Lacrosse is a team sport that is played with ten players (men's field), six players (men's box), or 12 players (women's field), each of whom uses a netted stick (the cross) in order to pass and catch a hard rubber ball with the aim of scoring goals (each worth one point traditionally, but Major League Lacrosse uses a two point goal for goals scored from a distance of 16 yards or greater.) by propelling the ball into the opponent's goal. The team scoring the most points after two halves, of varying length from competition to competition, and overtime if necessary, wins.
Most popular in North America, lacrosse is Canada's national summer sport. It has grown in popularity in the United States, becoming the fastest growing sport at the high school and NCAA levels.
In its current form, men's lacrosse is played on a field of grass or artificial turf (such as FieldTurf). Each team is composed of ten players on the field at a time: three attackmen, three midfielders, three defenders and one goaltender. In men's lacrosse, players wear protective equipment on their heads, shoulders, arms, and hands, as body-checking is an integral part of the game, and stick checks to the arms and hands are considered legal. Women's lacrosse is played in a similar manner except with two additional midfielders per team. Players of women's lacrosse (in the United States only) need only wear protective eyewear (except for the goaltender, who wears additional padding, usually consisting of a helmet, shin guards, and chest pad, and most goalies do not wear arm pads), as contact is not permitted apart from minor stick-checks.
Lacrosse was invented by Native North Americans. Its name was dehuntshigwa'es in Onondaga ("men hit a rounded object"), da-nah-wah'uwsdi in Eastern Cherokee ("little war"), Tewaarathon in Mohawk language ("little brother of war"), and baaga`adowe in Ojibwe ("knocking about of balls").
The game was named lacrosse by early French spectators. It is widely and inaccurately believed that the name stems from the French term "cross," for the shepherd's crook-like crosier carried by bishops as a symbol of office. Jesuit missionary Jean-de-Brébeuf noted the resemblance between the crosier and the shape of the racket stick in the Relation des Jésuites around 1640. In fact, the term cross is a general word in French for any type of bat or stick used in a ball game. The name lacrosse is simply a reflection of this term, and perhaps a shorthand for a phrase such as le jeu de la cross (the game of the stick).
Lacrosse traditionally had many different purposes. Conflict resolution and training of young warriors was only one part of the game. Games could be played on a pitch over a mile wide and sometimes lasted for days. Often players were gravely injured or even killed. Early balls were made out of the heads of the enemy, 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, and as a religious ritual. The game was said to be played "for the pleasure of the Creator."
Lacrosse has witnessed great modifications since its origins in the fifteenth century, but many aspects of the sport remain the same. In the Native North 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. These lacrosse games lasted from sun-up to sun-down for two to three days. 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 Alqonquin tribes referred to the sport as "baggatway". The game became known to Westerners when a French Jesuit Missionary, Jean de Brébeuf, saw the Iroquois Natives play it in 1636.
By the nineteenth century, lacrosse evolved to a less violent game and more of a sport as French pioneers began competing. 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 ten per team. 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, and lacrosse was contested as a medal sport in the 1928 and 1932 Summer Olympics.
In the 1930s, an indoor version of the game, box lacrosse, was introduced in Canada. It quickly became, and remains, the dominant form of the sport in that country. A later version of box lacrosse, indoor lacrosse, is played professionally in both Canada and the United States.
In the United States, the sport enjoys its greatest popularity along the east coast, especially in Maryland (where it became the state's official team sport in 2004), Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the New England states. However, its popularity has started to spread west to Colorado, California, Texas, and the Midwest, spurred by the sport's increasing visibility in the media, the growth of college and high school programs, and youth or "pee wee" leagues throughout the country. Currently, there are only two NCAA Division I men's lacrosse teams west of the Mississippi River: Air Force and the University of Denver. The growth of lacrosse was also facilitated by the introduction of plastic heads invented by Baltimore-based stick maker STX in the 1970s. This innovation reduced the weight and cost of the stick, and allowed for faster passes and gameplay.
At the collegiate level, there are currently 57 NCAA Division I men's lacrosse teams, 32 Division II men's lacrosse teams, and 131 Division III men's lacrosse teams. There are also currently 83 Division I women's lacrosse teams, 37 Division II women's lacrosse Teams, and 154 Division III women's lacrosse teams. Additionally, almost 200 collegiate men's club teams compete at the Men's Collegiate Lacrosse Association level, including most major universities in the United States.
In Canada, the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association has been operating a collegiate men's league since 1985 and now includes 12 varsity teams which span from London, Ontario to Lennoxville, Quebec. On the women's side, ten varsity teams, from London, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec, compete in the Ontario University Athletics conference.
At the professional level, there are 13 National Lacrosse League (indoor) teams; ten in the United States and three in Canada. In Major League Lacrosse, there are ten teams, all of which are based in the United States, and two more expansion teams are set to play in the 2008 season. The Australian Lacrosse League has three teams; one for each of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.
The highest level of box lacrosse (Senior A) has two leagues in Canada: the Western Lacrosse Association (sanctioned by the BCLA) for British Columbia, and Major Series Lacrosse (sanctioned by the OLA) for Ontario; both with seven teams each.
Outdoor men's lacrosse involves two teams of ten players each competing to project a small ball of solid rubber into the opposing team's goal. The field of play is 110 yards (100 m) long and 60 yards (54 m) wide. The goals are 6 feet (1.8 m) by 6 feet, containing a mesh netting similar to an ice hockey goal. The goal sits inside a circular "crease," measuring 18 feet (5.5 m) in diameter. Behind the crease is the area designated simply as "X." Typically one Attackmen will remain at "X" in most types of offensive setups.
Players line up with three offensive players called "attackmen," players who shoot on the opposing team's net; three "midfielders" or "middies," who shoot on the opposing team's net as well as defending their own net; three "defensemen," who guard their own team's net; and 1 designated goaltender, or "goalie" who stands inside the "crease" and blocks incoming shots. Each player carries a lacrosse stick measuring between 40 inches (101.6 centimeters) and 42 inches (106.68 centimeters) long (a "short cross"), or 52 inches (132.08 centimeters) to 72 (182.88 centimeters) long (a "long cross"). The designated goalkeeper is allowed to have a stick from 40 inches (101.6 centimeters) to 72 inches (182.88 centimeters) long. The head of the cross on both long and short crosses must be 6 inches or larger at its widest point and 2.5 inches wide or wider at its narrowest point.
The head of a goaltender's cross may measure up to 15 inches (38.1 centimeters) wide, significantly larger than field players' heads to assist in blocking shots. Goalies at the youth levels commonly use short crosses because they are not capable of handling the true 60 inch goalie cross. Although most attackmen and midfielders utilize short crosses, defensemen carry long crosses, and one midfielder on defense may carry a long cross. Some teams choose to distribute their sticks differently, not uncommon because a team may only have four long crosses on the field during live play, excluding the benches and penalty boxes. Most modern sticks have a metal shaft, usually made of aluminum or titanium, while the head is made of hard plastic. Metal shafts must have a plastic or a more popular rubber cap or ("butt") at the end. The heads are strung with string, leather, and mesh. The strings in the "pocket" are called shooting strings and accuracy or "v" strings.
Lacrosse players must wear helmets and gloves and also typically wear shoulder and elbow pads and sometimes they wear rib pads. Athletic supporters and protective cups for all players are also strongly recommended and often required.
Players scoop the ball off the ground and pass the ball through the air to other players. Players are allowed to run carrying the ball with their stick. Unlike in women's lacrosse, men's lacrosse players may kick the ball, as well as cover it with their sticks, provided they do not withhold it from play. Play is quite fast and fluent, with considerably more goals scored than are in soccer or hockey, with typical games totaling ten to twenty goals.
Since men’s lacrosse is a full contact sport, with players wearing complete protective equipment, “checking”—striking opponents’ stick or body with the stick—is legal and very much part of the game.
Each team starts with ten players on the field: a goalkeeper and three defenders in the defensive end; three midfielders free to roam the whole field; and three attackers in the offensive end. Each quarter starts with a “face-off” in which the ball is placed on the ground and two “face-off-men” 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. Face-off-men scrap for the ball, often by “clamping” it under their stick and flicking it out to their midfielders, who start on the wing restraining line near the sideline and sprint in when the whistle is blown to start play. Attackers and defenders cannot cross their “restraining line” until one player from the midfield takes possession of the ball. A face-off also restarts the game after each goal.
Time continues to run in dead ball situations such as in between goals, with two exceptions: when the referees deem it necessary to avoid a significant loss of playing time, for example when chasing a ball shot far away or during care of an injured player; and in the last three minutes of the fourth quarter of any men’s game.
In men's lacrosse, players can be awarded penalties of two types by the referee for rule infractions. Personal fouls always result in the player serving time in the penalty box, located at the side of the field between the opposing teams' interchange benches. These penalties can last one to three minutes at the referee's discretion. Two- and three-minute penalties are usually reserved for the most serious slashing or unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. Technical fouls are less severe and result in 30 seconds being served only if the foul was committed while the opposing team was in possession of the ball. If there was a loose ball situation or the player's team was in possession at the time of the foul, they only result in a turnover. Technical fouls are "releasable," meaning that a player may return to the game without spending the entire duration of his penalty in the box if the opposing team scores during the penalty. Fouls form an important part of men's lacrosse as while a player is serving time, his team is 'man down'. At this time his defense usually plays a 'zone' while they wait for the penalty to expire while the attacking team has its best opportunity to score. A list of the fouls in men's lacrosse is as follows:
Canadians most commonly play box lacrosse, an indoor version of the game played by teams of six on ice hockey rinks where the ice has been removed or covered by turf; the enclosed playing area is called the box, in contrast to the open playing field of the traditional game. This version of the game was introduced in the 1930s to promote business for hockey arenas, and within a few years had almost entirely supplanted field lacrosse in Canada.
In box lacrosse the goal is smaller (4'9" X 4') than in outdoor lacrosse, and the goaltender is usually bigger, with considerably more padding. The attacking team must take a shot on goal within 30 seconds of gaining possession of the ball, and play is rougher than in the field game with the allowance of crosschecking (see below).
Indoor lacrosse is a version of box lacrosse with slight rule changes–the games are played during the winter, not only in regions where summer lacrosse is popular but also in regions where lacrosse is rarely played in summer. This version of the game was intended to be less violent than box lacrosse, although changes in box lacrosse rules have reduced some of its violent play and a change in indoor lacrosse rules to permit crosschecking (hitting another player with the stick with one's hands apart on the shaft) have made it more violent. The chief differences between the two forms of the indoor game now are that indoor lacrosse games consist of 4 x 15 minute quarters compared with 3 x 20 minute periods in box lacrosse, and that indoor lacrosse players may use only sticks with hollow shafts, while box lacrosse permits solid wooden sticks. Indoor lacrosse is always played on artificial turf (sometimes called "carpet"), while box lacrosse is usually played on bare concrete. Comparably, field lacrosse is played on a standard size field.
Today, there are 13 different teams in thirteen different cities playing the National Lacrosse League.
One of the fastest growing professional sports leagues on the planet, Major League Lacrosse has captivated fans since its inception in 2001. 2006 MLL World Champions the Philadelphia Barrage boast star players midfielder "middie" Roy Colsey, defensemen Kyle Sweeney, goalie Brian Dougherty, and attackmen Ryan Boyle, amongst others. MLL expansion in 2006 has solidified lacrosse hotbeds of Denver, CO (with the Denver Outlaws), and fostered continued growth in Los Angeles (Los Angeles Riptide), San Francisco (San Francisco Dragons), and Chicago (Chicago Machine).
Rochester, New York (Rochester Rattlers), East Brunswick, New Jersey (New Jersey Pride), Washington, D.C. (Washington Bayhawks), Boston, Massachusetts (Boston Cannons), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania—games played in Downingtown, PA (Philadelphia Barrage)—and the Long Island Lizards comprise the "original six franchises" of MLL.
In the 2007 MLL collegiate draft, the first overall selection (by the Chicago Machine) was Pennsylvania State University senior midfielder Patrick Heim. The 2007 Major League Lacrosse Championship was won by the Philadelphia Barrage led by Matt Striebel.
While Major League Lacrosse is growing by leaps and bounds, professional lacrosse is also played at the high school level, collegiate level (NCAA Lacrosse) as well as in the National Lacrosse League.
The rules of women's lacrosse differ significantly from men's lacrosse and are specifically designed to allow less physical contact between players. As a result of the lack of contact, the only protective equipment required is eyewear and a mouthguard. Although these are the only protective equipment, there are still many injuries due to accidental checks to the head and the overall aggressiveness of the sport. The pockets of women's sticks are shallower than those of the men, making the ball harder to catch and more difficult to shoot at high speed. Women play with three attackers (or "homes"), five midfielders (or "middies"), three defenders (starting from the back, called "point," "cover point," and "third man"), and one goalie. Seven players play attack at one time and seven defenders are present. There is a restraining line that keeps the other four players (plus the goalie) from going into the attack. If those players cross the line, they are considered offsides and a penalty is given.
In women's lacrosse, players may only check if the check is directed away from the ball carrier's head. Also, players may only check using the side of their stick. If caught by one of the referees using the flat of the head, it will be called as a "held check" and the opposing team will get the ball.
There are two types of fouls in woman's lacrosse, major and minor. When a minor foul is committed anywhere on the field, the player who fouled is set four meters to whichever side she was guarding the person she obstructed. If a major foul occurs outside of the 12-meter fan or eight-meter arc, the fouler must stand four meters behind the player she fouled.
There are two different surroundings around the goal on both sides of the field. The eight-meter arc and the 12-meter fan. When committing a major foul inside either of these areas, all players that were previously inside the surrounding must take the most direct route out. The player who was fouled now moves to the nearest hash mark that is located around the edges of the arc or fan and either takes position to shoot or to pass (although, most often to shoot). When the whistle is blown, the player with the ball may move up and try for a goal.
The most important rule in women's lacrosse is shooting space—this is a violation of the rules. It occurs when a defender moves in at a bad angle on the offender while shooting in the eight-meter arc. This is a dangerous play made by the defender.
Women's games are played in two 25-minute halves. These 25 minutes are running time, except for the last two minutes, during which time stops when the whistle is blown (This can differ when playing high school or middle school games). While the whistle is blown, players are not allowed to move. In women's lacrosse, players are not allowed to touch the ball with their body or cover the ball with their stick in order to scoop it into their stick or protect the ball from picked up by an opponent.
The women's lacrosse game has been modified significantly over the past ten years. Modifications include limiting the amount of players allowed between the two restraining lines on the draw to five players per team. Stick modifications have lead to offset heads, which allow the women's game to move faster and makes stick moves and tricks easier. In 2002, goggles became mandatory equipment in the United States (but not a requirement in international rules). In 2006, hard boundaries were adopted.
Penalties for women's lacrosse are assessed with the following cards:
The University of Maryland, College Park has traditionally dominated the women's intercollegiate play, producing innumerable 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. The game is also 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 World Cup.
Women's intercollegiate lacrosse stars have included University of Maryland, College Park standouts Kelly Amonte-Hiller, coach of the 2005, 2006, and 2007 national championship team from Northwestern University, and all-time scoring leader Australian Jen Adams.
While modern lacrosse has been around for over 70 years, until about 20 years ago it had only been played for the most part in Canada and the United States, with small but dedicated lacrosse communities in Great Britain and Australia. Since then however, lacrosse has flourished 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 consisted 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, England and Australia, with Scotland and Wales also competing in the women's edition. The expansion of the game internationally has seen the 2005 Women's World Cup competed for by ten nations, and the 2006 Men's World Championship was contested by 21 countries. One of the major stumbling blocks to the reintroduction of lacrosse into the Olympic program is the fact that men's and women's lacrosse have completely separate international governing bodies.
In 2003, the first World Indoor Lacrosse Championship contested by six nations at four sites in Ontario, Canada. The 2007 WILC will be held in Halifax, Canada. Teams from Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, England, Ireland, Iroquois Nationals, Scotland and the United States will be competing.
The next largest international field lacrosse competition would most likely be 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 seven nations had ever participated, but in 2004 there was a record number of participating countries, with 12 men's and six women's, which made it the largest international lacrosse event of 2004. The next European Lacrosse Championships will be held in Lahti, Finland in 2008.
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 and 2006 final to Canada. The United States has won eight of the ten senior men's and all five under-19 men's tournaments to date. In the women's game, Australia have provided stiffer competition, even holding a winning record against the United States of six wins to five at senior world championships, plus one draw. Despite this, the United States has won five of the seven senior women's and two of the three under-19 women's tournaments to date, with the other world championships won by Australia, including the 2005 senior women's trophy.
Despite overall North American success, the highest scoring teams in international competition are not from the United States or Canada. In the women's game, a collaboration of Great Britain and Ireland defeated a team from Long Island, New York by a score of 40-0 in 1967. For the men, the highest scoring team was Scotland over Germany, 34-3 in 1994. However, in the World Championships Premier Division (in 2006 it was Blue), the highest score was from the United States, with their 33-2 win over Japan in 1994.
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. In 2006, the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Program signed a partnership with Nike, Inc.
All links retrieved July 22, 2014.
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