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My my My my
From the Baltimore Sun
Lacrosse basics
A guide to the game
Sun Staff

May 23, 2003

Lacrosse is one of the oldest team sports in North America, with its origin dating back to the 1400s.

Native Americans originally played the game, known then as "baggataway," with hundreds and sometimes thousands of players, and often women and men competed together on the same team.

These massive games would last two to three days and often the goals were miles apart.

It was not until the early 1800s that French settlers started adopting the game.

Lacrosse is a combination of basketball, soccer and hockey, and the game uses the same principles of the early game.

In the mid 1900s, lacrosse's popularity continued to grow in America. Today nearly 25,000 men play lacrosse at over 400 colleges and universities that have programs sanctioned by the school's athletic department or the club sports department.

There are currently 210 teams participating at NCAA Division I, II and III universities and colleges that compete for national championships. The women's game is played with somewhat different rules and equipment.

Length of the game

The regulation time for a men's college game is 60 minutes, divided into four periods of 15 minutes each. In the event of a tie at the end of the game, teams have sudden-victory overtime. The teams play periods of four minutes each until a goal is scored.

Lacrosse tidbits

• New York University fielded the nation's first college team in 1877.

• Men's and women's lacrosse were played under virtually the same rules, with no equipment, until the mid 1930s.

• Eight teams played in the first NCAA tournament, in 1971.

• Of 80 NCAA sponsored championships, men's lacrosse ranks fifth in merchandise sales.

The faceoff


Lacrosse play is started at the beginning of each period and after each goal by facing off the ball at the center of the field. If a player or team commits a penalty before or during any faceoff, the ball is automatically awarded to the opposing team.

The sticks are on the ground along the center line. The ball is placed in the center of the two stick heads, without touching the ground.

After the official blows the whistle, the player moves his stick and tries to gain control of the ball.

The equipment

Lacrosse players wear a protective helmet with a chin pad and strap firmly attached to the mask as designed. Some players wear custom-fitted mouthpieces.

All face masks must have a center bar from top to bottom to help prevent injury.

Players wear thick, padded gloves.

Players wear shorts and short-sleeved jerseys. They also can wear elbow pads. The goalie can wear padded pants, protective chest and thigh pads. Along with the other padding, players wear shoulder pads.

The ball

• Usually white, but can also be yellow, orange or lime green.

• Material: Solid rubber

• Circumference: Between 7 3/4 and 8 inches

• Weight: Between 5 and 5 1/4 ounces

The stick
It's official name is "crosse." But the more commonly used name is "stick." The length varies with the player's position or personal preference. Players can use a 40-inch to 42-inch "short stick" or a 52- to 72- inch "long stick."

The field
The playing field dimensions are 110 yards long and 60 yards wide. The boundaries of the field are marked with white or colored lines. Here's a diagram of the field.

The net
Each goal consists of two vertical posts with a pyramid-shaped cord netting. The mesh netting is attached to the ground with ground anchors. The goals are 80 yards apart and 15 yards from each end line.

The goal crease

The goal crease is a marked circle around each goal. The area within the crease line is not painted.

Some common official signals

Sources: www.lacrosse.org, NCAA Men's Lacrosse Committee, U.S. Lacrosse and the Lacrosse Museum and National Hall of Fame, "The Firefly Visual Dictionary", "The Rule Book" by the Diagram Group

Graphics by Kerry G. Johnson, Sun Staff