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Corban University

November 13, 2019

Becoming Excellent Women Together: Kylie McMinn Shares Her Passion for Coaching Lacrosse

“I love to win as much as the next person,” says Kylie McMinn, Corban University’s new women’s lacrosse coach. “For me, that’s more fun. But my main focus is helping the girls become excellent women—athletically, academically, relationally, and spiritually.”

One couldn’t imagine a better person than Kylie to guide young women toward maturing in Christ and developing as athletes. She’s been in their shoes, and she knows what it’s like to wrestle with God and come out the other side with humility and grace—and a new commitment to wholeheartedly follow Him wherever He leads her.

Although Kylie grew up watching her father coach lacrosse, she intentionally avoided the sport for most of her life. “It was my dad and brother’s thing,” she says. Instead, she spent 18 years in ballet. Before coming to Christ at the age of 21, Kylie never could have imagined God would lead her to play the very sport she’d sought to avoid—much less coach it—and that her dance background had been preparing her for this path all along.

“People don’t understand how athletic dance is,” Kylie says, “the body control, spatial awareness, coordination, and cardio. It’s very athletic.”

For many years, Kylie had envisioned dance becoming a full-time career. She decided to attend a school in Arizona even before trying out for their dance program, convinced she could get in when she arrived. “I was very full of myself and overconfident,” Kylie says wryly.

“I got there and tried out, and I didn’t get in.” She tried out a second time, only to meet another rejection. Kylie found herself spiraling into an identity crisis. Without dance to keep her focused, she struggled to settle on a major and found herself succumbing to the school’s party culture. “I was the worst type of college-aged kid,” she admits.

Although Kylie had grown up in the church, she had never fully grasped her need for the gospel. “I would have told you I was a Christian, but I didn’t understand. I knew ‘Do this, don’t do that,’ but I didn’t really know why. So when I went to college, I thought, ‘Why not?’”

A series of poor decisions led Kylie down a path of substance abuse and spiritual darkness. She became consumed with fear and even began experiencing demonic night terrors.

One night, Kylie became so terrified of the demonic visions she was seeing that she called a friend who had recently become a Christian. He prayed with her, led her through the sinner’s prayer, and told her she could trust Jesus and go to sleep. “I felt so humiliated. Why do I need to do this? I already prayed this prayer when I was five.” But Kylie decided to take her friend’s advice and trust that “either I was going to die, or Jesus was going to save me.”

Kylie realized she had to put faith over feelings—to have faith in God’s love and protection, even when she felt terrified and alone. She went to sleep and woke up the next morning, unharmed. From that moment, she knew her life needed to change. She packed up her apartment and moved back home to California.

Kylie found herself with no job, no degree, and no direction. But for the first time in her life, she had Jesus.

Meanwhile, Kylie’s dad was starting up a new lacrosse team at a university in California and asked her if she’d be interested in joining the team. She said yes.

Little did she know that from that moment, lacrosse would become linked with her faith journey as God used the sport to demonstrate His faithfulness to her.

Kylie caught on to lacrosse quickly, finding immediate parallels between lacrosse and ballet. Picking up new plays was like learning new choreography, and the entire game felt like a performance.

When her dad accepted a new position as the men’s lacrosse coach at a small Christian school in North Carolina, Kylie transferred there and began playing for their women’s team. She made all-conference.

After she graduated, Kylie found herself lacking direction once again. Although she’d finally completed her college degree—three schools, seven years, and 266 credits later—Kylie still felt stuck.

On a whim, she decided to see if the women’s lacrosse team at her old school needed help. As it turned out, they did. They had just lost their coach, and the athletic director welcomed Kylie to act as interim coach—just to keep the women encouraged until the season was over, he explained.

“I don’t do anything halfway,” Kylie laughs, describing how she began to pour herself into her temporary team. Immediately, she began studying the game of lacrosse, developing plays, and working to improve the team culture. “They didn’t like to run—or each other,” she says grimly. But little by little, she helped the team she had inherited improve their conflict resolution skills, mental toughness, work ethic, and kindness toward one another.

Seeing Kylie’s investment in the team, the athletic director asked if she’d like to stay on as head coach. Kylie agreed, and went on to lead the young team to their first conference victory. By the beginning of the third year, she felt truly optimistic. “This year was going to be the year we started to tip the scales in the athletically competitive side. I was super excited.”

But before the season began, God intervened in an unexpected way and asked Kylie to take a bold step of faith.

One day, she received a call from Twiggs Reed, the athletic director at Corban University, asking if she’d be interested in becoming the inaugural head coach for the women’s lacrosse team. Kylie turned down the job in the first five minutes of the conversation. She couldn’t imagine leaving her young team. “It felt wrong,” she says. “I can’t leave this team that I’m building.”

But Kylie had learned that faith in God is about more than what feels right or wrong. It’s about truly surrendering to the will of God. She decided to pray about it and ask God if she should revisit her decision. “I devoted the next two weeks to prayer, trying to find the will of God, trying not to live by my feelings.”

It wasn’t until Kylie decided to come out to Corban for a visit that she knew God’s answer: He wanted her at Corban. She sold her furniture and her car and moved across the country to Salem, Oregon, to build Corban’s women’s lacrosse program from the ground up.

Kylie is excited to help Corban’s very first team pursue excellence, shaping the team’s culture from the very beginning as she hand-selects women who she believes will be a good fit. She plans to carry her coaching philosophy into every area of teambuilding as she hones foundational skills in the weight room, on the playing field, and in relationships.

As a coach, Kylie focuses on doing things well rather than doing them quickly. When women come in for weight training and immediately gravitate toward lifting heavy, Kylie reminds them, “Okay, can you do it right though? Because if you can’t, you are going to hurt yourself.”

She sees the value in spending time on small, seemingly inconsequential exercises that have a significant impact on the way a team plays. “A lunge, for example, seems so simple, but in order to do a lunge correctly, you need core strength and balance and ankle stability,” Kylie explains. “Because if you’re just wobbling through a lunge, then when you’re out on the field and you’re trying to juke a girl out of her shoes, and your ankles aren’t stable and your core isn’t stable, you’re going to get injured.”

Starting with the basics, from weight training to stick skills to conflict management, is more important to Kylie than quick fixes and sloppy successes. Rather, her priority is longevity—preventing injury, keeping a team unified, and showing her athletes how to become not only excellent players, but excellent women.

Throughout the recruiting process, God has continued to remind Kylie to trust in Him. Although she admits it’s tempting to rely on her own strength as she pursues her vision for the new program, Kylie is reminded over and over that it’s only by God’s power and for His glory that she can accomplish anything.

“I’ve been learning so much about resting on the Lord and doing things in His strength and letting go of hope in myself,” Kylie says. Even when she experiences rejection amidst her dozens of phone calls with prospective athletes, she reminds herself that God will build the program in His timing, with players who are the perfect fit for Corban.

“That’s what I’m looking for,” Kylie says, “girls who love lacrosse, love the Lord, and are committed to learning how to love each other.” Countless times, she’s found the opportunity to preach the gospel over the phone as she asks each young woman about her faith in Christ.

“Having a relationship with God is really the first step in applying to Corban,” she says. Loving lacrosse comes second. And Kylie carries that same philosophy into the program itself. “Ultimately, we’re here to become excellent women together—myself included—and casually win a championship on the side.”

Learn more about becoming part of Corban’s lacrosse team! Or reach out to Kylie directly at kmcminn@corban.edu.