The history of lacrosse starts further back than many of us realize. Its fascinating origin spans two continents. Although it's not a top professional sport, looking at its centuries-long story is a worthwhile endeavor.
What is Lacrosse?
Lacrosse is a team sport often played on a field that involves a ball and a stick. The stick has a net on its end and is used to carry the ball, as it cannot touch the ground during gameplay.
The rules of lacrosse are similar to hockey, with guidelines such as only the goalie being allowed to touch the ball with their hands. The lacrosse goal also looks similar to what's seen in hockey, and the object of the game is to score the ball into the opponent's net.
The origin of lacrosse, despite its French name, is Native American. In fact, the history of lacrosse timeline may be older than 400 years, as several Native American tribes participated in a game that inspired modern-day lacrosse gameplay.
The original lacrosse game that the Native Americans played seems enormous and somewhat wild compared to what we play today. The game's premise was similar, focusing on players using sticks with nets on the ends to hold a ball that could not touch the ground.
Goals were still a part of the game, but instead of a field size of 110 meters by 60 meters, there were no designated boundaries in this Native American game. The game's purpose in the community was social, religious and it was a fantastic exercise for young warriors in the making. A single match could include up to thousands of players.
Over time, the Native Americans refined the sports' equipment. They crafted balls of deerskin and used deer sinew for the stick's netting.
A French Jesuit missionary named Jean de Brébeuf first coined the term "lacrosse" in the 1630s. He spotted some of the Huron Native Americans playing the game and called it "lacrosse." The word comes from the phrase jeu de la crosse, which means "game of the hooked sticks."
Interest in lacrosse started to take off, and by the 1800s, the game was on its way to becoming an official sport.
History of Lacrosse in the Victorian Era
In 1834, Caughnawaga natives gave a demonstration of the game in Montreal. The game piqued people's interest, but it was not yet a full-blown sport. In 1867, Canadian dentist Dr. William George Beers founded a Lacrosse Club in Montreal. He shortened the game's length, used fewer players, updated the stick design and chose a rubber ball for gameplay.
However, it wasn't until nine years later, when Queen Victoria witnessed the sport and called it "very pretty to watch," that interest grew considerably.
This minor endorsement by the Queen was enough to amplify the interest in lacrosse. This comment sparked a small start in women's lacrosse history. The first women's lacrosse game occurred in 1890 in Scotland.
However, many people disliked the sports' violent nature. Although lacrosse made an appearance in the 1904 Olympics, it would not appear again after 1908. It showed up a few times as a demonstration, but it remains outside Olympic sanction to this day.
The 20th century saw lacrosse become a part of many high schools and colleges. Additionally, the 1930s saw the invention of box lacrosse, the sport's indoor format.
History of Lacrosse Equipment
The history of lacrosse sticks starts with ordinary wooden sticks. The netting underwent some changes even as the indigenous people of North America played the game. A slightly more sophisticated version of the net utilized deer sinews.
The ball was either wood or deerskin stuffed with a soft material like hair. It wasn't until Dr. Beers came on the scene that a rubber ball was introduced.
Robert Pool's version of the wooden stick in 1937 used double-walled technology. This update served as a basis for modern lacrosse sticks.
History of Lacrosse as an Official Sport
The degree of the sport's official status has varied throughout history. It often shows up at the university level, with the NCAA sponsoring both the men's and women's versions of the sport.
Although lacrosse is not an Olympic game, it's included in the World Games.
Men's Lacrosse History
Following Dr. Beers' streamlined and regulated redesign of the game, lacrosse soon traveled overseas in 1883 from Canada to Scotland. This lacrosse group consisted of people from the Iroquois indigenous confederacy, and their tour included distributing promotional literature to viewers.
In 1971, lacrosse at men's colleges joined forces with the NCAA, of which it remains a member today.
In 2001, Major League Lacrosse hosted its first season for field lacrosse. The league included a total of 16 teams throughout its run. In 2020, the league merged with the Premier Lacrosse League and currently contains eight teams.
Women's Lacrosse History
Women's lacrosse was not too far behind the men's game. St. Leonard's girls' school incorporated the sport into its selection in 1890.
Rosabelle Sinclair attended St. Leonard's and subsequently aided the United States' lacrosse foundation. In 1926, Sinclair began a team at Bryn Mawr College for girls in Baltimore, Maryland. The sport spread from there to other schools, and in 1931, the United States Women's Lacrosse Association was formed.
In the 1970s, the International Federation of Women's Lacrosse formed. The federation's formation increased interest in the sport for girls and women. By 1982, the NCAA also included Women's Lacrosse.
Since 2019, the men's and women's lacrosse federations have been a part of the World Lacrosse governing body.
Order Premium Lacrosse Equipment from Trigon Sports
Now that you know more about lacrosse history, let the pros at Trigon Sports set you up with new products to elevate your game. From lacrosse practice equipment to lacrosse goals and nets, our high-quality equipment offers excellent, long-term reliability while paying homage to the origin of lacrosse. Browse our selection or contact us today if you have any questions.Shop Lacrosse Equipment