An in-depth conversation with Kylie Ohlmiller who shares invaluable life lessons from being a multi-sport athlete to giving back to a sport that provided so much to her. We get a meaningful look into Kylie's journey as a professional athlete, business owner and thought-provoking game changer on and off the field. She shares her story and lessons from her early days surfing to her trip to Panama with her sister through Lax the Nations (LtN), to what the future holds and lots of fun facts in between.
Kylie is an absolute game changer in the lacrosse world, influencing this generation of female lacrosse players domestically and internationally. Kylie is dedicated to creating a holistic athlete on and off the field through her company KO17 Lacrosse. She provides world-class training accessible to all which intersects physical training and technology no matter where you are. Off the field, she creates her own balance with her love of the beach, rediscovers herself on the road to recovery, becoming dog mom to Oakley and #1 fan to her boyfriend as he heads into his PLL (Professional Lacrosse League) season.
Her lacrosse accolades include, playing for Team USA, a two-time Tewaaraton finalist, an Athletes Unlimited Professional Lacrosse Player, Stony Brook University’s leading points holder, and business owner of KO17 Lacrosse.
We asked Kylie to share her story, to better understand her why, her inspiration, her motivation, what gets her going and we discover so much more about Kylie on and off the field.
What came first, the chicken or the egg? Just kidding, what did come first, lacrosse or surfing?
Pretty much around the same time!
How did you start surfing and why do you love it?
My uncle and cousins are the big surfers - they taught me how to stand up on a board and paddle and get hit by waves, then get back up - when I was 6 years old. I have to admit, I don’t surf much anymore - my board hasn’t been touched in quite a few summers, but hopefully one day I’ll get back out there. My family’s love for it is inspiring and I know it’s definitely something I used to have fun with!
When did you first learn lacrosse? And, the position you started as a youth lacrosse player, is it the position you play now?
I first picked up a lacrosse stick when I was 8 years old. My younger sister, Taryn, my best friend, Hana, and I went to our first PAL practice for our town team [Islip] on the same day. We shopped at Sports Authority for matching, factory strung sticks and goggles and headed out to try a new sport. When I started to get the hang of catching, throwing, cradling I was hooked - I loved that the more I spent time doing it, the better I got at it and the easier it got, meaning the more fun it got! I was a little bit of an athlete growing up, so I first started out at midfield, just naturally wanting to be wherever the ball was. As I grew up, I shifted to a low attacker position and that’s where I found my niche and attraction to the offensive side of the ball.
Did being a multi-sport athlete help your lacrosse game? If so, how?
Absolutely! I could write a whole book on how. But to list a few reasons:
- I looked forward to lacrosse season! Playing volleyball in the Fall I got to focus on something I didn’t practice all year long & it was exciting to be good at it. Playing basketball in the Winter, I got to compete and try to be the best defensive athlete I could be having to play all over the court. And then when lacrosse season came around, I realized how much I missed it and it made it all the more special.
- Strategically, basketball and lacrosse can show so many similarities on both ends of the ball - pick & rolls, to zone vs. man to man defense, to transition, to play-calling, etc. That helped a ton!
- In terms of the off-field/off-court lessons I learned, volleyball taught me a ton about shaking off my last mistake and focusing on the next play as well as the finesse part of a fast-paced sport. I also played libero in volleyball, so I learned how to toss my body on the floor in a safe and controlled manner - which if you’ve watched me play lacrosse, I have been able to master in my game there as well.
- I think that by playing other sports I also learned from other coaches along the way and got the chance to play with different athletes as well. This helped me add different ways of handling criticism, understanding coaching strategies, working with other players and coaches as a leader and player.
When players and potential recruits hear that college lacrosse teams only recruit “tall” players, how do you respond?
Best thing I can say to this is that it’s not the size of the player, it’s the size of the heart. I’m 5’2” - I stopped growing in the height chart at about age 13.
What do you most cherish about your time playing at Stony Brook?
The time I got to play on a team that was considered a true “underdog” with a locker room full of girls who wanted to prove to themselves and the community of supporters that we built together that we belonged at the top with everyone else. The blood sweat and tears we all put into those goals together and witnessing some of it come true. Playing with my sisters - all 35 of them… and my actual sister, too.
You got to play with your younger sister, Taryn Ohlmiller, who by the way, graduated with the second-most goals and assists in Stony Brook program history (behind you) – what’s Thanksgiving dinner like? Kidding aside, what was it like playing with your sister?
Playing with Taryn was a dream come true. We started playing lacrosse together the very first day we picked up a stick together, and we got to see it through to chasing after a National Championship together wearing the same jersey. There are tons of ups and downs when it comes to playing lacrosse at the highest level, and to have your sister there with you through it all is absolutely unmatched and something I’m so grateful for.
Great to see you headed to Aupro Professional Women’s Lacrosse again this summer. How is your healing journey since your ACL tear at the World Lacrosse Women’s Championship last June 2022? And have you ever had an injury like that before? Did you learn anything during your recovery process?
Thank You! I’m grateful for the opportunity to get back out there. I’ve had my fair share of injuries, ones that have kept me off the field and ones I’ve played through - but never one of this magnitude. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by some awesome people who helped me through - my sister, Taryn being one of them as she’s had this surgery done twice before.
The healing process is long, and I’ve learned to focus on the little goals. Looking ahead to the next time I’d step on the field was something I tried to avoid - that was the ultimate end goal, absolutely. But in terms of keeping focus on what was in front of me - I wouldn’t be able to get to that end goal without the little hurdles I had to step over each week in terms of my recovery first. So, I focused on those with the help of my physical therapists, my teammates checking in on me, my performance coaches, and of course my family and friends.
“The little things are what will make the big things even bigger in the end” is something I’ve been living by.
Talent is an understatement with the surge of lacrosse superstars in women’s lacrosse. What do you attribute to this explosive boom where girls and women have so many more opportunities to play after college?
The more exposure to our game is what’s going to elevate us to new places. I like to say that we are making such incredible strides in terms of where our professional game is [only 5 years in] and where our college game is [all over ESPN and SportsCenter] at such an incredible rate. I think the more access people across the world can have to watching and learning from the best in the game, the more those people can relate to someone like them and try to emulate their game - in turn elevating their own game, and so on and so forth. It’s such a fun full circle cycle and I think we’re just getting started thanks to everyone who’s come before us who put us in this place to shine!
What would you say is your unique superpower in lacrosse?
My ability to facilitate. My whole goal when I go out there is to create the best possible opportunity that the moment provides us. Whether that’s the dodge to the goal for the shot, or it’s a dodge that draws a slide so it’s an easy pass to an open teammate, or it’s the skip pass so that my teammate can make a sick move - whatever it may be, I’m just looking for the best opportunity.
For girls that are brand new to lacrosse, what one piece of advice would you give them?
Stick with it – it’s one of the hardest sports to pick up because cradling is tough, catching takes a lot of focus, and throwing feels super awkward at first. But I promise, the more you have the stick in your hands, the more you’re going to want to have the stick in your hands! It’s the most beautiful game, and it’s given me and so many of my friends so many things we would have never experienced without it.
For girls that are looking to play at a higher level, whether it’s for a competitive club team, or High School team, what advice would you give them?
Be open and willing to learn and grow! The best thing you can do is focus on being a great teammate, ask questions that will help you grow as an individual player but also as a team player, and leave 100% of your effort on the field and good things will follow!
For girls that are looking to play in College, what are the top 3 things they should focus on when speaking to or emailing a prospective coach?
- Tell your story! Coaches are people, and people usually remember things that stand out when they talk to lots of people a day. Find something unique about yourself and your story and highlight it.
- Mention things you like about their program or how you feel their program aligns with your values. Be specific!
- Be as open as possible when it comes to the entire recruiting process in general - I never thought I’d end up 30 min away from home at Stony Brook and it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. Be open and explore different options you may not think are originally on your hopes and dreams list!
For many years, the NCAA has used the name, image and likeness (NIL) of college athletes to promote NCAA athletic programs and drive revenue. Today, the NCAA's interim NIL policy allows student-athletes to receive compensation for the use of their NIL where female athletes like gymnast Olivia Dunne are receiving up to 3.4M in sponsorship deals. Do you see female athletes in lacrosse receiving these types of sponsorship deals? How do you feel about the NIL overall and how this impacts sports?
I think that NIL deals are great for women’s sports in general because athletes have gained the freedom to make just as much money off their name, accomplishments, and journeys as the organizations that they play for. I believe that as long as these deals are utilized for the correct purpose - meaning brands that athletes are partnering with are supporting the athletes’ willingness to do good in their community and continue to emphasize their success and what makes them who they are as people and athletes, then these kinds of sponsorship deals can be used for all sorts of good!
With the World Lacrosse Men’s Championship happening in June of 2023 here in San Diego, do you feel the visibility will help get Lacrosse in the Olympics?
The Women’s World Championship being in Towson, MD last summer followed by the Men’s World Championship in San Diego, CA this summer is huge for the home fans in the US that are elevating the popularity of the sport as a whole. Having fans physically at games can truly help showcase how much of an impact our game can have in communities all across the globe. The most important thing that I see in both of those Championships is the number of nations that are competing just continues to increase each time there is a World Championship, which means that the game is being introduced and practiced at high levels all over the world and Olympic dreams aren’t far off because of that.
We recently did a post with Lax the Nations (LtN) only to discover that you and your sister Taryn traveled to Panama with their organization. How did that trip impact you? What was it like looking through the lens of these young boys and girls?
Our trip to Panama with LtN was absolutely amazing - getting the once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to such a beautiful place with my sister and our two best friends, but then also be able to see what the sport that has connected the 4 of us for so long is doing for the kids there - it was an unreal and unforgettable experience. Looking back on it, I am so inspired by those young girls and boys for their openness to learn a new sport, their dedication to it every single day despite some difficult circumstances for some of them, and how much fun they were having playing lacrosse in general. I hope to be able to have that much fun while I play!
Technology (in particular social media) can be our friend (or foe at times), what inspired you to build an App for Lacrosse?
Technology and social media have provided me and my business with so much growth, opportunity, and a network we would have never had without it. I always wanted to have a sustainable way to create a community that could access our on-field training 365 days a year, even when I’m not physically there. That’s what inspired me to put the KO17 Lacrosse App to life - culminating a community of like-minded individuals who want to get better at the sport, support each other, and learn more about the holistic approach to becoming an elite lacrosse player by building other skills like mindset, recovery, film study, academia, and more. It’s been so much fun to see our community grow and add unique features to the App as we continue to build!
Why did you start KO17 Lacrosse? Who/what makes KO17 run?
I started KO17 Lacrosse because I wanted to provide a place where girls could come to get better and go out of their comfort zone when it comes to their on-field training but also their off-field growth as people, teammates, and leaders. I also had high hopes of traveling to new places in order to bring people experiences and knowledge they may not have access to without those moments. Myself, my vision, and our team of App Developers, our coaches, our partners, and our NIL Sponsored Athletes are what make KO17 Lacrosse run day in and day out - and we wouldn’t be us without each and every one of them.
Is there any meaning or story behind your logo and branding?
Our KO17 Lacrosse logo is the shape of the eye black that I wear on my face when I’m playing in games. I’ve been wearing that eye black since I was in high school, and as I had success in college is when it started to become something, I was known for in the lacrosse world. I originally started wearing it as a way of expressing myself on the field - just adding a little extra game day flare and having fun with getting in a competitive zone. Our hope when we put together our logo was that people could connect to that idea, and they would connect the KO17 eye black logo with all of our values in not only how I play but how we teach, how we operate our business, how we converse with people, and everything in between.
Anything on the horizon for KO17 that you are most excited about or want to share?
We have some fun events coming up this Summer, including our third annual KO17 Elite Experience which is our once-a-year camp that brings all the features of our KO17 App to life at a 2-day experience. Each of our NIL sponsored KO17 Athletes are also holding their own “Back Home Clinics” throughout this Summer and Fall as well - where they will headline clinics for the youth players in their hometowns hosted by KO17 Lacrosse. Very excited for them to shine during those!
How can lacrosse players best utilize and access your product?
- Download the KO17 Lacrosse App in the App Store
- Visit KO17lacrosse.com
- Follow us on Instagram - @KO17lacrosse
- E-mail me at kylie@KO17lacrosse.com
5 years from now, where do you see yourself?
Hopefully still playing the game in some sort of capacity. KO17 Lacrosse will still be growing and thriving. My family will hopefully be happy & healthy. And I will hopefully continue to add some sort of creativity to my everyday life - whatever that may look like!
BONUS: Speed round, you can only respond with ONE answer for each – what are you favorites at the moment:
What are you reading?
People We Meet On Vacation
What’s your hype song?
Centuries by Fall Out Boy [my goal song at Stony Brook]
Your favorite lax memory (again, only ONE)?
Any pass to my sister for a goal at Stony Brook followed by a hug/jump into her arms celebration
You’re on a desert island and can only have one meal, 3x a day for 30x days straight (don’t worry about the health implications), what is it?
Chicken Nuggets & Fries with different sauces to dip them in for each meal :)
Name of your pet child (or children)?
Oakley - 2 year old Australian Shepherd
Object or material thing you love?
Amazon - everything Amazon
Who do you admire & why?
My Dad because he’s taught me to work for everything I want to earn, with gratitude for the people around you who are in your corner
What are you currently watching on Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime?
Friends or New Girl are always background shows in my house
Self-care routine/practice you recommend?
Staying consistent with my skincare routine in the morning and nighttime has helped my skin health improve tremendously, but it also kickstarts all my other habits that I want to keep up with daily
Favorite place to travel?
I want to get to Europe again, I went for the first-time last year
Chocolate of any kind
What men’s team is winning the PLL?
Favorite life quote/mantra?
The little things are going to be what make the big things even bigger in the end.
Thank you Kylie, for sharing such invaluable lessons with us in life and lacrosse… Keep creating the balance, spreading your positivity and infectious energy and love for the game! The lacrosse world appreciates you, your leadership and your dedication in developing the holistic athlete on and off the field!
Triad Athletes will have an opportunity to host Kylie and her training this summer! Visit this link to sign up for her open clinic on June 29th, 2023. All levels welcome!
To learn more about Kylie Ohlmiller and her business KO17 Lacrosse visit:
About KO17 Lacrosse
“We inspire the next generation to dream big and achieve greatness on and off the field through holistic training and cutting-edge technology.”
KO17 Camps and clinics can be found here.
Can’t physically make it to one of her trainings? Get coached by Kylie herself, by downloading the app here. Join the community and find out what the entire lacrosse world is talking about!