With a history that spans centuries, lacrosse is the oldest sport in North America. Rooted in Native American religion, lacrosse was often played to resolve conflicts, heal the sick, and develop strong, virile men. To Native Americans, lacrosse is still referred to as "The Creator's Game
Ironically, lacrosse also served as a preparation for war. Legend tells of as many as 1,000 players per side, from the same or different tribes, who took turns engaging in a violent contest. Contestants played on a field from one to 15 miles in length, and games sometimes lasted for days. Some tribes used a single pole, tree or rock for a goal, while other tribes had two goal posts through which the ball had to bass. Balls were made out of wood, deerskin, baked clay or stone.
New York University fielded the nation's first college team in 1877, and Philips Academy, Andover (Massachusetts), Philips Exeter Academy (New Hampshire) and the Lawrenceville School (New Jersey) were the nation's first high school teams in 1882. There are 400 college and 1,200 high school men's lacrosse teams from coast to coast.
The first women's lacrosse game was played in 1890 at the St. Leonard's School in Scotland. Although an attempt was made to start women's lacrosse at Sweet Briar College in Virginia in 1914, it was not until 1926 that Miss RosabelleSinclair established the first women's lacrosse team in the United Sates at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, Maryland.
Men's and women's lacrosse were played under virtually the same rules, with no protective equipment, until the mid-1930s. At that time, men's lacrosse began evolving dramatically, while women's lacrosse continued to remain true to the game's original rules. Men's and women's lacrosse remain derivations of the same game today, but are played under different rules. Women's rules limit stick contact, prohibit body contact and, therefore, require little protective equipment. Men's lacrosse rules allow some degree of stick and body contact, although violence is neither condoned nor allowed.
Field lacrosse is sometimes perceived to be a violent and dangerous game, however, injury statistics prove otherwise. While serious injuries can and occur in lacrosse, the game has evolved with an emphasis on safety, and the rate of injury is comparatively low.
While traditionally an Eastern sport, California currently boasts the second greatest number of men's college lacrosse teams in the nation. Only New York State can claim more.
Fan attendance at the Men's NCAA Lacrosse Championships has nearly tripled in the last 10 years, with over 100,000 lacrosse enthusiasts attending the men's Division I, II and III championship tournaments in 1999. Only the men's NCAA Basketball Final Four championship game outdrew lacrosse as the largest attended NCAA championship in 1995.
In 1998, more than 230,000 men, women and children played lacrosse... male participation was estimated to be over 180,000 players, while female participation was estimated to be over 51,000 players. Since 1995, more than 40 new varsity women's programs have been established at U.S. colleges and universities.
National participation in lacrosse, considered one of the fastest-growing team sports in the country, is increasing at a rate of 15 to 20 percent per year.
Of 80 NCAA sponsored championships, men's lacrosse ranks fifth in the amount of merchandise sales, behind the Men's Division I Final Four (basketball), College World Series, Women's Final Four and Division I Men's Ice Hockey
International lacrosse has recently grown to include Sweden, Germany, and the Czech Republic as competing nations. Development efforts are now underway in more than a dozen other nations, including China, Korea, Argentina and Italy.
Chapters of the Lacrosse Foundation have been established in 37 states.
Men's Participation - College and University - Nearly 25,000 men play lacrosse at over 400 colleges and universities which currently have lacrosse programs that are sanctioned either by the athletic department or the club sports department.188 participating NCAA Division I, II and III universities and colleges compete for national championships. 24 NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) teams compete for national championships. Over 200 participating NCAA Division I and III universities and colleges are building towards varsity programs by offering structured intercollegiate "club" programs. The average program has 45 to 50 players.
The NCAA sponsored Men's Lacrosse Championships has consistently been in the top five of national attendance for collegiate championships. Men's Participation - High School. More than 72,000 mean play lacrosse at 1,600 high schools which currently sponsor programs that are either sanctioned by the athletic department or recognized as school affiliated club teams. Lacrosse programs began in eastern preparatory schools and have expanded to public and parochial schools nationwide. More than 1,250 high schools sponsor varsity programs. Over 350 high schools are building towards varsity program by offering structured interscholastic "club" programs. More than 600 schools have junior varsity and freshman programs. The average program consists of 35-40 players.
Women's Participation - College and University - Over 5,500 women participate in lacrosse programs at 240 colleges and universities, sanctioned either by the athletic department or the club sports department.196 participating NCAA Division I, II and III universities and college teams compete for the national championships.
Over 50 participating NCAA Division I, II and III universities and colleges are building towards varsity programs offering structured intercollegiate "club" programs. The average program has 20-25 players.
Women's Participation - High School - Over 15,000 women participate in lacrosse at 600 high schools which currently sponsor programs that are either sanctioned by the athletic department or are recognized as school affiliated club teams.
Lacrosse programs began in eastern preparatory schools and have expanded to public and parochial schools nationwide.
More than 450 high schools sponsor varsity programs.
Approximately 150 high schools are building towards varsity by offering structured interscholastic "club" programs.
More than 125 schools have junior varsity and freshman programs.
The average team consists of 20-25 players.
Youth, Clubs and Camps
Club Participation - Men and Women - There are over 11,500 players (7,500 men and 4,000 women) nationally playing lacrosse on over 300 men's and women's post-collegiate club teams in virtually every state in the country. Players at the club level are of the highest caliber. Professional profiles include lawyers, doctors, business executives, and other high earning power vocations. The average club organization has 35 to 40 players.
Participants range in age from 18 to 60. Youth Participation - Boys and Girls Youth and recreational programs playing both field and "soft" lacrosse are estimated at about 100,000 participants, 76,000 boys and 27,000 girls. Over 4,500 programs span the United States. Programs range in size from 50 to 15,000 children. Players range from 5 to 15 years of age. Camps and Clinics - Boys and Girls Participants are primarily high school and youth players. These programs are staffed by current college and high school coaches. There are more than 300 men's and women's camps nationally. The majority of camps are held during the summer months.
As one of the fastest growing sports in the US, the participants are increaslingly younger.
44 percent of all current players are under 14 years of age
36 percent are of or between the ages of 14 and 17 years.
14 percent are of or between the ages of 18 and 22 years.
4 percent are of or between the ages of 23 and 30 years.
2 percent of all current players are over 30 years.