Behind the Whistle: 3 Questions for Kerstin Kimel


In 2015, Duke head coach Kerstin Kimel fought breast cancer.

This story initially appeared on Behind the Whistle, the official blog of the IWLCA, and is being republished with permission from the organization. Kerstin Kimel is the head coach of Duke University.

[Editor’s Note: From time to time we will feature a short Q&A with an IWLCA member coach. The format will be one question about lacrosse, one question about life and one fun question. This entry is geared towards Breast Cancer Awareness month, which started in 1985 and happens every October.]

1. Robin Roberts famously said about breast cancer, “It’s about focusing on the fight, and not the fright.” How did your background as a lacrosse athlete and coach prepare you to focus on that fight?

As a student-athlete, playing for Cindy Timchal at Maryland, I was physically and mentally challenged every single day. The volume and rigor of our training was very intense, and you had to be able to sustain a level of resiliency and mental toughness to compete at your best every day. When you are going through a cancer battle, there can be a lot of uncertainty, angst and physical suffering that can accompany diagnosis, surgery and treatment. I certainly called on my training mindset every time I stepped foot in the Duke Cancer Institute. I put my “game face” on so that I could be best prepared to handle whatever challenges would come my way during that time.

2. What did you learn about who YOU are during your health crisis that you may not have otherwise discovered?

I knew I was tough and tough-minded and would be mentally prepared to handle the battle that was ahead of me. I think my experience helped me to see how curious I was about health and wellness. Because of my experience, I now take care of my body in ways I didn’t before. I see an acupuncturist and a chiropractor on a regular basis. I have also worked with a nutritionist who has an extensive background in oncology and breast cancer.

3. If you could plan an event to celebrate beating breast cancer, with no limit on the budget and no restrictions on who you could invite, what would the event look like and who would be in attendance?

I would 100 percent invite everyone who was instrumental in my fight, from my friends, family, 2015 team, Duke co-workers to moms of my players who helped to educate and prepare me for my fight. We would go on a wellness retreat where we would exercise, eat the best food, receive wellness treatments (red light therapy, infrared sauna, massage, acupuncture, vitamin IV drips) … Probably somewhere tropical or on a ship that cruised the Mediterranean!


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