As she boarded the bus to West Point, Kimmie Mignone had no idea what she was about to experience. It was a beautiful day, sunny and what people would describe as “perfect soccer weather”. Mignone, a rising senior captain of the Montclair State Women’s Soccer team, was preparing to play in her final spring game as a Red Hawk against Army. The New York native was jumpy with excitement; the team had been playing well, she had been playing well and she was ready to prove that a Division III state school could roll with the “big dogs” of Division I women’s soccer. What Mignone was not aware of at the time, was the sacrifice it would take to come out on top.
Throughout her soccer career, Mignone had witnessed her fair share of teammates’ injuries; broken ankles, concussions, ACL tears, and more. She was a member of a team that united around injured kids, drowning them with incessant encouragement until they were finally able to play again. “That’s just what we’re taught to do, it’s what our program is about. You play your hardest for your best friends because you know they would do anything to be on the field with you”, says sophomore midfielder Ashley Koester. In her three years at Montclair, Mignone had never been the “hurt kid” that players rallied around. On April 23rd, 2016, that all changed.
As Mignone’s game-winning shot flew by an airborne West Point goalkeeper, teammates, players, and parents looked around as they heard what sounded like a tree branch snapping. MSU Head Coach Patrick Naughter recognized the situation and immediately sprinted onto the field with Army Athletic trainers close behind. What had sounded like a tree branch, had been the two bones in Mignone’s shin splitting in half. The number 10 on Mignone’s back flattened into the turf as Naughter held her shoulders down, preventing her from seeing what the next few years of her life would be centered around.
A recovery that typically consists of a cast and a few months of physical therapy was prolonged by any and every complication in the books. Weeks in the Intensive Care Unit were followed by nine surgeries that required months of intensive rehab in order for Mignone to walk normally again. Through the toughest times, the love and support of her family, teammates and coach is what kept her spirits up. Coach Naughter praised his players saying, “I expect that kind of support from our kids. It was really awesome to reaffirm that we have great kids on this team who will be there for each other regardless of what is going on.” Of Naughter, Mignone says, “He went above and beyond for me every day. It was really nice to see people come through for me when I needed it.” Though playing soccer is no longer in her future, she says “My injury has changed me into someone I’m really proud of. It is something that was really good for me even though what happened was really, really bad.” Mignone, now an assistant coach for the women’s program will bring the experience and perspective of not only a veteran player, but of someone who has overcome an extremely traumatic ordeal. Mignone is an inspiration to everyone who knows her; she went through the worst of the worst, and, no matter how much pain she was in, never failed to reciprocate the support she received. With the positive attitude she’s known for, Mignone says, “Care and show compassion for the little things, because you don’t know if it will stay a little thing. You never know what will happen next”.