You’ve all heard of the team sport lacrosse. It’s featured in many American movies such as American Pie, Wild Child, and Crooked Arrows. But do you know exactly what it is and how it’s played?
Without making it sound too complicated, lacrosse is played by two teams, men or women, using lacrosse sticks and a ball. Using the head of the stick to carry, pass and catch the ball, the players then shoot and score into their opponent’s goal. The main rule is to not ever let the ball touch the players’ hands. And that’s the basics of the game. There are four main types of lacrosse nowadays – mini lacrosse, indoor lacrosse, men’s lacrosse and women’s lacrosse. But it wasn’t always like that.
The Early Games
Lacrosse was first dated back to the 1600s and was originally started by the Native American Indians. It had a different name back then too, with people calling it ‘stickball,’ as the game obviously only included a stick and a ball. Although the aim of the game was the same as is today, there were many different factors. For example, lacrosse was played over great open areas of land between towns and villages, and the goals would be formed out of trees and other large and natural objects. They were also anything from 500 yards to miles apart, whereas today the goals are usually around 6 feet wide. If you think that’s bizarre then you won’t believe the amount of players that were allowed to play! There was no official limit at all on the number of players, and it’s said that some games had between 100 – 100,000 players taking part all at once. The games wouldn’t only last for hours, they’d last for days too! Could you imagine that now?!
The Growth of the Game
So you all now know when lacrosse started and how different it was back in the 1600s, but when did it start becoming so popular? Well, back in the 17th and 18th Century, lacrosse was seen as the national pastime, and for many it was considered more than just a fun game. The Native American Indians would play it to settle disputes between other tribes, to help their spiritual development and to even prepare for war. Yes, I’m being serious, and so were they! Some players would paint their bodies and perform rituals in preparation for their game ahead.
By the 1800s, lacrosse had expanded and was becoming a well-known and popular sport. Canadian dentist, Dr. William George Beers founded the Montreal Lacrosse Club in 1856 and adjusted the rules by decreasing the number of players and changing the material of the equipment. It wasn’t too long before Canada named lacrosse its national sport. The game was soon brought over to England where it was played between different nations and well, the rest is history (quite literally)!
The Equipment Change
The lacrosse stick and ball used in earlier games of lacrosse would be almost unrecognizable to those that we see today. The wooden sticks used to be around 4 feet long and carried a tiny area at the end which would hold and catch the ball. Players would often attach things like feathers or wolf fur to their sticks to boost their performance on the field, something that definitely would not be allowed today. Not only were the sticks extremely different, the balls were too. They would be made from animal hide or wood, feeling and looking completely different to the hard rubber balls used now.
Although the materials and the rules have changed over time, lacrosse has continued to be a very popular and competitive game. It’s played worldwide, with many countries all over the world competing in the Lacrosse World Championships. Like we mentioned at the beginning, there are different versions of the game now to suit many different abilities. It’s played at all levels by all genders, at schools, on the field or even indoors. The aim of the game has never changed as the concept is to still score more points than the opponent.
So there we have it. Lacrosse is not only one of the fastest growing sports in the world, but it also has one of the most unique stories behind its history. No wonder it’s been featured in so many famous movies! Why not find your local lacrosse club and give it a go yourself?