A True American Sport

February 21st, 2014 | By Gary No Comments

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What was the first truly American sport? If you guessed football, baseball, or basketball, you would be wrong. The very first sport ever played in America was actually lacrosse. The sport has been played by Native Americans for hundreds and possibly thousands of years. There is little recorded history of the sport until explorers and missionaries from Europe reached America, but we know that the number of players, size of field, equipment, and number of players varied greatly depending on the tribe. In the mid-1800s, English-speaking settlers in Montreal adopted the game and ‘civilized’ it by creating a new set of rules and forming amateur clubs and teams. The game grew in popularity in Canada and is still an Official National Sport of Canada (a title shared with ice hockey).

The rules of lacrosse vary depending on the age and gender of the player. Girls’ rules provide for less equipment and physical contact than rules for boys. Basically, two teams of 10 players each play on a grass field about 110 yards long by 60 yards wide. Boys are required to wear a helmet, gloves, and shoulder pads; girls only wear protective eye goggles.  The stick is called a crosse, which is usually made of aluminum and plastic with a netted pocket on the end.

The goal of the game is to put the ball into the goal of your opponent, which is similar to a hockey goal but the opening is six feet by six feet.  The ball is made of hard rubber and is about the size of a baseball. The ball may be carried, thrown or batted with the crosse, rolled or kicked in any direction as long as it remains in the field of play.  Lacrosse is a very fast-paced team sport that requires quick reactions, good hand-eye coordination, and a lot of running.

Although lacrosse is not as popular as other American youth sports, it has been popular in the Northeastern United States, where most communities have youth lacrosse clubs and there are high school and college teams. In the past 20 years, lacrosse has gained popularity across the country, including right here in the Athens area. Oconee Lacrosse originally only had a team for high school age boys, but over the last couple of years they have expanded to included teams for kids in grades three through 12. The youth teams play on Saturdays in the Gwinnett Lacrosse League and the high school teams play in the North Georgia Lacrosse League. They have great coaches who can teach new players about the game, and they even have equipment packages that you can borrow until you make the investment in your own equipment. For more information about Oconee Lacrosse, go to www.OconeeLacrosse.teamopolis.com.

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