History of Lacrosse*
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."
* History of Lacrosse has been adopted from the USLacrosse ® Parents' Guide
Contestants played on a field as large as 15 miles in length and games sometimes lasted for days. Some tribes used a single pole, tree, or rock for a goal. Other tribes used two goalposts through which the ball had to pass. 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.
At that time, some type of lacrosse was played by tribes scattered throughout what is now southern Canada and all parts of the United States.
French pioneers began playing the game avidly in the early 1800's. Canadian dentist W. George Beers standardized the game in 1867 with the adoption of set field dimensions, limits to the number of players per team, and other basic rules.
New York University fielded the nations first college team in 1877. Philips Andover Academy (Mass.), Philips Exeter Academy (N.H.), and Lawrenceville School (N.J.) were the nation's first high school teams in 1882. There are currently over 600 college and 2,000 high school lacrosse teams coast to coast. Massachusetts currently has 6,000 youth lacrosse players between 2nd and 8th grade.
The first women's lacrosse game was played in 1890 at the St. Leonards School in Scotland. Although an attempt was made to start women's lacrosse at Sweet Briar College (VA) in 1914, it was not until 1926 that Miss Rosabelle Sinclair established the first women's lacrosse team in the United States at The Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, Maryland.
Men's and women's lacrosse were played under virtually the same rules, with no protective equiptment, until the mid-1930's. At that time, men's lacrosse began evolving dramatically, while women's lacrosse continued to remain true to the game's original rules.
Men's and women's lacrosse remain derivations of the same game today, but are played under different rules. Women's rules limit stick contact, prohibit body contact, and, therefore, require little protective equiptment. Men's lacrosse rules allow some degree of stick and body contact, although violence is neither condoned nor allowed.
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."