Early North American explorers found different forms of lacrosse widely played by the Indians.
The French settlers gave the game its present name because the sticks the Indians used had a resemblance to the crosier (la crosse) carried at ceremonies by a bishop as a symbol of pastoral office.
The first use of the word “crosse” in reference to the game was made in 1636 by a Jesuit missionary, Jean de Brebeuf, who saw the Hurons play it near Thunder Bay, Ontario, and mentioned it in a report to his ecclesiastical superiors. He said nothing of the technique of the game, and it was left for another Jesuit, Pierre de Charlevoix, to describe it as played by the Algonquins in 1721.
The Indians used a stick 3 or 4 feet long with a netted loop at one end (in some areas two smaller sticks were used, one in each hand).
Even in daylong contests, early reports say, the ball rarely touched the ground.
The ball was about the size of a modern tennis ball and was made either of wood or of deerskin stuffed with deer hair.Indian lacrosse was a mass game.
Most teams were made up of about a hundred players and sometimes of more than a thousand. Distance between goals usually was between 500 yards and a half-mile, but on occasion the goals were several miles apart.
Some tribes used a single pole or tree or rock for a goal, and scores were made by a hit with the ball.
Other tribes used two goal posts, 6 to 9 feet apart, and the ball had to pass between them. There were no sidelines, and play ranged over the countryside in all directions.Games lasted as long as two or three days, starting at sunup and ending at sundown.
If a brave seemed to be playing below top pace, the squaws of his tribe would rush to him on
the field and beat him with switches.
Players wore only breechcloths and some decorative paint; they usually played barefoot.
Lacrosse was played not only for recreation but also as a means of training warriors.
The roughness of the game served to accustom players to conditions of close combat, and its
length to develop endurance for war and hunting parties.
The modern day game of lacrosse is a field game played by two opposing teams, with a ball
and a special netted stick, or crosse, with which the ball is caught, carried, and thrown
Men’s lacrosse is played on a field 60 yd (55 m) wide and 110 yd (100 m) long, including 15 yd (14 m) of clear space behind each goal.The rules for women’s lacrosse stipulate no boundaries, but a field of 120 by 70 yards (110 by 64 m) is preferable. Each goal consists of two poles 6 ft (1.8 m) tall, with a 6-ft (1.8-m) crossbar at the top. A pyramid-shaped netting, open at the front, is attached to the poles and crossbar and is fastened to the ground at its apex, 7 ft (2.1 m) beyond the goal line.
The lacrosse ball is of hard rubber, generally 8 in. (about 20 cm)
in circumference and 5 to 5.3 oz (about 145 g) in weight.Men and
women players carry a stick, or crosse, that measures between 40
and 72 in/102 and 183 cm long for men, and 36 to 44 in/92 to 112 cm long for women.
The stick is hooked on top, with strings woven of rawhide, gut, clock string,
or linen cord strung diagonally across the hooked portion to form a network.
Players in field lacrosse today use a stick that has an aluminum, graphite, or wood handle;
only the goal keeper’s crosse may exceed a width of 10 in (about 25 cm).
Men’s teams have ten players; women’s teams are composed of 12 players.
Another form of the game is called box lacrosse, it consists of six players on a hard,
enclosed surface of 90 ft (27 m)by 180 ft to 200 ft (54 to 61 m).
This type of lacrosse has a professional league in the United States, the
Major Indoor Lacrosse League. In field lacrosse the 100-minute playing
time is divided into four periods, or quarters, with each team being
allowed two time-outs per half.
The women’s game is two 25-minute halves, with a 10-minute rest
period between the halves.