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Sideline Star: KC White, the only female Mental Toughness coach in Ohio

At 5-foot-2, KC White may stand out on the sidelines, but she's filled with determination, encouragement and grit.

HUNTING VALLEY, Ohio — In football, being tough is just part of the game. It's not just about being able to take a hit; it's about how you get back up.

At University School, tough comes in the form of 42-year-old KC White. She's 5-foot-2, and in a sea of football pads and helmets, she stands out.

But on the sidelines, there's nothing but respect. That's because White is the only female Mental Toughness high school football coach in the whole state.

"A Mental Toughness coach is someone who helps people figure out their strengths so they can use them to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals," KC told us. "That's the privilege of my job, is to really get to know people and help them claim who they already are."

White sets goals for the players at every practice and every game. Just ask them.

"Coach White is truly the glue that keeps our team together," University School senior Bryce Hodge said. "Sometimes you get a bad ball and you're not able to catch it, or sometimes you get a good ball and you don't catch it and it can be very frustrating, and it can be very hard to just move on to the next play.

"But, after a rough play, when I come off to the sideline, Coach White always makes sure that I'm in the right mindset, which allows me to perform at the level that I do."

"Tough" has a different meaning if you look a little deeper, according to KC.

"I think there's a perception that being mentally tough means that you just push through hard things," she explained. "But what I've come to learn is people who are mentally tough are able to feel all of those emotions of fear and anxiety and nervousness and sadness."

To that end, there's something you should know about KC's own toughness.

"I live with cystic fibrosis, which is a genetic disease that affects really the whole body, but primarily the lungs and digestive system."

She was diagnosed at a time when living into adulthood generally wasn't possible, and even today, only 11% of the CF population is over 40. But KC learned at an early age that life is about tough choices.

"It was obviously a very devastating diagnosis for my family, but the doctor that diagnosed me told my parents to raise me to be a responsible adult because she just felt like there was promising research on the horizon," she remembered. "Because of that, my family decided to choose hope over fear."

Choosing hope over fear led to her success in lacrosse, soccer and other sports. She's married with a 15-year-old son, and waiting for that promising research has paid off.

Credit: KC White
KC White, who lives with cystic fibrosis, waterskiing. (Credit: KC White)

"I actually started a new drug in 2019," she said. "The drug is called trikafta and within three weeks, my lung function went up 15%. I used to constantly cough and that is greatly reduced, so I'm just so incredibly grateful."

White's not only bringing hope to players on the field; she's sharing other folks living with CF, and she's heavily involved with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

"[People living with cystic fibrosis] are resilient because we've had to deal with so many different things," she stated. "But there's lots of strategies, and I love to be able to pass that wisdom on to one of the communities that matter most to me."

What matters most to KC is that she continues to build up her team. 

"I learned so much from these boys too, though," she said. "Like, it is just a place of privilege to be able to, you know, help them witness who they already are and all the amazing things that they bring."

As far as her plans? Don't worry, she's not going anywhere.

"I love being part of this football team," she declared. "I can't imagine leaving."

For more information on the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, click HERE.

For more information on being a Mental Toughness coach, click HERE.

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