Introduction to lacrosse

The origins of lacrosse

Lacrosse is a fast-paced, high-scoring game requiring speed, strength and no small amount of skill. The player needs to possess great ball-handling ability, but not with the hands but rather the stick, which becomes an extension of the player’s arms and hands. Here is our quick introduction to lacrosse and how it originated.

These skills are applicable whichever of three main types of lacrosse (Men's Field Lacrosse, Women’s Lacrosse and Box Lacrosse) you are playing:

Introduction to lacrosse
  • Men’s Field Lacrosse — played on a football size field by teams of 10 players.
  • Women’s Field Lacrosse — involves 12 players in a team and differs from the men’s game, especially in that it is not a full contact game.
  • Box Lacrosse — played by teams of six players generally on ice rinks in the summer.

Origins of lacrosse

Lacrosse is one of the oldest sports around with its origins to be found in fifteenth century North America. The first games were used by Native Americans to solve disputes between tribes and to toughen tribe members in preparation for battle.

Games often involved hundreds and sometimes thousands of tribesmen who would play on a field which, depending on player numbers, could be as much as half a mile long (0.8km). Games could last anything from a few hours to a few days. To score goals, the players had to hit a target, often a large rock or a tree, with a ball made out of anything from wood to deerskin and sometimes even the head of an unlucky enemy.

These days the game is a little more organised and civilized and players play with a small solid rubber ball and attempt to catch, carry, pass and shoot the ball into an opponent’s goal. They move the ball using a lacrosse stick which is a long-handled stick (or crosse) with netting which allows them to catch and hold the lacrosse ball.

The origins of the name ‘lacrosse’ is a source of debate. Some argue that name was given by French explorers who felt the stick resembled a bishop's staff or crozier – ‘la crosse’ in French. Other sources, claim lacrosse is comes from the French term for field hockey "jeu de la crosse."

The game developed as Europeans in Canada started playing and this eventually led to the formation in 1856 of the first written set of rules by the Montreal Lacrosse Club. These were re-written in 1867 by MLC member George Beer who named all the positions and established 12 players per team rules. He also replaced the hair-stuffed deerskin ball with a hard rubber ball and designed a stick that would be more suited to catching and throwing a ball.

The rules and the game became universally accepted and lacrosse was exported to other parts of the world. Aside from its popularity in Canada and the eastern United States, lacrosse also gained a following in the UK and spread to other countries such as Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Although included as an Olympic sport in 1904 and 1908 and being a demonstration sport on several other occasions, there are still not enough national governing bodies to warrant its consideration as a full-fledged Olympic sport.

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