Jalyn Jimerson just wrapped up a weekend in Kingston, Jamaica, where she won the gold medal with the Haudenosaunee at the Pan-American Lacrosse Association Sixes Cup as one of the team’s offensive stars.
The win capped off a busy international calendar for Jimerson, who competed for the Haudenosaunee at the Super Sixes event in Canada in October, and twice in 2022 at The World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, and at the World Lacrosse Women’s Championship in Towson, Maryland.
Jimerson is part of an experienced core of women’s players on the Haudenosaunee and has NCAA Division I experience at both Syracuse University and Clemson University. That pathway of collegiate and international lacrosse is popular and achievable now, but has not always been.
The Haudenosaunee women first appeared in a World Lacrosse senior championship in 2009, compared to the men’s team, which made its first appearance in 1990.
“It might have been somewhat controversial for girls to play lacrosse because of our traditional values and people’s different perspectives,” said Jimerson. “I grew up on a reservation, like my parents, in a traditional upbringing – which I’m thankful for. Both of my parents played lacrosse and just wanted to pass the game on to me.”
“My sister Alie is four years older than me and of course I wanted to do everything she did,” said Jimerson. “Our dad instilled in both of us playing with a good mind, which is about being grateful every time you step onto the field, and taking the mindset wherever the game went.”
Jimerson started playing around age 5 at a club team on the reservation with lots of games on the weekends in the summer with many of her friends.
There were women who had started to go to college to play lacrosse, but Jimerson noted not many people in general went to college from the reservation at the time.
Jimerson joined a club team and slowly started to realize that a sport she loved could be a collegiate opportunity, especially with recruiting efforts starting as early as middle school at the time.
Her sister went through the recruitment process and played at the University at Albany before Jimerson eventually decided to pursue college lacrosse herself at Syracuse. Her experiences with travel teams and youth international teams made her realize how popular the sport was getting and that she could compete at the next level.
“There are lots of different routes to take as a young woman and I had childhood friends choose to stay on the reservation in an immersion program,” said Jimerson. “I think each individual has to find what they want to do the best they can, and while lacrosse did not start as a focus for me, I really was excited to play college lacrosse and get my degree.”
Jimerson said that her collegiate career was a challenging but rewarding experience, and what kept her grounded was her parents’ original messaging about being grateful for the experience of playing lacrosse.
And Jimerson’s moments with the Haudenosaunee National Team in this time frame were especially impactful.
“The more times I went to play for the Haudenosaunee, the more grateful I was,” said Jimerson. “It was always so fun, and the girls were awesome. Playing with people with the same background and mission, being surrounded by people who love the game is truly special.”
Jimerson credits her international experiences as instrumental in building lifelong friendships and bonds around the world.
“Playing for your people is a special experience and as Indigenous women, we’ve come a long way to now play at the highest level,” said Jimerson. “The Haudenosaunee jersey has always been one of my favorites to put on. Those moments like the anthem before the game or just being together in the locker room, there’s immense pride everywhere. There’s nothing like the feeling of representing your people.”
Jimerson’s journey and sentiments are similar to so many other women in lacrosse, especially at the international level. Jimerson says that everywhere she has been, the game has helped women find their voice.
At Clemson in 2023, Jimerson was part of a women’s empowerment group with student-athletes from different teams, professors, coaches and other staff members who made sure their needs were met and encouraged members to support each other.
“Honestly, it was one of the best groups I’ve been a part of,” said Jimerson. “It’s so important for us to advocate for each other and always have that confidence to speak up.”
“In general, I think it’s so important to support people no matter what their gender or background is,” added Jimerson. “Lacrosse is an incredible elevating force because it allows us to come together on common ground.”
Jimerson specifically highlights the efforts of Dana Dobbie, who was one of the leaders working to get women’s lacrosse in the Olympics.
“As women, you want to unite yourself with people who have the same mission and lacrosse is a great way to bring people together.”
Jimerson, like everyone in the lacrosse community, is thrilled about the sport’s return to the Olympics to see different lacrosse communities represented on the biggest, most exciting stage, and that the growth with the Olympic journey can make a difference.
“The game is growing so much in so many different places that it’s exciting” said Jimerson. “Just being in Jamaica for the PALA Sixes Cup and seeing kids with lacrosse sticks asking to play catch is such a cool moment.”
Going forward, the lessons Jimerson has lived from lacrosse are important to pass on to future generations.
“As the game grows, I think it’s an important reminder to know where the sport comes from, and its history and origins,” said Jimerson. “As a girl, it’s amazing to now have competitive opportunities like world championships and collegiate lacrosse, but throughout my years, the best way to enjoy this game is to remember the reason why we play.”
“It’s playing for the Creator, having a good mind, and really understanding this is a medicine game to have fun and bring joy to people. Lacrosse is more than just a sport. It’s tied to traditional values of Indigenous people, and we need to always emphasize the true meaning of playing lacrosse.”