History of Lacrosse
The game originally served as a way to show gratitude to the creator, respect for other members of a tribe, or to settle disputes between tribes. Games could last for days and there were no established field boundaries. In what is now southern Ontario and western New York, the six tribes of the Iroquois Nation first established the limit of 12 to 15 players and field boundaries. The game became one of the national sports of Canada (the other is hockey which is, in fact, patterned after lacrosse). It also became popular in the northeast, eventually spread to California and Ohio, and now has caught on in Texas, Florida and other states, and even other countries.
The sport's name comes from the French word for hooked stick, and the stick is a key piece of equipment in lacrosse. Sticks have three parts, the shaft or handle, head, and pocket. Sticks can be purchased assembled, or in parts. Many experienced players prefer to string their own heads. The depth of the pocket is limited by regulation. Attack sticks are 40 to 42 inches long, and defense sticks are six feet long.
Men's lacrosse includes protective gear, including a helmet, mouth guard, shoulder and elbow pads, and gloves. Some players also wear rib pads under their jerseys (it is a physical sport). Lacrosse players wear shoes with cleats, with the size and type dependent on the playing surface (real or artificial turf). Goalies wear additional protection, including chest and throat pads. Women lacrosse players wear mouth guards and goggles only, as checking is more limited in the women's game.
Basics of Playing Lacrosse
Lacrosse has elements of hockey, soccer, and basketball. It is played on a field 110 yards long, divided into halves by a midfield line. Each end has a 40-yard box called the restraining box or offensive or defensive zone. A 6 by 6 foot goal at each end of the field is surrounded by a circle called the crease.
Teams include 10 players, one goaltender or goalie, three defensemen, three midfielders, and three attackmen. Attackmen coordinate offense and try to score, generally staying on the offensive end of the field. Defensemen guard the opponent's attackers and try to take the ball away. Middies play both offense and defense, running the length of the field. Substitutions will, therefore, be more frequent for middies.
Play begins with a face-off between two middies at the center of midfield. Players place the head of their sticks together with the ball in between. At the whistle, each tries to gain possession of the ball or get it to a team mate. Players are not allowed to touch the ball with their hands, but kicking it is legal.During play, each team must have four players in its defensive half, and three on the offensive half, or be called offsides. Offensive players may not step into the crease, and defensive players may not carry the ball into it. When a ball goes out of bounds, possession is usually awarded to the team that did not touch it last. If a ball goes out on a shot on goal, however, possession goes to the player closest to the ball when it leaves the field. When a team scores a goal, a face-off follows.
Youth games typically last 32 minutes with eight minute quarters. High school games are 48 minutes with 12 minute quarters. College games are 60 minutes long with 15 minute quarters. A two minute break is held between quarters and half time is ten minutes. Teams change sides each quarter.
Players are allowed to check the player with the ball and any player within five yards of a loose ball. Players can check with their body or their stick. Body checks cannot make contact above the shoulders, below the waist, or from the rear, and the player must have both hands on his own stick. Stick checks must be on the other player's stick or gloves, but checks that hit elsewhere may not be called if the defender had a chance of hitting the stick or glove but the offensive player moved or spun, causing the check to land elsewhere. Checking with the part of the stick between the gloves is not allowed.
Personal fouls include slashing, tripping, illegal body checks, cross-checking, and unnecessary roughness. These put the player in the penalty box for one minute. An illegal stick is also a personal foul. Technical fouls include delay of game, pushing, and interference and may result in loss of possession or 30 seconds in the box.
Women's lacrosse teams have 11 players, five on attack, five on defense, and a goalie. In a face-off, the ball is held between the back of two players' sticks above the ground. No body checking is allowed, only stick checks directed away from the player with the ball. Fouls are major or minor, and the penalty is a free position. High school games are 50 minutes, divided into two 25 minute halves, and college games are two 30 minute halves. Field size is flexible, but a maximum of 140 by 70 yards and a minimum of 110 by 60.