Altamont grad Olivia Mannon played lacrosse at Mountain Brook and will be part of the Israeli women’s team at The World Games 2022 Birmingham. Even though she currently rocks a Nebraska license plate, she still considers Birmingham home. Here is her story.
Meet Olivia Mannon
Olivia Mannon in the early days of her lacrosse career. (Olivia Mannon)
In 2008, Olivia Mannon’s family moved to Birmingham because both her parents were physicians at UAB. She attended The Altamont School from 5-12 grade, and played lacrosse the whole time she was there.
Before The Magic City, the Mannons lived in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area of Maryland, where Olivia remembers older cousins playing the sport. One of her cousins’ girlfriends gave her and her sister a lacrosse stick when she was around six years old—at the time, it was as tall as she was!
Since lacrosse is really popular in Maryland, she went to watch her sister practice and thought “this is something I need to be a part of.” Then her parents signed her up for a rec league, where she learned the basics of the sport.
“Once we were finally able to play, it was one of the most immersive experiences I’ve ever had—there’s something about this sport that really makes you feel alive. It’s competitive, and technical, with a lot of finesse, but there’s a lot of power and I loved it. I love the amount of running and the athleticism of the game.”Olivia Mannon
When she moved to Birmingham, lacrosse was almost nonexistent, but she loved the sport so much she was willing to do whatever it took to keep playing.
Finding a way to play in Birmingham
Mannon did not play lacrosse at Altamont because it’s not a sanctioned sport through AHSAA (the Alabama High School Athletic Association). Instead, she played with the Greater Birmingham Youth Lacrosse Association (GBYLA).
The Association’s rules stipulated that players had to play for the area where they’re from within Birmingham. For her, that meant playing on the Mountain Brook Junior High and High School teams.
Playing lacrosse in college
Snapshots from Mannon’s collegiate career at Fresno State and Oregon. (Olivia Mannon)
Mannon went to Fresno State for four years of undergrad, but then broke her hand in the middle of practice right before her senior season. A week before she was ready to return to the game, the pandemic put a halt to the season and she went home feeling unfulfilled about lacrosse.
On a quest for “that coveted senior season,” she transferred to Oregon where she just graduated with her Master of Public Administration degree—and, she got to play her favorite game again.
Getting connected with Israeli lacrosse
In 2019, Mannon went to Israel on a birthright trip with a number of other lacrosse players. They competed in practice for three spots for “non-passport players” to play in the European Championship that Israel was hosting.
You guessed it—Mannon secured one of the spots.
A little background: The Israel Lacrosse Association has been working hard to grow the sport in Israel, and a lot of the team is comprised of Jewish North Americans.
While this wasn’t Mannon’s first introduction to the Israel Lacrosse Association, it was the first time she competed on the national team.
“It was one of the best lacrosse experiences I’ve ever had. It revived and reinvigorated my appreciation for the game of lacrosse. There’s something very special about playing for a country. There’s a sense that you’re representing something bigger than you on the field—beyond playing something that you love, it’s playing for things you believe in, like the existence of the State of Israel. We ended up winning a silver medal in the 2019 European Championships which was an amazing thing.”Olivia Mannon
Becoming a part of The World Games 2022 Birmingham
Mannon kept in touch with the Israeli Lacrosse Association, which wanted her to come back for the World Championship.
In September 2021, she went to one of the training/trial weekends, and found out a few days later that she was officially on the team and would be competing either in the World Championships, currently taking place in Towson, Maryland, or in The World Games 2022 Birmingham.
Initially, she was on the Championship team, but then found out a month or two later that she’d be on The World Games Team.
Along the way, she went through the aliyah process and became an Israeli citizen in February 2022.
Playing with the Haudenosaunee Nationals
ICYMI, this is the new name of the team formerly known as the Iriquois Nationals. Here’s a little bit of their history, in their own words:
“The game of Lacrosse is one of the Haudenosaunee most revered traditions a celebration of health, strength, courage, leadership, and fair play, and spiritually as a ‘medicine’ game. Over a century ago the Haudenosaunee were banned from international competition and the Haudenosaunee Nationals have fought to gain international respect and inclusion.”HaudenosauneeNationals.com
When I asked Mannon about playing the Haudenosaunee Nationals at The World Games, she said:
“I think it’s only right that the people who created the game that’s so loved and played all over have a place within the games. Our first game is against the Haudenosaunee team, so I’m excited to be playing them, because they’ve got a lot of good players.
I’m appreciative that whoever runs makes the international rules on who can play and who cannot made the right decision on this.”Olivia Mannon
On playing in Birmingham
“I can’t explain how small a world it is that I’m from Birmingham, and I’m actually going to be competing in The World Games. It’s definitely a true homecoming.”Olivia Mannon
Check out the full lacrosse schedule for The World Games 2022 Birmingham today, and stay tuned to Bham Now for updates throughout.