Lacrosse is a contact sport that combines the speed of basketball with the contact of football. It’s an exhilarating game to play and moves at a fast pace. If an opportunity to score is created at one end of the playing field, a goal can occur at the other end in seconds. Lacrosse requires skill, power, intelligence and speed.
The Fascinating History of Lacrosse
Lacrosse was originally played by Native Americans, who were chronicled by writers in the 1600s. The name “lacrosse” is from the French word for “the stick”, and the game was played far and wide by native peoples, with rackets and balls which can now be seen in museums. Originally lacrosse was played with a straight stick that had a curved end, and over time the stick evolved to become a netted stick made with woven bark or rawhide string. Balls were originally fashioned from animal hair, or sometimes from wood.
Rather than play the game on a level playing field, the original field would have been rough ground with trees, which could be as much as a mile apart, being used as goals. A colonist reported two villages enjoying a game involving hundreds of players!
Lacrosse was once a very violent game, often resulting in injuries. It was sometimes used as a way to settle arguments, to train warriors and to resolve disputes about territory. In the middle of the nineteenth century, the sport gained popularity among gentlemen in Canada and quickly spread into New York State and beyond, eventually reaching the UK.
Playing the Game
Lacrosse is played on a field about the same size as a football field, with two goals which are 6 feet square. Sticks are now made of moulded plastic with a nylon mesh pocket. A stick can be between 40 to 72 inches long, depending upon the position of the player.
Each team has 10 players – a goalie, three players in defense, three midfielders, and three playing in attack. Goalies have a wider stick and wear chest protectors to stop balls which can be flying at speeds of over 100 mph. Defenders must be quick, aggressive and tough. Midfielders run the length of the field and are often substituted for fresh players. They need to have a good level of fitness and endurance. Attackmen have the shortest sticks to lower the chances of them losing the ball. The best attackers are quick and agile.
Lacrosse can be a dangerous sport to play. A lacrosse ball flying up to 100 mph can easily kill a man. There have been 19 recorded deaths in the game since 1980. In 2004, George Boiardi, a Cornell University defenseman stopped a shot using his body. His heart stopped and he died on the spot. All players need to wear protective clothing including helmets, shoulder pads, gloves and mouthpieces. Normally arm pads are also worn, and rib pads are also popular. Goalies require a chest protector and throat protector.
Finding a club
To locate a club in the UK and to find out more about training see www.englishlacrosse.co.uk/club-finder.
Photo credit: cooper.gary