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 Native Americans used had a resemblance to the crosier (la crosse) carried at ceremonies by a bishop as a symbol of pastoral office.
The Native Americans 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). Each stick was hand crafted out of wood and netting made of deer sinew or wattup. Stick design and material varied between regions and tribes. The ball was about the size of a modern tennis ball and was made either of wood or of deerskin stuffed with deer hair.
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. Even in day-long contests, early reports say, the ball rarely touched the ground.
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 55 m wide and100 m long, including14 m of clear space behind each goal. The women's field is slightly larger being 65m wide and 110m long. Each goal is 6ft by 6ft with netting extending out the back to form a pyramid shape.
The lacrosse ball is of hard rubber, about the size of a tennis ball, and can be thrown over 150kph. The sticks of today are quite different to those of the Native American's. The men's sticks generally range from 103cm to 107cm for attack men, and 132cm up to 183cm for defensive players. Men's defensive players who wield the longer sticks are often referred to as 'long poles'. Women's sticks have less variance with most being between 90cm - 110cm long.
The head of the stick is the plastic or wooden portion of the stick that the ball is caught and thrown from. Traditional stringing involves a network of nylon, leather, or synthetic string to form a diamond grid across the head. Men's sticks are allowed to have a deeper pocket, whle women's sticks have a shallower pocket. Some new sticks have a single piece of mesh to form the stringing and can also have laces or nylon threads strung through as well.
Men's lacrosse requires each player to wear a helmet, gloves, and mouth guard on field as players
are allowed to "check" each other and push each other in the game.
The difference in sticks also allows shots to be faster and therefore protective equipment must be worn.
Men's players can also wear elbow pads, chest pads, shoulder pads, and kidney pads
depending on their preference.
Women's lacrosse player must wear a mouth guard on field, and optionally can wear 'goggles' to
protect their eyes. Women's rules don't allow for as much contact and the stick differences mean
that checking the ball is easier and shots are slightly slower. Women's lacrosse is still a contact sport,
however there are more rules to protect players given the lack of protective equipment.
This is a huge change from the traditional game of lacrosse. The modern game requires more equipment but generally has less players and is more strictly regulated. There are still traditional sticks being used in lacrosse, and games being played by Native American's with more traditional rules. On the international stage you can see the Iroquois Nations play at World Championships in both the men and women's competitions.