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America's game

Lacrosse is probably the oldest game in America


Ask most sports fans in the United States to name America’s game and they will probably say either football or baseball.

Ask Canadians and you may hear hockey, while in South America the answer will be futbol (soccer).

However, the reality is that there is another game that has to be considered as America’s game. No, it doesn’t have the popularity of the other games, but it is still uniquely American, and has been around far longer than the other choices.

That game is lacrosse, a game first played by the Iroquois using a small rubber ball and a long-handled stick called a crosse.

The game was possibly first played as early as 1100 A.D., and although in a very different format than today, was well established by the early 17th century when it was documented by Jesuit missionaries in what is now Canada.A regulation lacrosse field is the same length as a football field counting the end zones, but 10 yards wider.

Native Americans played the game with teams of from 100 to 1,000 men on a field from 500 meters to as much as three kilometers long with games lasting from sunup to sundown for as many as three consecutive days.

In 1856, William George Beers, a Canadian dentist, founded the Montreal Lacrosse Club. By 1867 Beers had written new rules for the game with a format similar to today. The game was contested as an Olympic sport in both 1904 and 1908, and as a demonstration sport in both the 1928 and 1932 Olympics.

The game has long been popular in Eastern Canada as well as the Northeastern United States, but has recently grown in popularity in the Western United States. In the summer of 2001, a men’s professional field lacrosse league was formed known as Major League Lacrosse. That league is often credited with the recent surge in popularity of the game.

Currently the game can be played in several formats, field lacrosse, box lacrosse and women’s lacrosse, which has significantly different rules than men’s lacrosse. Collegiate rules, high school rules, and international rules all vary.

So what exactly is lacrosse and how do you play?

The most common form of lacrosse, and the one played by high school teams on the West Coast, is field lacrosse. Teams are made up of 10 players, including three attackers, three midfielders, three defenders and one goalie. Each player carries a lacrosse stick or crosse. A short crosse measures between 40 and 42 inches and is typically used by attackers or midfielders. A long crosse is 52 inches to 72 inches long and may only be carried by four players on a team, usually defenders or midfielders.

Each lacrosse stick has a small basket or webbing on the end and must be constructed so that the ball can roll out unimpeded.

The field is 110 yards long and is 60 yards wide, 10 yards wider than a football field.

Play starts with a face off, similar to the more familiar hockey face off, with players attempting to score by throwing the ball with the stick into a small goal. After each goal there is another face off.

Teams may substitute players in and out of the game freely much like hockey with no stoppage of play.

When penalties are given players go to a penalty box for 30 seconds to three minutes, depending on the severity of the foul.

Most penalties end regardless of the time left on the penalty when the opposing team scores a goal.

High school games consist of four 10-minute quarters with running time.

The game is known for its non-stop action and aggressive, sometimes physical play.

Players wear protective equipment including some padding, specialized gloves and a helmet.

So far lacrosse is not a sanctioned sport in Oregon. Both Oregon and Oregon State universities have teams, however, they are club sports. The same is true at the high school level with the Oregon School Activities Association not yet sanctioning games. Games are instead governed by the Oregon High School Lacrosse Association.

As the sport has increased in popularity the opportunity to watch high level games in Central Oregon has increased. Each year Summit High School attracts teams such as Oregon, Oregon State, Boise State, and Idaho to Bend for a tournament and clinic. Sisters High School also hosts one of the largest tournaments on the West Coast each spring.

Currently there are no teams in Crook County.



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