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More History of Lacrosse

Lacrosse is the oldest sport in North America, with its origin dating back to the 1400s. It did not become generally known and talked about however, until the 1600s when a Jesuit missionary named Jean de Brebeuf saw the Hyron Indians play it. In a report to his superiors, he stated little about the actual play of the game but seemed to be intrigued by the stick the indians used while playing. Jean de Brebeuf likened the stick the indians competed with, to the "crosier" carried at religious ceremonies by a bishop. Thus, the name la crosse evolved, and this later became simply "lacrosse."

Indian lacrosse was a mass game and often teams were made up of one hundred to one thousand braves on each side. The goals were usually five-hundred yards to one-half mile apart. On occasion, the goals could be seperated by several miles. Usually a large rock or tree was considered the goal and a score was recorded by hitting the rock or tree with a ball. Some tribes used goal posts six to nine feet apart, and the ball had to pass between them for a score, much like today's game. 

Games lasted from sunnup to sundown and stretched over the course of two or three days. Lacrosse games were originally used to toughen braves for actual combat. There were even times when games were played between two tribes to settle their differences or disputes.

It was not until the early 1800s that the French pioneers started playing lacrosse seriously. With their participation in the sport came the first signs of turning lacrosse into a more civilized game. Canadian dentist W. George Beers standardized the game in 1867 with the adoption of set field dimensions, limits to the number of players per team, and other basic rules. Little did the French settlers know that they would be credited for being the forefathers of lacrosse, along with the indians. New York University fielded the nation's first college team in 1877, and Philips Andover Academy (Mass.), Philips Exeter Academy (NH.) and the Lawrenceville School (N.J.) were the nations' first high school teams in 1882.

In the early 1900s lacrosse became recognized as a "force to be reckoned with." It was during this time that the game was first played in Olympic competition, and the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse League (USILL) was formed. In 1926, the USILL was replaced by the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association, which is still the governing body of lacrosse today.

Lacrosse continued to grow in America during the mid 1900s, and today the game is played by over 500 colleges and universities, as well as over 1400 high schools countrywide. Women's lacrosse is booming too. Over 100 colleges and universities, along with 150 high schools, currently sponsor programs.