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LACROSSE:  A HISTORY OF AMERICA'S FIRST TEAM-SPORT

Lacrosse

 

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Lacrosse

Lacrosse being played in Finland
Highest governing body Federation of International Lacrosse
Nickname(s) Lax
First played As early as the 12th century AD, North America[citation needed]
Characteristics
Olympic 1904-1908; (1928, 1932, & 1948 Demonstration only)

Lacrosse is a full contact team sport, played using a solid rubber ball and long handled racket called a crosse or lacrosse stick. The head of the crosse has a loose net strung into it that allows the player to hold the lacrosse ball. Offensively the object of the game is to use the lacrosse stick to catch, carry, and pass the ball in an effort to score by ultimately hurling the ball into an opponent's goal. Defensively the object is to keep the opposing team from scoring and to dispossess them of the ball through the use of stick checking and body contact. There are four distinct versions of the sport: men's lacrosse, women's lacrosse, box lacrosse and intercrosse (or sofcrosse).

Contents

[hide]

[edit] History

Main article: History of lacrosse
"Ball-play of the Choctaw--ball up" by George Catlin, circa 1834-1835.

In Native American society, lacrosse served different purposes. The sport was used for conflict resolution, the training of young warriors, and as a religious ritual. Games could be played on a pitch over a mile wide and sometimes lasted for days. Early lacrosse balls were made out of deerskin, clay, stone, and sometimes wood. Lacrosse has played a significant role in the community and religious life of tribes across the continent for many years. 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.[1] The game was said to be played "for the pleasure of the Creator."

Lacrosse is the oldest team sport in North America and possibly the world. It may have developed as early as the 1100s,[2][3] but since then it has seen many modifications. In the traditional Native American version, each team consisted of about 100 to 1,000 men on a field that stretched from about 500 yards to a couple of miles long.[4] These lacrosse games lasted from sunup to sundown for two to three days straight. These games were played to settle inter-tribal disputes, to toughen young warriors in preparation for future combat and to give thanks to the Creator. The modern Ojibway verb 'to play Lacrosse' is baaga'adowe.[5]

The game became known to Westerners when a French Jesuit Missionary, Jean de Brébeuf, saw the Iroquois tribesmen play it in 1636.[6] He was the first to write about lacrosse and thus gave it its name. Some say the name originated from the French term for field hockey, le jeu de la crosse.[7] Others suggest that it was named after the crosier, a staff carried by bishops.[8]

Richmond Hill "Young Canadians" lacrosse team, 1885.

In 1856, Dr. William George Beers, a Canadian dentist, founded Montreal Lacrosse Club and in 1867 he codified the game, shortening the length of each game and reducing the number of players to twelve per team.[4] The first game played under Beers' rules was at Upper Canada College in 1867, with Upper Canada College losing to the Toronto Cricket Club by a score of 3–1. By the 1900s, high schools, colleges, and universities began playing the game. Lacrosse was contested as a demonstration sport in the 1928 and 1932 Olympics. On both occasions, rather than holding tryouts and sending an All-star amalgamation, the U.S. chose to be represented by the Johns Hopkins University Blue Jays.

In the United States, lacrosse had primarily been a regional sport centered in and around New England, upstate New York, Long Island and the Mid-Atlantic States. In recent years however, its popularity has started to spread south to Georgia and Florida, as well as west to Colorado, California, Texas, and the Midwest, spurred by the sport's increasing visibility in the media, the growth of college, high school, and youth (or "pee wee") programs throughout the country. The NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championship is the most attended NCAA Championship, outdrawing the Final Four of men's basketball.[9] The growth of lacrosse was also facilitated by the introduction of plastic heads in the 1970s by Baltimore-based STX. This innovation reduced the weight and cost of the lacrosse stick, and allowed for faster passes and game play than traditional wooden sticks.

Up until the 1930s all lacrosse was played on large fields outdoors. Around this time the owners of Canadian hockey arenas invented a reduced version of the game, called box lacrosse, as a means to make more profit from their arena investments. Through this commercialization, in a relatively short period of time, box lacrosse became the dominant form of the sport in Canada. More recently field lacrosse has witnessed a revival in Canada as the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association (CUFLA) began operating a collegiate men's league in 1985 that now includes 12 varsity teams. Lacrosse was officially declared Canada's National Summer Sport with the passage of the National Sports Act (Bill C-212) on May 12, 1994.[10]

In 1987 a professional box lacrosse league was started called the Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League. Eventually this league would change its name to the National Lacrosse League and grow to encompass lacrosse clubs in twelve cities scattered throughout the United States and Canada. In the summer of 2001 a professional field lacrosse league known as Major League Lacrosse (MLL) was inaugurated. Initially starting with six teams the MLL has grown to a total of ten clubs located in major metropolitan areas throughout the United States. On July 4th 2008 Major League Lacrosse set the professional lacrosse attendance record when 20,116 fans attended a game at Invesco Field in Denver, Colorado.

[edit] Types of play

[edit] Field lacrosse

Main article: Field lacrosse

Men's field lacrosse is played with ten players on each team: a goalkeeper; three defenders in the defensive end; three midfielders free to roam the whole field; and three attackers attempting to score goals in the offensive end. It is the most commonly version of lacrosse played internationally. The modern game was codified in Canada by Dr. William George Beers in 1856.[11] The game has evolved from that time to include the protective equipment and lacrosse sticks made from synthetic materials.

Diagram of a men's lacrosse field.

Each player carries a lacrosse stick (or crosse). A "short crosse" measures between 40 inches (1.0 m) and 42 inches (1.1 m) long is typically used by midfielders and attackmen. A total of four players per team may carry a "long crosse" (sometimes called "long pole" or "d-pole") that are 52 inches (1.3 m) to 72 inches (1.8 m) long. The head of the crosse on both long and short crosses must be 6.5 inches (17 cm) or larger at its widest point and 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) inches wide or wider at its narrowest point. The designated goalkeeper is allowed to have a stick from 40 inches (1.0 m) to 72 inches (1.8 m)) long and the head of a goalkeeper's crosse may measure up to 15 inches (38 cm) wide, significantly larger than field players' heads to assist in blocking shots.[12][13][14]

A face-off.

The field of play is 110 yards (100 m) long and 60 yards (55 m) wide. The goals are 6 feet (1.8 m) by 6 feet (1.8 m). The goal sits inside a circular "crease", measuring 18 feet (5.5 m) in diameter.[12][13][14] 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. During a face-off, two players lay their stick horizontally next to the ball, head of the stick inches from the ball and the butt-end pointing down the midfield line.[13] Face-off-men scrap for the ball, often by “clamping” it under their stick and flicking it out to their teammates. 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.[13] If a ball travels outside of the playing area, play is restarted by possession being awarded to opposing team to that which last touched the ball. During play, teams may substitute players in and out freely. Sometimes this is referred to as "on the fly" substitution. Substitution must occur within the designated exchange area in order to be legal.[12][13][14]

For most penalties, the offending player is sent to the penalty box and his team has to play without him and with one less player for a short amount of time. Most penalties last for 30 to 60 seconds. Occasionally a longer penalty may be assessed for more severe infractions. The team that has taken the penalty is said to be playing man down while the other team is on the man up. Teams will use various lacrosse strategies to attack and defend while a player is being penalized. Offsides is penalized by a 30 second penalty. It occurs when there are more than six players (three midfielders/three attackmen or three midfielders/three defensemen) on one half of the field. The zones are separated by the midfield line. Defensemen and attackmen can cross the midfield line, however the team must assure that a midfielder "stays back" in order to avoid an offsides penalty.[12][13][14]

At the highest level it is represented by the professional Major League Lacrosse (MLL) and on the collegiate level by the NCAA Division I in the United States.[15] The first collegiate lacrosse program was established by New York University in 1877,[16] and the 1971 tournament was the the first Men's Lacrosse Championship sponsored by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).[17] It is also played at a high level on the amateur level by the Australian Lacrosse League, the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association, and club lacrosse leagues internationally.[18]

1904 Olympics Gold Medal winning Winnipeg Shamrocks Lacrosse Team

Internationally, there are twenty two total members of the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL), only United States, Canada, Australia, and the Iroquois Nationals have finished in the top three places at the World Lacrosse Championships. The World Lacrosse Championship began as a four-team invitational tournament in 1967 sanctioned by the International Lacrosse Federation. Lacrosse at the Olympics was a medal earning sport in the 1904 Summer Olympics and the 1908 Summer Olympics.[19][20][21] Lacrosse was a demonstration sport in the 1928 Summer Olympics, 1932 Summer Olympics, and the 1948 Summer Olympics.[22][23][24] [25]

The professional Major League Lacrosse strayed from the established field lacrosse rules of international, college, and high school programs. With intentions to increase scoring, the league employed a sixty second shot clock, a two–point goal for shots taken outside a designated perimeter, and allowed each to to only field three long–stick defenders as oppsed to the traditional four. However, after eight years of play, the league introduced a fourth long–stickman prior to the 2009 MLL season.[26] The MLL has been bolstered by a ten year television contract with ESPN in 2007.[27]

[edit] Box lacrosse

A National Lacrosse League game.
Main article: Box lacrosse

Box lacrosse is an indoor version of the game played by teams of six on ice hockey rinks where the ice has been removed or covered by artificial turf. The enclosed playing area is called a box, in contrast to the open playing field of the traditional game.[28] This version of the game was introduced in the 1930s to promote business for hockey arenas,[29] and within a several years had nearly supplanted field lacrosse in Canada.[30]

Box lacrosse (or Indoor lacrosse) is played at the highest level by the Senior A divisions of the Canadian Lacrosse Association (Western Lacrosse Association of the British Columbia Lacrosse Association and Major Series Lacrosse of the Ontario Lacrosse Association), and the National Lacrosse League (NLL). The National Lacrosse League employs some minor rule changes from the Canadian Lacrosse Association (CLA) rules. Notably, the games are played during the winter,[28], the NLL games consist of four fifteen-minute quarters compared with three periods of twenty minutes each (similar to ice hockey) in CLA games, and that NLL players may use only sticks with hollow shafts, while CLA permits solid wooden sticks.[31][32]

The goals are much smaller than field lacrosse, traditionally 4 feet (1.2 m) wide by 4 feet (1.2 m) tall. In the National Lacrosse League and Major Series Lacrosse the dimensions are slightly larger at 4 feet 9 inches (1.4 m) wide by 4 feet (1.2 m) tall.[31] Also, the goaltender wears much more protective padding,[28] including massive upper body gear, large shin guards known as "irons", and ice hockey-style helmets.[33] Also, below the professional level, box lacrosse goaltenders are often seen using traditional wooden sticks.

The style of game is fast, accelerated by the close confines of the arena and a shot clock. The shot clock requires the attacking team to take a shot on goal within 30 seconds of gaining possession of the ball. In addition, players must advance the ball from their own defensive end to the offensive half of the floor within 10 seconds.[28]

For most penalties, the offending player is sent to the penalty box and his team has to play without him and with one less player for a short amount of time. Most penalties last for two minutes, unless a five minute major penalty has been assessed. Fighting is illegal in box lacrosse, however what separates box lacrosse (and ice hockey) from other sport is that at the top levels of professional and junior lacrosse, a five-minute major penalty is given and the players are not ejected for participating in a fight.[34]

Internationally, the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships are held every four years, originally sponsored by the International Lacrosse Federation and now sponsored by the Federation of International Lacrosse. Only eight nations have competed in these competitions, and only Canada, Iroquois Nationals and the United States have finished in the most coveted 1st, 2nd and 3rd places at these events.

[edit] Women's lacrosse

Main article: Women's lacrosse

The rules of women's lacrosse differ significantly from men's lacrosse, most notably by equipment and the degree of allowable physical contact.[35] Women's lacrosse does not promote a lot of physical contact. The only protective equipment worn for this sport is a mouth guard and face guard. Although women's lacrosse does not allow much physical contact, it does allow stick to stick contact when in the right body position. Players are able to hit the opponent's stick to try and obtain possession of the ball. This is commonly known as checking.

The first modern women's lacrosse game was held at St Leonards School in Scotland in 1890. It was introduced by the school's headmistress Louisa Lumsden.[36] The first women's lacrosse team in the United States was established at Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, Maryland. Men’s and women’s lacrosse were played under virtually the same rules, with no protective equipment, until the mid-1930s.

NCAA women's Lacrosse Division I began play in 1982. The University of Maryland, College Park has traditionally dominated the women's intercollegiate play, producing many head coaches across the country and many U.S. national team players. The Lady Terps won seven consecutive NCAA championships, from 1995 through 2001. Princeton University's women's teams have made it to the final game seven times since 1993 and have won three NCAA titles, in 1993, 2002, and 2003. In recent years, Northwestern University has become a force, winning the national championship from 2005 through 2008.[37]

Internationally, the game is commonly played in British girls' independent schools, and while only a minor sport in Australia, it is played to a very high standard at the elite level, where its national squad won the 2005 Women's Lacrosse World Cup. The next Women's World Cup will be played in 2009 hosted by Prague, Czech Republic.[38]

[edit] Intercrosse

Main article: Intercrosse

Intercrosse (also referred to as sofcrosse, modcrosse, or pop lacrosse) is a non-contact form of lacrosse with a standardized set of rules using intercrosse equipment. Intercrosse as a competitive sport is popular in many continental European countries, as well as in Quebec, Canada. It is also a popular alternative for physical education.

An intercrosse stick is different from a normal lacrosse stick in that the head or "crosse" is made completely of plastic, where in traditional lacrosse the head has a flexible string or mesh pocket in which the ball is carried. The ball is larger, softer and hollow.[39]

[edit] International lacrosse

Lacrosse has been played for the most part in Canada and the United States, with small but dedicated lacrosse communities in Great Britain and Australia. Recently, however, lacrosse has begun to flourish at an international level with the sport establishing itself in many new and far-reaching countries, particularly in Europe and east Asia.

With lacrosse not having been an official Olympic sport since 1908, the pinnacle of international lacrosse competition consists of the quadrennial World Championships. Currently, there are world championships for lacrosse at senior men, senior women, under 19 men and under 19 women level. Until 1986, lacrosse world championships had only been contested by the United States, Canada, Six Nations, England and Australia, with Scotland and Wales also competing in the women's edition. The expansion of the game internationally saw the 2005 Women's World Cup competed for by ten nations, and the 2006 Men's World Championship was contested by 21 countries.

In 2003, the first World Indoor Lacrosse Championship was contested by six nations at four sites in Ontario, Canada. Canada won the championship in a final game against the Iroquois, 21-4. The 2007 WILC was held in Halifax, Canada on from May 14-20. Teams from Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, England, Ireland, Iroquois Nationals, Scotland and the United States competed.

The next largest international field lacrosse competition is the European Lacrosse Championships. Held for both men and women, the European Lacrosse Federation (ELF) has been running the European Championships since 1995. Before 2001 the Championships were an annual event, but in 2001 the ELF changed the format to every four years between the World Championship. Before 2004, only 7 nations had ever participated, but in 2004 there was a record number of participating countries, with 12 men's and 6 women's, which made it the largest international lacrosse event of 2004. The last European Lacrosse Championships were held in Lahti, Finland in 2008, with 18 competing countries. England placed first with the Netherlands and Germany placing second and third, respectively.

A player taking a "dive shot".

The World Lacrosse Championships have been dominated by the United States, particularly in the men's game, where the only world championship game losses at either level was in the 1978 final to Canada and 2006 final to Canada. The USA has won 8 of the 10 senior men's and all six under 19 men's tournaments to date. The next Men's World Lacrosse Championships will be held in Manchester, England, in 2010. In the women's game, Australia have provided stiffer competition, even holding a winning record against the USA of 6 wins to 5 at senior world championships, plus one draw. Despite this, the USA has won 5 of the 7 senior women's and 2 of the 3 under 19 women's tournaments to date, with the other world championships won by Australia, including the 2005 senior women's trophy.

The Iroquois Nationals are a team consisting of members of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. The team was admitted to the International Lacrosse Federation (ILF) in 1990. It is the only Native American team sanctioned to compete in any sport internationally. The Nationals placed fourth in the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Lacrosse Championships.

[edit] Governing bodies

[edit] References

Specific
  1. ^ Rock, Tom (November/December 2002). "More Than a Game", Lacrosse Magazine, US Lacrosse. Retrieved on 18 March 2007. 
  2. ^ Vennum, Thomas. American Indian Lacrosse: Little Brother of War. (Smithsonian Institution, 1994) SBN 978-1560983026.
  3. ^ Liss, Howard. Lacrosse (Funk & Wagnalls, 1970) pg 13.
  4. ^ a b "Lacrosse History". STX. Retrieved on 2007-02-24.
  5. ^ "Ojibway English Dictionary". Retrieved on 2008-11-13.
  6. ^ "Patron Saints Index: Jean de Brébeuf". Catholic Community Forum. Retrieved on 2007-03-18.
  7. ^ Lacrosse: E-Lacrosse Lacrosse History, Links and Sources
  8. ^ STX Lacrosse
  9. ^ "Virginia Claims National Title, and a Victory for Lacrosse", The New York Times (May 30, 2006). 
  10. ^ Marlatt, Craig I.W., CanadaInfo: Symbols, Facts, & Lists: Official Symbols, http://www.craigmarlatt.com/canada/symbols_facts&lists/symbols.html, retrieved on 1975 
  11. ^ Scott, p. 8
  12. ^ a b c d "NCAA 2008 Lacrosse Rulebook" (PDF). NCAA.org. Retrieved on 2008-11-13.
  13. ^ a b c d e f "Men's Lacrosse Rules Condensed Version". National Collegiate Athletic Association.
  14. ^ a b c d "Rules of Men's Field Larosse" (PDF). International Lacrosse Federation. Retrieved on 2007-03-30.
  15. ^ "Major League Lacrosse History". MajorLeagueLacrosse.com. Retrieved on 2008-11-17.
  16. ^ "History of Lacrosse". US Lacrosse. Retrieved on 2008-11-17.
  17. ^ Carry, Peter (June 14, 1971). "Big Red Votes Itself No. 1". SportsIllustrated.com. Retrieved on 2008-05-30.
  18. ^ "FAQ's". Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association. Retrieved on 2008-11-18.
  19. ^ "Lacrosse results from the 1904 & 1908 Summer Olympics". DatabaseOlympics.com. Retrieved on 2008-11-13.
  20. ^ "1904 Winnipeg Shamrocks". The Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame & Museum. Retrieved on 2008-11-18.
  21. ^ Owen, David (April 25, 2008). "David Owen on the 1908 Olympic celebration". InsidetheGames.com. Retrieved on 2008-11-18.
  22. ^ "Olympic sports of the past". Olympic.org. Retrieved on 2008-11-13.
  23. ^ "Official Report Of The Olympic Games Of 1928 Celebrated At Amsterdam" (PDF). la84foundation.org pp 899-903. The Netherlands Olympic Committee (1928). Retrieved on 2008-11-18.
  24. ^ "Official Report Of The Xth Olympiade Committee in Los Angeles 1932" (PDF). la84foundation.org pp 763-766. Xth Olympiade Committee (1932). Retrieved on 2008-11-18.
  25. ^ "1948 Official Olympic ReportThe Official Report of the Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad" (PDF). la84foundation.org pp 716-717. Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad (1948). Retrieved on 2008-11-18.
  26. ^ "League announces expansion of rosters to 19 and addition of fourth long pole for 2009". Inside Lacrosse (October 22, 2008). Retrieved on 2008-10-24.
  27. ^ "Major League Lacrosse Signs Multi-Year Agreement With ESPN2". MajorLeagueLacrosse.com (March 14, 2007). Retrieved on 2008-11-18.
  28. ^ a b c d "Lax 101". National Lacrosse League. Retrieved on 2007-03-19.
  29. ^ Fisher, p. 157
  30. ^ Fisher, p. 120
  31. ^ a b "National Lacrosse League Rulebook" (PDF). NLL.com. Retrieved on 2008-10-27.
  32. ^ Vennum, p. 287
  33. ^ "Box Lacrosse Equipment Guideline". Zone4Laxx.com. Retrieved on 2008-10-28.
  34. ^ Dowbiggin, Bruce (October 7, 2008). "Court case will make Bertuzzi's past very difficult to ignore". Calgary Herald. Retrieved on 2008-10-28. "Only hockey and lacrosse -- both Canadian games -- let a player fight and still remain in the game. No other popular team sport in the world does the same."
  35. ^ 2007 IWWLA Women's Lacrosse Rules, International Federation of Women's Lacrosse Associations
  36. ^ "History of Lacrosse at St Leonards". STLeonards-Fife.org. Retrieved on 2008-05-01.
  37. ^ "NCAA Women's Division I Lacrosse History". NCAA.com. Retrieved on 2008-06-11.
  38. ^ "2009 Women's Lacrosse World Cup Official website". LacrosseWorldCup2009. Retrieved on 2008-06-11.
  39. ^ "Rules for Intercrosse". Inter-Crosse.com. Retrieved on 2008-12-05.
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