Missing image
A women's lacrosse player carries the ball past a defender.
For other uses, see Lacrosse (disambiguation).

Lacrosse is a team sport played by two teams of ten players each who use netted sticks (called crosses in French) in order to project a small rubber ball into the opponents' goal.

The sport is of Native American origin. Its native name was dehuntshigwa'es in Onondaga ("men hit a rounded object") and da-nah-wah'uwsdi in Eastern Cherokee ("little war"). It was usually played over the range of 3-10 miles. Since there was only one ball, players would concentrate on injuring their opponent with the sticks. Sometimes the game would last for days. Today, lacrosse is popular mainly in North America. The World Lacrosse Championship for men and women is played every four years.

Variants of the game include field lacrosse (played outdoors), box lacrosse, indoor lacrosse, women's lacrosse and softcrosse.


Evolution of the game

Lacrosse has been modified a lot since the Native Americans first began playing it in the 1400s, but many aspects of the sport remain the same. Each team was made up of about 100 to 1,000 braves on a field that stretched about 500 yards to half a mile. Sometimes, the fields were even several miles long. Rather than having traditional goals where the ball has to pass through the goal posts, many of the Native American teams used a large rock or tree as their goal. They would hit the deerskin formed ball against the goal to earn points. These lacrosse games lasted from sun up to sun down for two to three days. The games were played to settle any altercations between tribes. Lacrosse was also used to toughen braves in preparation for potential combat.

The game became known to Westerners when a Jesuit Missionary, Jean de Brebeuf, saw the Huron Indians play it in the 1600s. By the 1800s, lacrosse evolved to become more of a sport and less violent as French pioneers adopted the game. In 1867, W. George Beers, a Canadian dentist, codified the game. For instance, he shortened the length of the game. Beers also reduced the number of players to ten per team. By the 1900s, high schools, colleges, universities, and even the Olympics began playing lacrosse. Despite all of the variations made to the modern game, Native Americans will always be recognized as the founders of lacrosse.

Spread of the game

The world's first official game was played at patrician Upper Canada College in 1867. Upper Canada College lost to the Toronto Cricket Club by a score of 3-1.

The American teams have won the recent world championships both for men and women. The Iroquois nation also enters a team in the World Championships. The field game is also played in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, England and Scotland.

In the United States, the game is popular in New York, Maryland (where it became the official state team sport in 2004), Philadelphia, New England and other areas in the eastern US. It has begun to spread to the west coast where older college programs have encouraged lacrosse teams at the high school and middle school level. The colleges, high schools and "pee wee" leagues in the United States support many teams. Navy, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Syracuse, and Virginia have dominated in the Division I collegiate ranks. For example, Navy won or shared 8 consecutive National Championships from 1960-1967.

There are currently 57 Division I Men's Lacrosse teams. In the 2004/2005 year there will be three teams playing in their innagural season; Robert Morris, Bellarmine, and St. John's are new teams added for the 2004 season.

Lacrosse is the official national summer sport of Canada since 1994, but it is popular chiefly in British Columbia and southern Ontario (see more about this below). Canada and the Czech Republic differ from other lacrosse-playing countries in preferring the box lacrosse variant of the game.

A recent variant of box lacrosse, indoor lacrosse, is played more widely; its first indoor world championship was held in 2003.

While lacrosse did become the official national summer sport of Canada, it remains chiefly a regional summer sport played only in two widely separated regions of the country, and not the most popular summer sport even in those regions. Designating lacrosse as an official sport is more of a nod to history than a reflection of the present-day situation, because very few people in Canada actually play or follow lacrosse, certainly far fewer than follow or play hockey, football, baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, golf and other sports.

Field lacrosse

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Diagram of a men's lacrosse field.

Men's lacrosse is the oldest sport in America; it was created by the Native Americans and has recently become more popular. Lacrosse is most popular in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. Outdoor men's lacrosse involves two teams of 10 players each competing by projecting a small solid rubber ball into the opposing team's goal. The field of play is approximately 110 yards (100 m) long and 60 yards (54 m) wide. The goals are 6 feet (1.8 m) by 6 feet and contain a mesh netting similar to an ice hockey goal.

Players line up based on 3 offensive players called "attackmen", 3 "midfielders" or "middies", 3 "defensemen", and 1 goaltender, or "goalie." Each player carries a stick (the French settlers, on seeing the Native Americans using the stick, called it la crossier (crozier) hence the name "Lacrosse"). Attackmen and midfielders carry a stick measuring between 40 inches and 42 inches, while defensemen and midfielders (under certain conditions) carry a stick up to 72 inches (1.8 m) long. The sticks have a metal shaft and a plastic head with either a string and leather or mesh basket called the "pocket". Goalie sticks vary in length but are typically between 50 and 60 inches long, and significantly wider than field players' sticks.

Players scoop the ball off the ground and throw the ball in the air to other players. Players are allowed to run carrying the ball with their stick. Unlike women's lacrosse, players may kick the ball, as well as cover it with their sticks. Play is typically quite fast, and resembles a combination of soccer, basketball and ice hockey. Players are permitted to hit one another with their bodies and sticks, although some rules govern the manner in which this may be done. For NCAA play, games consist of four fifteen minute periods, while at the youth and high school levels games are typically shorter. The scores of games usually consist of a total of twenty or so goals being scored.

Intercollegiate lacrosse is rapidly growing in popularity in the United States, where crowds of over 40,000 have attended the national championships. Outstanding individual men's lacrosse players have included American football great Jim Brown of Syracuse University, University of Maryland, College Park standout Frank Urso, Canadian brothers Paul Gait and Gary Gait of Syracuse, and the three Powell brothers, who also played for Syracuse. Women's intercollegiate lacrosse stars have included Maryland's Kelly Amonte-Hiller, coach of the current national championship team from Northwestern University, and all-time scoring leader Jen Adams.

The next World Championships will be held in London, Canada in the summer of 2006.

Box and indoor lacrosse

Canadians most commonly play box lacrosse, an indoor version of the game played by teams of six on ice hockey rinks from which the ice has been removed; the enclosed playing area is called the box, in contrast to the open playing field of the traditional game. This version of the game was introduced in the 1930s to promote business for hockey arenas, and within a few years had almost entirely supplanted field lacrosse in Canada.

In box lacrosse the goal is smaller (4' X 4') than in outdoor lacrosse (and the goaltender usually bigger). The attacking team must take a shot on goal within 30 seconds of gaining possession of the ball, and play is rougher than in the field game (see below). It is also five on five with a goalie, intead of nine on nine as in field lacrosse.

A national senior men's lacrosse championship (the Mann Cup) has been awarded in Canada since 1901. It has been played under box lacrosse rules since 1935. A men's Jr. A championship (the Minto Cup) has been awarded since 1937 (the Minto Cup was also awarded to a senior men's champion from 1901 to 1934). The men's Jr. B championship (the Founders Cup ( has also been awarded since 1972. Since 1908 all national senior and junior men's champions have come from either Ontario or British Columbia. The Canadian Lacrosse Association also holds tournaments to determine national junior and senior women's box lacrosse champions and junior and senior men's and women's field lacrosse champions.

Indoor lacrosse is a version of box lacrosse played professionally during the winter not only in regions where summer lacrosse is popular but also in regions where lacrosse is rarely played in summer. It was intended to be less violent than box lacrosse, although changes in box lacrosse rules have reduced some of its violent play and a change in indoor lacrosse rules to permit crosschecking (hitting another player with the stick with one's hands apart on the shaft) have made it more violent. The chief difference between the two forms of the indoor game now is that indoor lacrosse players may use only sticks with hollow shafts, while box lacrosse permits solid wooden sticks.

The inaugural World Indoor Lacrosse Championships, won by Canada, were held in 2003.

Women's lacrosse

The rules of women's lacrosse differ significantly from men's lacrosse and are specifically designed to allow much less physical contact between players. The men's game has a contact level similar to ice hockey and the players wear similar protective gear: body padding, gloves, and helmet. The women's game requires very little protective gear, although eye goggles are now required for NCAA women's competition. The game is also popular in Australia, and is commonly played in English girls' public (private) schools.

See also

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