‘The fastest game on two feet’
Lacrosse was founded in North America, where native Americans played the game, for fun, but also to solve conflicts. Here it was discovered by French explorers, who gave it the modern name of ‘lacrosse’ (French for ‘the stick’, as in ‘hockey stick’). Nowadays, lacrosse is the summer sport of Canada and also very popular in the US.
Lacrosse has four varieties, of which men’s lacrosse and women’s lacrosse are the most popular. In contrast to most other sports, these two varieties are very different, both in rules as in equipment.
Men’s lacrosse is a full contact sport, whereby four 20-minute quarters are being played between two 10-men teams. The goal of the game is to get a hard, massive rubber ball in the opponent’s goal. It is being played on a field as big as a football field. A special characteristic of the game is the possibility to play behind the goal. Hitting and poking with the stick, together with bodychecks, are a central part in capturing the ball. Therefore, men play with protective equipment. A helmet, shoulder pads, elbow pads, gloves and (since 2016) a mouthguard are mandatory. The men’s stick is made of light metal, with a plastic ‘head’ with a net with a deepening. This deepening, called a ‘pocket’ ensures a stable position of the ball in the stick which makes it difficult to hit the ball from someone else’s stick.
In contrast to men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse is a non-contact sport. Within this game, it is only under certain conditions that it is allowed to check on the stick. A team consists of 12 women, of which one is the goalkeeper. The goal of women’s lacrosse is the same as that of men’s lacrosse, although the way of playing is very different. In capturing the ball and defending against an attack, body positioning is key. Because of the limited physical contact, women are only required to wear a mouthguard. Optionally, gloves and an eye mask may be worn. The stick used in women’s lacrosse are very shallow, which makes possessing the ball more difficult.