Lacrosse — “The Fastest Game on Two Feet”
North America’s First Game. Invented by Native Americans, lacrosse is considered to be North America’s first sport. In the traditional Native Canadian version, each team consisted of about 100 to 1,000 men on a field that stretched from about 500 meters to 3 kilometers long. These lacrosse games lasted from sun up to sun down for two to three days straight. Lacrosse played a significant role in the community and religious life of tribes. Early lacrosse was characterized by deep spiritual involvement, befitting the spirit of combat in which it was undertaken. Those who took part did so in the role of warriors, with the goal of bringing glory and honor to themselves and their tribes.
Emergence of the modern game. In 1867, William George Beers founded the first Lacrosse Club in Montreal. He created the “Beers’ Rules” by shortening the length of the game and reduced the number of players to twelve per team, By the 20th century Eastern US high schools, colleges, and universities began playing the game predominantly at prep schools and private universities. The growth of the sport was limited to the capacity of the production of lacrosse sticks. Up until the 1970s, virtually every American lacrosse player’s wooden stick was produced by Mohawk Indian craftsmen from the St. Regis Reserve near Cornwall, Ontario. In the 1970s, synthetic sticks were mass-produced giving more players easy access to an essential piece of equipment and the sport began to grow rapidly.
Lacrosse today. All of this brings us to today to where lacrosse is the fastest growing team sport in America. US Lacrosse reports a 168% increase in participation from 2001 to 2011, outpacing all other sports. This explosive growth has occurred at every level of competition. The NCAA Division I Men’s lacrosse championship now regularly draws crowds second only to those at the men’s basketball championship and certain bowl games. There are two professional leagues in North America with 17 franchises between them, and franchises in Denver and Buffalo regularly have an attendance of more than 15,000 fans.
Rules of lacrosse. Like basketball, every player on a lacrosse field plays offense and defense, and players are constantly in motion unless the ball goes out of bounds. There are ten players on each team: 3 attack, 3 midfielders, 3 defenders and a goalie. Each player carries a lacrosse stick with up to four players carrying a “long crosse” (sometimes called “long pole”, “long stick” or “d-pole”) typically used by defenders or midfielders. The field of play is 110 yards long and 60 yards wide. The goals are 6 feet by 6 feet. The goal sits inside a circular “crease”, measuring 18 feet in diameter. Each offensive and defensive area is surrounded by a “restraining box.”
Each quarter, and after each goal scored, play is restarted with a face-off. Attackers and
defenders cannot cross their “restraining line” until one player from the midfield takes possession of the ball or the ball crosses the restraining line. If a member of one team touches the ball and it travels outside of the playing area, play is restarted by awarding possession to the opposing team. During play, teams may substitute players in and out freely. Sometimes this is referred to as “on the fly” substitution.
Lacrosse is fast paced and fun to play. Every player on the lacrosse field will likely handle
the ball many times. Lacrosse is a great off-season sport for hockey and football players
given the similar level of physicality and athleticism required.
New to the game? Or want to brush up on the official rules — here you go:
Spotters and score keepers must be aware of the rules for scoring lacrosse (e.g., groundballs, faceoffs won/lost, goals, assists, clears and etc.). Just as is done in baseball, game action in lacrosse can be recorded according to systematic guidelines. These statistics are important in terms of analyzing the performance of our team over time, performance against opponents, and compiling statistics used to determine team, regional and state awards.
Curious about lacrosse terms (e.g., “yard sale,” “d-pole,” “groundball,”) — consult this handy online dictonary.