By Lee Davis
Plenty of high school athletes play two sports in a year.
Olivia Mannon sometimes plays two sports in a single day.
Mannon, a senior at The Altamont School, doubles as a lacrosse and soccer star. In the spring season, particularly, she can be a very busy young lady.
“Since both lacrosse and soccer have spring seasons, I’ve had to play twice in one day. Sometimes I’ll play lacrosse in one part of town and then race over to another place to play soccer,” Mannon said. “It’s been easier on everyone since I’ve been old enough to drive.”
Since Altamont doesn’t field a girls lacrosse team, Mannon, a Mountain Brook resident, plays for the Lady Spartan varsity. She is a two-time all-state player at the center/midfielder position and sees considerable time as a defensive specialist.
Mannon earned all-state honors in 2013 and 2014 and represented Alabama at the U.S. LaCrosse Women’s Division National Tournament both years. She also stars with XTeam Black club squad.
Her biggest thrill in lacrosse may have taken place last week, when she signed a letter of intent with Fresno State University. Mannon made a bit of history, as well. She is believed to be one of the first NCAA Division I commitments in women’s lacrosse from Alabama.
“Ever since the eighth grade, it was a dream of mine to earn a scholarship to play at the Division 1 level,” Mannon said. “Having this opportunity makes all the blood, sweat and tears I’ve put into the game worthwhile. It will truly be a privilege to have the chance to play with the best.”
Lacrosse is clearly in Mannon’s bloodline. Her older sister Eleanor plays for Wellesley College in Massachusetts.
Mannon also is a starter for the Altamont soccer team, a perennial power in Class 1A-3A. Last season she won the coveted Coaches Award for excellence in the sport. But there’s no question which game she prefers.
“I’m getting a scholarship for lacrosse, so that’s my favorite,” she said, laughing.
Growing up in Maryland, Mannon began playing lacrosse at an early age. In the fifth grade, she moved with her family to Birmingham as her parents took jobs at UAB. Mannon loved her new home but received a culture shock about where lacrosse stood in the youth sports pecking order at the time.
“Maryland is a huge sport for lacrosse,” she said. “So I was surprised to see that it wasn’t nearly as big in Alabama, especially for the girls. “So many kids didn’t even know lacrosse existed. But finally, I found the GBYLA (Greater Birmingham Youth Lacrosse Association) and began to play.”
Mannon made an immediate impact, despite often having to compete against older girls. Later she led the Mountain Brook Junior High team to consecutive state championships in 2010 and 2011.
Even now, Mannon finds a lot of curiosity about lacrosse from friends and fellow students. “I try to explain that lacrosse is a lot like field hockey except that the ball goes in the air,” she said. “Really, lacrosse is a mixture of several sports, and the skills learned from it can be helpful in athletics generally.”
Mannon said she is encouraged by the growth of lacrosse in recent years. “The GBYLA had a big event at Mountain Brook recently and a lot of kids showed up,” she said. “It was mostly boys, but there were a good number of girls there, too. There’s great potential and excitement for lacrosse growing out there, and I think it will just get better over time.”
When Mannon isn’t busy on the lacrosse or soccer fields, she is active in school. She is the senior class president, a member of the National Honor Society, and an Altamont Ambassador.
How does Mannon keep such a hectic pace? “It’s all about time management.” she said. “Everyone says that, but it’s true. It’s a little like an artist with a painting. He fully concentrates on what he’s doing at the time and at the end he has a masterpiece.”
Admittedly, her schedule does get a little crazy at times. There was the day she attended a soccer event in Huntsville and had to race back to Birmingham for a lacrosse game. She made it – just in time for the start.
“I’ve had some close calls,” she said. “But I’ve never been late.”
Being punctual and juggling two sports has paid off for Olivia Mannon in a lot of ways. By signing with Fresno State, she completed her masterpiece. ϖ