Lacrosse: More than a Prep School Sport

An ongoing lacrosse match where the red team is trying to defend their goal.
A multitude of indigenous Americans playing lacrosse.
Female lacrosse player with a lacrosse stick and a ball.
A lacrosse player about to shoot.
Three First Nations men holding lacrosse sticks.
A lacrosse goalkeeper.

Lacrosse is a team sport that is normally played on grass. Two opposing teams of ten players per side face off, with the purpose of the game being to shoot a ball into the opponent’s goal with the help of lacrosse sticks. Characteristically, the lacrosse sticks used are befitted with hoop-nets, wherein the ball rests as players run with it, making carrying the ball unopposed rather easy. However, with opponents stick checking and making tackles as a player advances towards the goal or try to make a pass, maintaining control of the ball can still be difficult.

The First Nations connection

Looking back several hundred years, lacrosse was a sport that only aboriginal Americans played. At that time, though, there were no standardized rules. Playing fields were up to a mile long and players could number in the hundreds per game. Scores were kept but points were not all that mattered since games were also thought of as religious events that honored and brought participants closer to the mighty world creator. The creator, it was said, had bestowed the game of lacrosse upon the indigenous people and loved watching them play.

Apart from keeping participants fit and supposedly taking them closer to the creator, lacrosse, in the old days, served to bring First Nations together for feasting, conversations and improved relations. The broad festivities were appreciated by many different indigenous peoples, with the Iroquois of the North American east, in particular, being true aficionados. In recognition of this historical and cultural commitment to lacrosse, today the Iroquois nation is allowed to play international games in the sport. Therefore, they regularly play matches against national teams like Canada and the United States.

A sport for the upper classes

North American whites, going back in history again, only first discovered lacrosse when seeing Native Americans play it, but grew to like the game a great deal. As a consequence, during the 20th century, lacrosse became a part of the after-school activities at prep schools and private universities in both Canada and the United States, with players here stereotypically being of European descent and going on to become doctors, lawyers or engineers after having finished their degrees. Nowadays though, the image of lacrosse as a sport for upper class whites and certain indigenous peoples is fading, as more and more regular North American schools offer students to play lacrosse.