With a history that spans centuries, lacrosse is the oldest continuously played sport in North America. The sport is rooted in Native American religion and was often played to resolve disputes, heal the sick, and develop strong, virile men. To some Native Americans, lacrosse is still referred to as “The Creator’s Game.”
Games were played by as few as 100 and as many as 1000 men and lasted two or three days, with play beginning at sun up and ending at sundown each day. Goals, consisting of rocks or trees, were generally 500 yards to a half-mile apart, but could also be several miles apart. There were no sidelines, and players raced far and wide over the countryside. Balls were made of wood, deerskin, baked clay, or stone.
The evolution of the Native American game into modern lacrosse began in 1636 when Jean de Brebeuf, a Jesuit missionary, drew attention to a Huron contest in what is now southeast Ontario, Canada. The missionaries wrote home about a game played by the Huron Indians with sticks reminiscent of the crosier (la Crosse) carried by the bishops as a symbol of their office.
French pioneers began playing the game avidly in the early 1800′s. Canadian dentist W. George Beers of Montreal standardized the game in 1867 with the adoption of set field dimensions, limits to the number of players per team, and other basic rules. When the Dominion of Canada was created a decade later, lacrosse was designated – and still remains – the national summer sport. Canadians introduced the sport to the United States, England, Ireland, and Scotland. Today, lacrosse is played in over 45 countries around the world and is moving toward becoming an Olympic sport.
Lacrosse remains a unique combination of speed, skill, agility, grace, endurance, finesse, and historical significance. Lacrosse may just be, according to basketball inventor James Naismith, “the best of all possible field games.” For those who have not seen the game of lacrosse, it is a combination of football, hockey, and basketball. It has been called the fastest game on two feet and is a grueling test of stamina.
Welcome to the sport of lacrosse.