On July 1, 2021, Coach Colin McSharar announced the completion of the American coaching staff for Uganda’s first ever women’s lacrosse team. Kelly McQuilkin and Kali Bills will both be assistant coaches for this first African national team to compete in the World Championship next summer in Towson, MD. Nakato Dorothy and Keith Lubz will be the Ugandan local coaches who will be implementing training plans while the staff lives in America.
“I’ve always been told to seek out and surround myself with people smarter and better than me, so that’s exactly what I did,’ Says McSharar. “Both Kelly and Kali are incredible women who come from completely different backgrounds, have different experiences, and have different skillsets. This will allow the three of us Americans to serve the players on the team the best way possible. Our main goal as coaches is to give these women the best experience and to bring that experience back to Uganda to help grow the game.”
…Comes from Columbia, MD, a lacrosse hotbed just Southwest of Baltimore. She is currently the Associate Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator for High Point University. Kelly’s defenses have consistently ranked at the top of the Big South Conference since her arrival in August of 2017. High Point boasted the Conference Defensive Player of the Year each of the last three seasons, as well as eight total All Big South Defensive Team player awards in the same span. In 2021, High Point ranked 5th in the nation in Ground Balls. Also since her arrival in High Point, NC, the Panthers have both won the Big South Championship and made it to the NCAA Tournament for four consecutive seasons. On top of her responsibilities at High Point, she coaches with the Fusion Lacrosse Club in North Carolina.
“I’m so excited for this amazing opportunity to help coach the Uganda Women’s National Team,” says Kelly. “I’m eager to work with our defensive unit as we prepare for the 2022 World Championship. The goal for our defense is to get the ball back to our offensive end as much as possible. With high aggression and loud communication, out unit will work at one.” Kelly also promises to brush up on her Lugandan so she can partake in the on-field defensive communication.
Kelly had a standout playing career at Towson University in Towson, MD. She graduated there in 2017 as a three-year starter at Defense and was a captain her senior year. She is ranked in the top 10 all time in Towson history in ‘Caused Turnovers.’ In her junior year, the Tigers’ defense ranked 4th in the NCAA in goals against with 6.8. in 2017, she played in the IWLCA North/South Senior All-Star game and was one of 100 women invited to try out for Team USA before the 2016 World Cup. Professionally, she played in the WPLL for the Brave for two seasons, winning the championship in 2019.
“Kelly is one of the best and brightest young minds in the lacrosse world today,” says McSharar. “It’s not just her lacrosse IQ that will make her valuable to these women. She has natural leadership abilities and isn’t afraid to take on new challenges.” While at Towson, Kelly started the first ever FCA Huddle. With that, she prepared weekly bible studies for dozens of athletes and coaches.
Kelly majored in Finance while at Towson. It’s with that experience that she helped found the first ever NGLL in the Carolinas region that started in 2020. Her Mac Lacrosse LLC organizes the league’s finances. “All of these experiences and skills put together in one human make her an easy selection to be a part of what we’re trying to accomplish with this team,” states McSharar.
… has had a variety of different experiences as a player and coach, all of which have taken her all over the country. Most recently, she was selected as the Head Coach at Adrian College, a NCAA DIII school in Adrian, MI. The job will bring her closer to her roots as her family is originally from Michigan. Before that, she was the head coach at Elmhurst University just outside of Chicago. Her first experience in collegiate coaching came from Lindenwood University- Belleville in Missouri.
“One goal is to establish an offense that highlights the speed, athleticism, and joy our athletes bring to the game,” says Coach Bills. “A large part of that will be preparing a lacrosse curriculum that challenges the team to learn through creativity, quick decision making, and situational play. We need to find our rhythm offensively. The World Championship demands its own set of physical and mental challenges. When we make our appearance, we need to be comfortable in various game scenarios- both as individuals and as a unit.”
Kali has been involved in many different roles within the lacrosse world. With USA Lacrosse, she is a Coach Development Trainer as well as a lead Sankofa clinician- a group that offers free youth clinics for boys and girls from underrepresented lacrosse communities.
Kali grew up in Arizona and was the founder of the Northern Arizona University Lacrosse Club. While in college studying Exercise Science, she started her youth coaching career with the Arizona PACK. She had stints with AZGL, Team Arizona, Desert Heat Lacrosse Club, and Chapparal High school where she won a JV state Championship in 2015 and assisted the varsity team on their 2017 and 2018 State Championship title runs. In Chicago, she coached with New Wave Lacrosse and Elmhurst Honeybadgers.
Kali has faced her fair share of adversity as a head coach. Just months after her arrival as a graduate assistant at Lindenwood Belleville, she was elevated to interim head coach, and full-time head coach soon after. But just a year after becoming a head coach while in grad school, Lindenwood announced that the Belleville campus would close and all assets would move to the main campus in St. Charles, MO, effectively ending their lacrosse program. She then moved to Elmhurst University to continue her career. While there, the 2020 and 2021 seasons were both cancelled because of Covid-19.
“Kali has the energy and passion that the women we’re coaching will enjoy,” says McSharar. “She’s relatable. It’s hard to find too many young women with her positive, selfless attitude who also have had the variety of experiences she has. She has already accomplished so much in such a short time.”
We are Different
“This will be a team of uncommon women. So, this needs to be a staff of uncommon coaches,” Says McSharar. “I wasn’t interested in creating a job post, conducting interviews, and hiring the ‘top’ candidates with an impressive resume. That’s the common way to do things. We need to be uncommon. We need a staff with completely different backgrounds because our players come from a completely different background.” Though the coaches all come from different backgrounds, there is one thing they all have in common, and that is our
“The number one attribute that both myself and this team needs is for a staff that loves the Lord” says McSharar.
A unique characteristic of the Uganda Lacrosse Association is their deep relationship with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Just this past year, the ULA merged with FCA Lacrosse Uganda. The FCA has conducted a few lacrosse camps in Uganda, and has been instrumental in the growth and development of lacrosse in Uganda. The most recent FCA Lacrosse Camp was in 2019 that brought Coach Colin to the country for the first time. Colin was invited to coach at it because he coached at the FCA Lacrosse Camp at Lebanon Valley College- also where he met Kelly McQuilkin.
Coach Kelly states, “God has opened a door to share my love of lacrosse with these Ugandan women. And, the fact that we get to lead it in a way that honors and Glorifies Him is even more powerful!” She goes on to say “the World Championship requires speed, aggression, high IQ, and stamina that outlasts their opponents. As we prepare our defense (and team) for 2022, I’m excited to push these players to a new level they’ve never been to before. Together, we’ll grow together as sisters in Christ and as lacrosse players.”
“This is such a special opportunity to not only work with women who have faith in the Lord, but also grow the game and to be a part of a program that is making history,” says Bills.
On top of rigorous training and skill development, the team will be taking the time to grow in their faith together. “At breaks during practice, we’ll be able to pause, refocus, and look up,” Says McSharar. Players and coaches will be able to share testimonies about how God has and is working through them. ‘The Creator’s Game’ is truly about The Creator. When the coaching staff is in America, we’ll be able to conduct virtual calls and do weekly devotions. We’re growing as children of God just as we are growing as athletes. Every single (good) coach will admit that ‘culture’ is the most important attribute of a team. Skill and talent are nice, but there is always a limit as to how far that will take you. With God, there are no limits. So with us, there will be no limits.”
There is no doubt that history will be made when Uganda first takes the field in the 2022 World Championship. It’s an exciting opportunity that will be filled with many challenges. “I’m most looking forward to getting to know our athletes on a spiritual level, share in this experience with them, and to work with an amazing crew (Colin, Kelly, Dorothy, Keith, and Ibra) as we grow as brothers and sisters in Christ” says Bills.