, but short way, I think just being able to tie in the mental piece of the game and how you feel overall with yourself is going to be huge and moving yourself forward as an athlete physically.
Totally agree. I mean the mental side of our game, just as hard as our physics side. And we're so excited for both of our organizations, because it's so important, to be thinking about that and] putting as much attention on that as you do your physical side. So tell us a little bit about Kylie's corner then, because you know, in your app you have Kylie's corner and you talk about some of these things. So I want you to give us a little bit of inside scoop what's the hardest conversation that you've had with your community.
That's a really cool question. Yeah, so Kylie's corner is one of the features of the Kao 17 lacrosse app. And I wanted to make sure that we added that in there for that exact reason, right. To be working on that mental training. So what it is is each week the community gets a video and a written out lesson of what they can work on for that week in their journals. I'm a big journaler. I always have been just being able to, in the morning, right on my to-do list, what I'm grateful for, at night, get my thoughts out on paper so that I can sleep with a clear mind whenever anything's bothering me, rather than, going.
And this is something that I need to work on rather than going to my friends or my family and talking to him about it. I write it down on paper. Meanwhile, my friends and family are like, please, but up to me and I'm like, it's on paper, just read it. But you know, I think it's important for these young women too. Start building those habits. Right. And being able to work through some of those situations. Yes, you want to lean on your people, but sometimes it's it's within ourselves.
So again, like you said, it's tough conversations, but with ourselves and that's sometimes the toughest is to be able to be self critical or be able to say like, Hey, I think to answer your question, the hardest skill that we've worked on, and this has been hard for me to work on as well is to write down things that you're good at and to literally look yourself in the mirror and say, I am awesome at blank. Or I really love blank about my body, or I am like really strong because of this. It's really hard for us to do. And I don't know why. Right? Like, I don't know why.
And I think it's cause we're so used to shutting ourselves down or, kind of quieting up a little bit and working on humility, which is a huge, huge thing. Yes. We want to be humble. But you also gotta be able to pull yourself out of a rut and when you're not feeling so confident in being able to turn to the mirror or look to your journal and be able to say I'm awesome at this skill on the cross, or I am awesome at , being able to tell my friends and family that I love them on a random basis. Right. I am really grateful for blank.
And I think just kind of, a lot of that ties into what we do in Kylie's corner on the keto 17 lacrosse app. And it's just, a reflection of what I do personally a lot. And I want to be able to share that knowledge and that experience with these girls. I want them to know that I'm going through it with them and I have, and I will continue to.
I love it. I think it's definitely one of those things as a female athlete, like we're so used to like getting critical feedback and coaching, in people pointing out like the negative things that we need to work on, in a good way. Right. It's critical coaching. It's important also when you're in the corporate world to like take criticism and then turn it into firepower and get after it.
And I think we’re so ingrained like that, that sometimes it's hard to do. Just like, look at the positive that we, have. So the power of like writing things down, we're a huge fan of that at voice in sport, writing down, having affirmations, learning about what affirmations are and the power that is so critical.
So I want to talk a little bit about The growth opportunity because, it's amazing that what you're doing on your own personal brand, but women's lacrosse has been growing like extremely fast in the last 10 years, right? 200% increase There's three times more programs in college now than men's, which is really amazing. And brands are starting to see that opportunity, right? They're starting to see that, Hey, maybe there's an untapped market here that we can get after.
And one of those brands that is doing that is the one that you're sponsored by new balance who recently restructured and rebranded brine. So used to be both men's and women's lacrosse, and now is solely focused on the women's side of the business. So tell us about Brian, what is the new mission and vision and how has this transition unfolded.
You know, it's been incredible. I signed with Brian and new balance right out of college. And immediately I fell in love with their kind of wording around being fearlessly, independent and the support that they've shown myself and the other female athletes that are on the Brian team ever since that signing day. They're huge supporters of co 17 lacrosse and everything that I creatively come up with with that. And then being able to kind of tap into what we've done in creating this. Women's only brand through Brian. Like you mentioned that used to be a men's and lacrosse.
Manufacturer under new balance, but now we have shifted ever since 2017. They've been kind of shifting to the women's side and this year in 2021 on international women's day we launched a campaign that shows our new logo, which takes away the King's head that it used to be puts in a nice, strong little triad of showing the, the showcasing of the strong women that Brian wants to support.
So we partnered with unconquered our agency and they did a lot of that research to be able to showcase the growth that women's lacrosse has had one at a youth level. But again, you know, just all the way up to where we are on the professional side over the last however many years, and we wanted to be able to show that to the world through Brian and through this rebranding and how important it is to have a company that supports us as athletes in what we do on just the women's side, where in the space, a lot of other manufacturers, a lot of other companies aren't doing so it's mostly men's and women's together. So it's unique. It's really important that we were able to showcase that in our little campaign that came out, we were able to incorporate a lot of research that we put together, research groups with young athletes, coaches, girls from across the country and ask them about what they struggle with lacrosse and with women's lacrosse and what they want to see more out of women's across and how they want to view it.
So we were able to take that kind of research and that kind of inside scoop and be able to put it into the Brian rebrand. And it's been a really great experience so far. We've had a lot of really awesome feedback from you know, retailers and just people in the lacrosse world and the space that are really excited about it as they should be. Right. Like, I'm really excited about it just to be able to represent a brand that. Is for women by women you know, and just looking out for women. So we're pumped to just be able to move the space forward in this way. And I'm super grateful to Brian for all the opportunities.
It's really cool. It's awesome to see that shift in the industry. I mean, coming from Nike, where we had a lot of different divisions and groups, I always thought there were just so much untapped potential in some of these sports, especially if you could focus on women specifically and actually start with women, researched by women, and you'll be amazed at some of the stuff that's coming out of those groups. So what are you most excited about, I guess, on the product roadmap for brine and tell us a little bit about the team that's working on it. Are there any other professional lacrosse players working with you?
Yes. So two of my team USA and professional teammates Marema Kool and Katie O'Donnell are two of our other female athletes on team Brian and the three of us, they got us together in our campaign video for the Bryan rebrand. And it's pretty much, with unconquered and a lot of the research that we did together with that agency to put this video in this campaign together so that we could kind of get our messaging across to the lacrosse world of. Hey, we might be under seen, or we might have been under scene up until this point, but we're not going anywhere. Right. We are here we are strong, we're fearless, we are unapologetic about it. And we're gonna, we're here to stay.
And I think that's something that shows in Murray's play. It shows in Katie's play on the field to people I'm very grateful to have met and be able to come friends with who used to be my opponents in college. Like, I think that's such a special thing as well, full circle. And just being able to have the support of both Brian new balance, but also unconquered and everything that they've kind of given us the platform to be able to do with this rebrand. It's been an amazing experience so far and just kind of tapping into what we can do with the next generation. Being able to give them these options amenities as well. I was very lucky to be able to help design, which is also incredible.
You know, it's just the opportunities that they've been able to give us to one, represent their products out on the field when they do go out and do our thing. But they've also been able to give us that opportunity to have a say in how it comes out and have a say in what the videos look like and be the voiceover of the videos when they come out. Like I was the voiceover in that Brian rebrand video, which I've never done a voiceover before but it's just an incredible opportunity that they're just showing so much support of what we want to do on the product side. Yes. And how we want to be creative with that. And what's going to come in the future. But also supporting the platforms that we have and our messages that we want to get across. In the lacrosse Corbo
Well, we know Brian was part of the last league as a sponsor. Do you expect to see Brian also be a part of athletes unlimited and continue to invest beyond the new branding and the product?
Yeah, so I'm hoping, so I think that they're going to definitely have some sort of involvement in athletes unlimited, especially with it being a women's only Bryant brand now as Brian and with athletes unlimited, only hosting women's professional leagues. So I see the overlap there. I see a lot of potential there and I am very hopeful that we'll be able to crush some goals together with both Brian and athletes unlimited.
Amazing. I hope that athletes unlimited is going to nail some amazing media partnerships so that we see more of. The lacrosse game this summer. So I'm really excited to have that first season happen. Let's talk about the importance of visibility to people like yourself into role models. Like, you talked about your experience in college. It was a male coach. I know that a lot of professional lacrosse players are also coaching on the side one, they probably want to, they're passionate about it, but two, they have to have incremental revenue. We talked to Michelle actually about this check out the podcast that we did with Michelle. She's amazing. So what do we need to do, to have more of these female role models within the sport of lacrosse and how can we support that?
Yeah, just to answer your question, I think that I was very grateful to have Joe spleen out as a coach. He was just a mentor for me in so many ways. And I think that he continues to be too. And I think that what my teammates and what else, a lot of these women in the professional side of lacrosse are doing as coaches as well. One, they get to showcase that, Hey, I'm still a player and I'm like a rock star at it.
So I'm going to take my experiences as not a former player, but still a current player playing at the highest level. And I can take it right to you directly to you as a coach. And I can take the struggles that you're going through on the fields, maybe with turnovers and maybe with having a tough day at practice, or maybe with injuries, I can relate to those because I, you know, I'm also a player. I also was a player.
So I think just to go back to your point of. Having those visible role models for these young women is really, really important. So not only at the youth level, but all the way up through division one college ranks, it's important to have those female role models who are there, who have gone through what those athletes have gone through as well. And I think just continuing to celebrate that both in life in general, but also on social media, right? Like those shout outs and everything. I know that USA, women's lacrosse, Instagram shouted out all the college athletes on the USA women's lacrosse team yesterday.
And that's just, you know, something that sticks out in my brain because why not shout them out, and they're doing incredible work and they're doing incredible things just to be able to stand in front of a team, be able to lead a team as a coach, but also as a player and be able to say, Hey, I'm here with you. I've done it. You can look up to me and let's do this together kind of thing.
So Kylie, you got a lot going on, you're doing a lot of amazing things. What legacy do you want to have on the next generation with all the work that you're doing?
I think the legacy that I would want to have if someone were, to have worked with me for a bunch of years or if they would consider me a role model, I would want them to know that in the sport of lacrosse one it's. Okay. And it's more than okay. To be one yourself. Right. Be yourself, have fun with it. You're there because you're passionate about it. I think that's a reminder that I constantly tell myself as well and something that I try to push on who I influence as well as like you're supposed to be having fun with it. Right. You're supposed to be creative out on the field. You're supposed to be trying new things that ultimately take you to the next level you're supposed to be failing. And then ultimately bouncing back from that success.
That's how we learn about life through lacrosse. And I think just kind of the main thing that I want, young girls or anybody who looks up to me to take from what I'm doing in the space is just to continue to dream, right? And if you have goals for yourself, write them down on paper, don't be afraid to chase them. Whatever outside noise you get be true to yourself and be true to your goals. Be true to your dreams, because if you do put in the work, if you do put in that extra time, if you do put in the time behind the scenes, they're going to come true. And anything that you kind of set your heart to and your mind to is ultimately possible,
It's a powerful legacy. And, just to continue on the hard questions we know that lacrosse is not the most diverse sport, and this is something that we need to all continue to work on is how do we make it more accessible and more inclusive, more diverse. And so I want to ask a question to you. It kind of relates back to role models, but if you are a girl in sport today in lacrosse and you don't see yourself represented, what message do you want to send to those girls today?
You know, I'd like them to know that the women who are in the sport who do look like them, right, and who are representing you know, that. Like you said, it's not as diverse as we want it to be right now. But the women who are working tirelessly to make sure that that is not the case in two years, in five years down the line make sure to look to them, make sure to look at them because they are doing incredible selfless and just tireless work too.
There's Alex Aust, there's Angie Benson, there's tare official lax girl, all of these women who are doing incredible work to make sure that this sport becomes more diverse, becomes more inclusive. And then at the same time, try to find the women like myself who are, doing their best to educate themselves. Right. Doing their best to find new ways, to be able to make the sport more inclusive at the youth level, as someone who coaches, as someone who offers opportunities for development.
I think try to look to the women who are doing the incredible job at kind of pushing that forward. So I'm hopeful that this sport is going to become more and more inclusive as we see more and more growth in the sport. Like you said, 200% in the last 10 years. I think it's only going to Excel from there.
And we want that 200% to include much more diverse group of women. So I think the more access we can give the better, and we all have a role to play in that. So thank you for shouting out those amazing women. We're going to end our podcast on just our two kind of signature questions here. So why don't you take a step back and think about, Hey, what advice am I going to give to myself? If I could like whisper into that 15 year old version of you, like way back? Well, not that far back, but a few years back. What is one single piece of advice you would tell a young girl in sport today?
I always go back to this one and it's something that my mom is very big on, but I would tell myself to stop and smell the roses a little bit and enjoy the process, enjoy the journey. I think a lot of times we look ahead to the next thing that we're supposed to accomplish without necessarily taking in and basking in all the greatness that's happening right around us. So yeah, I think I would just tell myself to slow down, enjoy what's going on around you enjoy the moments that are happening now. And you know, your future is going to come. Don't worry about it so much, but enjoy the moments that you have now.
I love that advice. It's so hard to do a moment, especially when you're in, I feel like college and high school, and then you look back and you're like, wow, those were amazing moments. Why was I so unhappy? Constantly, not enjoying the moment,
Always looking forward, right? Like in middle school, you remember looking forward to that? I can't wait to get to high school. And then, in high school as a lacrosse player, it's I can't wait till I commit. And then once you commit, it's like, Oh, I can't wait to get to college. And then you're looking through all these little moments that are super important. I think it's really important to just stop and smell the roses. You can never get those times back.
That's right. Important message. Okay. What is one thing I know this is going to be hard to keep it to one, but what is one thing you'd like to see changed for the future of women's sports?
I think exposure and I know that word is like overly used. But I think it really is just all about exposure and the way that you see you know, almost just the excess. I know my feed in just like in general is mostly lacrosse, but just in general, the population, if you think about a Twitter feed, or if you think about an Instagram feed, most of it is sports highlights for a lot of people. And even if you don't follow sports, it's athletes talking about social justice issues or anything like that, like sports play a big role in society in general.
So I think just being able to increase that exposure on TV, on social media, in front of eyes that have never seen. Female sports and female athletes doing special things before the way that we have been I think just kind of exposing that to the world. That's one thing that I am working to change alongside a lot of my peers and I hope to see great things happen for in the future.
Well, amazing. I'm excited to watch you play on the field in this upcoming season of athletes unlimited, but also to continue to see what you do at brine and with Kao 17. So your true inspiration love what you're doing and thanks for joining us on the voice and sport podcast.
Thank you so much for having me. .
Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us, Kylie. It is so inspiring to see how many important developments that you're involved in reminding us about the need to find an identity beyond sports, especially during those tough moments of transition. It's so important. It is not always easy, but like you said, we are never alone.
There's always someone else who sees us who hears us and wants us to succeed. I love to see Kylie's commitment into her own program. Kao 17 lacrosse that inspires the next generation of athletes to follow their dreams, regardless of the obstacles that get in the way she reminds us that the journey to becoming a pro athlete is difficult.
But instead of focusing your minds on the difficult times, we should learn to enjoy the process because at the end of the day, you will be loving what you're doing every single day. At voice and sport, it's our mission to bring more visibility to women and elevate their voice through stories like Kylie's, we appreciate you so much Kylie for sharing your story today, and you can follow Kylie on Instagram at Kylie old Miller 17.
And please check out her app Kao 17 lacrosse. You can always find us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tik Tok at voice in sport. Leave us a review. Subscribe, share our podcast with your friends to show support. And if you're an athlete, 13 to 23 years old, we'd love to have you join our community. When you sign firstname.lastname@example.org, you will have access to exclusive content mentorship from amazing pro athletes like Kylie expert advice with the top sports psychologists and nutritionists and advocacy tools to help drive change.
We hope to see you next week at the Voice in Sport Podcast.