Jimerson paving the way for Native American women
By Celia Balf
May 5, 2015
Alie Jimerson is a freshman attack player for the University at Albany women’s lacrosse team. She lives about 30 miles south of Albany on the Cattaraugus Reservation, which is part of the Iroquois Confederacy, with her parents, three sisters and one brother.
Lacrosse is a gift from the Creator that was played by men for healing purposes. For women, however, their role is different. They are the givers of life. In Onondaga, lacrosse translates to “to bump hips.”
“To bump hips” ideally should be for the men in their sport. For Lyle Thompson, his brother Miles and cousin Ty, the path they paved at the UAlbany for Native American lacrosse players was known nationwide. Here, they have helped sculpt a program that has the top scoring offense, and attracts young men and women from neighboring reservations to become Great Danes, too.
However, as time has passed, girls like Jimerson have strayed from the traditional ways and found ways to play, while still paying respect to the Creator and fulfilling her role as a woman.
While women have long held power on reservations, lacrosse remains a man’s game. Facing adversity being a female playing this sport has been part of Jimerson’s journey since a young age.
Jimerson started playing lacrosse because of her mother, Claudia. Her mother played lacrosse during a time when it was forbidden. Alie explained that if women were to play lacrosse it would affect the men’s game. Despite the taboo against women playing, Claudia continued. It was a long period of protesting, fighting and loving the sport that has allowed young girls to now have teams to play for on the reservation.
“When I first started playing lacrosse my grandfather wasn’t a fan. But then once I got good, he didn’t miss a game,” Jimerson said. “He’s changing the way he lives and what he believes because of me.”
Jimerson explained how her grandfather was a traditionalist who didn’t believe in women playing lacrosse. However, seeing the resilience in these women and Alie’s ability, he is now beginning to evolve, just like the sport.
Alie said her father is in the new generation, so he accepts her playing lacrosse. She clarified how different the game is for men and women.
“I would never touch a wooden stick. It is a new era, however we don’t do what men do,” Jimerson said. “I would never burn tobacco or do any of that, because that would be disrespecting the Creator.”
Jimerson chose to come to UAlbany because she wanted to go somewhere other than Syracuse, where she said, “everyone is going.”
Jimerson started playing lacrosse at the age of 7. She played varsity lacrosse for her high school, Lake Shore (N.Y.) and also for a team called First Nations, which gave her the opportunity to play internationally.
Jimerson’s high school was the only one in the area with lacrosse. Out of the 18 girls on the team, 14 or 15 were Native American, she said. Many of the girls she has grown up playing with have chosen to continue playing at Syracuse.
“A lot of girls I know have gone to Syracuse to play lacrosse. They end up sitting the bench and not really having the opportunity to play,” Jimerson said. “But there is a scholarship there for us, you basically get to go to school for free.”
Jimerson is ranked sixth nationally for assists, with 38 so far. She has 57 points total, with 19 goals on the season, and has been awarded Rookie of the Week honors.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to play lacrosse in college. It wasn’t until I played for Haudenosaunee in the u-19 World Cup in Germany that I decided I wanted to play college lacrosse,” Jimerson said. “We didn’t do very well, but the experience made me a whole new player.”
Her experience at UAlbany has been different, she said, but she is getting used to balancing everything.
“In the beginning of the year I didn’t know what I was doing. I was dying, sweating and out of breath in the midfield,” Jimerson said.
John Battaglino is the head coach for the Great Danes women’s lacrosse program. Jimerson attributes her success this season to him.
“My coach has molded me into a really good player. I grew up around box games, my dad taught me that style and play. However I now know how to be disciplined. Battaglino has given me freedom to play my style, but has also taught me the discipline of the college game,” she said.
Jimerson has been able to stay true to her roots while adapting to the faster pace and rush of the college game. During the fall she went home frequently, but being in season this spring has prevented her from getting home as often.
Her teammates have been supportive, taking her in like a second family.
“I love my team. We mesh well together. The upperclassman really took us in, and we’re getting closer with the sophomores too,” Jimerson said.
She admires her teammate Rachel Bowles.
“I really look up to her. She’s a great player, she’s so modest and doesn’t yell at me, but helps me whenever she can,” she said.
Bowles is a junior midfielder for the Great Danes with 71 points on the season. She has been an anchor for the Great Danes since her time at UAlbany.
“Even as a freshman Alie has accomplished so much this year. She’s an amazing athlete with quick feet, quick hands, and has the ability to play all over the field,” Bowles said.
Bowles has endless faith in Jimerson’s ability and sees her carrying this program far in years to come.
“She has helped us get to where we are today and she will only improve year after year,” Bowles said.
The unanimous goal of the UAlbany women’s lacrosse team was to win the America East Championship. Unfortunately, they couldn’t accomplish that this season, as the Great Danes fell to Stony Brook in the America East Championship game on Sunday.
Besides winning, Jimerson’s goal is to inspire young girls to come to Albany and play lacrosse. She is beginning to hear young girls who her sister plays with say, “I want to come to Albany,” instead of the typical, “I want to go to Syracuse.”
Jimserson understands that the traditionalists still don’t believe in women playing lacrosse, but with the support of her family, and teammates, she hopes to inspire women to play lacrosse and be regarded with the same respect as men.