They say that everything old is new again. Take the sport of lacrosse, for example. A premier sporting event on the North American continent for hundreds of years, the game has been rising through the ranks of inter-collegiate sports for years, and is an increasing presence on high school campuses as well.
Lacrosse got its start in Canada, played by native groups possibly starting in the 1600’s. It is considered to be the oldest team sport played in North America. While the modern day sport takes equipment and some rules from its 17th century ancestor, there are differences as well. One would be in the size of the game. The number of players could range from several hundred to a thousand in the original version of the game. Another was the duration of the game. Ones with fewer players might last only a few hours. But larger games with many players could be epic events, with continuous play going on for days. The game only stopped for the day when the sun went down, and resumed the next morning with its rising. The dimensions of the lacrosse field were fairly fluid. Depending on the needs of that particular game, opposing goals could be placed several hundred feet apart, or there could be as much as six miles separating them. These older games certainly had rules to govern play. But they might not be the same rules from game to game, and it was not uncommon for them to be determined not long before that particular game was played. One “firm and fast” one that appeared to be common to all of these games was that once the ball was in play, it could not be touched with hands. Although many native tribes had a woman’s version of this game (and some men vs. women games were played), for the larger, inter-tribal events, only male players were permitted. Aggression among players in moving the ball towards the desired goal was encouraged. The game served as a (usually) non-lethal way for “frenemy” tribes to work out aggressions, and to train young warriors.
Canadian tribes eventually added non-netted sticks to their lacrosse equipment, but used no other equipment. The game moved beyond the boundaries of Canada into what is now the United States in the 1700’s, where it was adopted by some tribes living there. French colonists in Canada also adopted the game, developing a formal (and permanent) set of rules, and making the game less violent. The sport increased in popularity as time went on, with formal clubs forming, and the game eventually became Canada’s national sport. It caught on more slowly in the United States. An eastern college and prep school fixture since the mid twentieth century, the game has exploded on the high school and college level within the last decade.
One of the game’s stars is Notre Dame player Matt Landis. A defensive man, the junior was recently named Defensive Player Of The Week by the Atlantic Coast Conference for his part in Notre Dame’s victory over Virginia University.
A Pelham, NY native, Landis was a lacrosse team star during all four years at the town’s high school, and was heavily recruited by a number of major colleges to play for them upon graduation. He was named as one of Inside Lacrosse magazine’s top collegiate players in 2012, and is a fine representative of the popularity of this game that endures to this day.