Lacrosse History

Lacrosse is one of oldest sports ever and North America’s first. It was first played by Native Americans in the 1400’s. Baggataway (thats what they called it) was much more violent then what we have now. Its original purpose was to solve conflicts, but then became a drill for the battlefield. Sometimes goals were a certain rock or tree that you would have to hit, or other tribes would put up posts that the ball would have to go through like we do now. The targets (goals) were spread out as far as 15 miles apart and there were no sidelines. Up to 1,000 players on both teams could play at the same time. They had 3-4 ft long sticks with nets on the end. As you can imagine with that many people on the field at once trying to get one ball into two goals it could get pretty physical. Most of the time braves were nowhere near the ball and much more focused on using the stick as a weapon. The game normally took 2-3 days with breaks from sun-down to sun-up.

When the Europeans came over in the 1500s, they took up the sport and gave it the name we use today, Lacrosse. They gave it that name because according to most accounts, Jean de Brebeuf (a French explorer) was the first to record baggataway. He thought that the stick resembled a bishop’s crozier called la crosse in French.

In 1794 a match between the Seneca and Mohawks resulted in the creating of basic rules. Europeans in Canada began playing the game. Montreal’s Olympic Club organized a team in 1844, specifically to play a match against a Native American team.

George Beers of the MLC rewrote the rules thoroughly in 1867. His rules called for twelve players per team, and named the positions: Goal, point, cover point, first defense, second defense, third defense, center, first attack, second attack, third attack, out home, and in home. He also improved the ball from a wad of deer skin to a hard rubber sphere and constructed a better stick so throwing and catching was easier. For the things he did he is now called “the father of lacrosse”.

In 1881 The first intercollegiate tournament was held at Westchester Polo Grounds in New York. Soon after in 1890 the first women’s lacrosse game was played at St. Leonard’s School in St. Andrew’s, Scotland.

By the 20th century lacrosse was becoming much more popular. In the USA the first collage team started at New York University which was followed by many more in the north-eastern region which spans from Michigan to North Carolina. In 1926 Rosabelle Sinclair reestablished women’s lacrosse in the United States when she started a team at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore. In the early 1930s the United States Women’s Lacrosse Association (USWLA) was formed as the rule-making body for women’s lacrosse and just after the USWLA held its first national tournament in Greenwich, Connecticut. All these major events were in the east region. The west was not big on lacrosse. Now areas in the west are picking up with major teams in Denver and Notre Dame. Nationwide there about 250,000 people that play both boy’s and girl’s lacrosse.

Slowly and steadily lacrosse is making its way deeper and deeper in the hearts of many Americans and hopefully everybody worldwide. Its the fastest growing sport in the US and one day it might be as popular as soccer is now.  

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