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Lacrosse: Fastest Growing Sport In The United States

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Fastest Growing Sport in the United States

There are many popular sports in the United States from basketball to baseball to football, but none has seen the astronomical growth that the sport of lacrosse has. It is estimated that lacrosse is growing nationally at a rate of over 10 percent annually. Lacrosse is a composite of basketball, soccer and hockey. In men's lacrosse it, also, adds the element of football. Twenty years ago lacrosse was an East Coast sport played in the New England states, New York and Maryland with the players mostly being from boarding schools. Now with more televised games at the college and professional level the sport has exploded in popularity. Known as the oldest sport in North America with its roots from the Native American Indians, lacrosse, the fastest sport on two feet, has rapidly become the favorite sport in the United States.

The Native American Indians invented the sport of lacrosse. In 1636, a Jesuit missionary, Jean de Brebeuf, saw the Iroquois Indians play. The French named the sport lacrosse because the stick used by the Indians resembled the shepherd's crook- like crosier carried by their bishops. During this period, it was believed that at least 48 tribes from across North America played some type of lacrosse.

The game was played on a field that ranged anywhere from five hundred yards to fifteen miles in length with as little as one hundred to as much as one thousand players. The balls were made from various materials such as deerskin, dried clay, rocks, wood or heads of the enemy. Their goal was a single pole, a tree or a large rock. The object was to hit the opponent's' goal with the ball thrown from their cross (stick). The games could last for days on end and were very grueling and violent. Since there was only one ball and many players, players tried to injure their opponents with their sticks before moving to the goal. Many times there were severe injuries and even death. Games were umpired by the medicine men. The Indians used the sport to resolve conflicts within their tribe and with other tribes, heal the sick, assure a good harvest, and prepare and toughen strong men for war. In addition, lacrosse was tied to the community and religion of the tribes as they saw the game as deeply spiritual. The warrior's role was to bring glory and honor to himself and his tribe as well as please "The Creator".

The French pioneers began playing a less violent version of lacrosse in the early 1800's. In 1867 a Canadian dentist, W. George Beers, standardized the game by giving it set basic rules, field dimensions, number of players per team and game time length. The first college to establish a lacrosse team was New York University in 1877. In 1877, Philips Academy (MA), Philips Exeter Academy (NH) and Lawrenceville School (NJ) were the first high school teams in the United States to have lacrosse.

Lacrosse has changed in many ways. The game is now a sport Ð'- a competition between two teams. It is no longer played to resolve conflicts with other tribes or to please "The Creator". The object is to score a goal by throwing a small round ball into the opponent's net. Now the field measures 110 yards long by 60 yards wide. There are set rules for both men and women, but there are significant differences between men and women's lacrosse. For the men there are 10 men on each team comprised on three attackmen, three defensemen, three midfielders (middies) and one goaltender (goalie). Men wear protective equipment on their heads (mouth guards, too), arms, hands and shoulders. It is a very fast paced, physical game where body contact is allowed. Penalties are given to those players who have broken the rules. Similar to ice hockey the penalized player sits in a penalty box for an allotted amount of time depending on his infraction. Such infractions are offside, slashing, unnecessary roughness or use of illegal equipment. In contrast, women's lacrosse, all though



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