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Britain’s Best Kept Secret?
Member Name: Wease
Date: 21/02/02, updated on 13/03/03 (1363 review reads)
Advantages: Fast, fluid game, Fab to watch, Fab to play, England got the Bronze at the last World Cup
Disadvantages: Nowhere near enough support in the UK
So, erm unfortunately, I think some of you will at this precise point in time be saying, “Um lacrosse? That’s the one with the… er the, oh you know that ball thing…” Sadly I have to say you are not alone and I do spend a fair amount of time on my travels (a lacrosse stick on the train is always a great conversation starter!) explaining the game! Ok, now…
Take a moment
Let your mind go completely blank
Then think… AMERICAN PIE ... (please tell me you’ve seen it!)… yup lacrosse is the game that all the guys are playing in movie numero uno! Well, I want to tell y’all a little about the “chicks version” …
This is the game that has dominated my life since I began playing at the age of 10. I was lucky enough to attend a school that taught the game as an after school club in year 6, and then for an hour per week in girls PE in years 7 - 11 (that other wonderful hour was donated to netball * growls *). When I first began playing I was using a plastic stick, known as a POP lacrosse stick (it’s also has a bigger head which makes it much easier to catch the ball) and I played with boys. It just so happened that after a few months of playing a few friends and I were selected for the school team to play in the Southern counties tournament, which we won, and we then went on to represent the South of England at the National tournament in Milton Keynes. Those few weeks were rather intensive lacrosse, lacrosse, lacrosse, lacrosse, lacrosse 24/7 and we all fell in love with the game. Us girl
s were lucky enough to be allowed to continue the game through senior school, where we were introduced to the full version of the game, and my, my, what a magical introduction it was! I hope the same introduction (or continuum if you are one of us cool dudes who already plays the game) will be as magical for you as you continue to read on!
Ooh, guys, blokey people (this includes you Martina Nav.), I gotta say, please don’t switch off, this may a review specifically for the ladeeeez game but hopefully you’ll still find it interesting (not sure I need to worry though as I bet most of you read the tampon ops?????).
Women’s lacrosse is a field game with similar targets to football and hockey e.g. two teams compete against each other with the aim of having scored more goals than the opposition at the end of a certain time period… don’t worry I’ll tell you a little more about the rules etc a little bit further on!
Lacrosse prides itself on being, “the fastest game on two feet” and believe me it is! Speed has always been of the essence in the game because it’s origins lie in the tribal war games of a rather fierce band of American Indians. The game was then known as baggataway and used to train and prepare ferocious natives for war. The game, which was often surrounded by religious rituals to honour the Indian spirits, involved batting the head of a warrior from a rival tribe from one village to another using sticks or wooden clubs. The “pitch” was extensive and often the goals (often just landmarks such as a certain tree or rock) were miles apart. The games went on for days, sometimes weeks, and a lot of the tribesmen just used it as an excuse the batter the poop out of people they didn’t like. Obviously you didn’t want to be caught by and have the pleasure of encountering a 6ft 5 Indian, with biceps bigger than Fatima Whitbread’s, roaring for your blood, s
y of the smaller men spent their time running away and hiding from their enemies (who would invariably be batting some dead geezers head at speed towards innocent bystanders… ok so they weren’t innocent but these blokes weren’t nice!). Sounds lovely doesn’t it? Well, a group of French missionaries who witnessed a game in the 1630’s obviously thought so!
Yup, that’s correct some travelling preachers came across a game one day whilst venturing around America spreading the word about Christ. By this time the game had evolved slightly and was a tad more civilised. A hard ball, made from hair-stuffed deerskin, took the place of the warrior’s head and the clubs were replaced with wooden sticks. These sticks were carefully carved and not too different from those of modern days. They had a long handle (pictures show this to be approximately broom length) which curved round at the top to support and hold tort a mesh sown from the flesh of dead animals. The stick reminded missionaries of a Bishop’s crosier. By the time they had reached the more civilised land of Canada a few decades later, bringing the game with them, they had slightly remodelled the sticks and introduced a few rules. They renamed it La Crosse, which in French literally means “The Cross”.
By the 19th century the game had become rather popular with the French Canadians. A huge landmark in the sport came in 1844, when a game between the Native Americans and the Canadians was played (sadly the actual result has been lost in the mists of time). There is little doubt that this historic game inspired the foundation of the first club in Montreal in 1860. Seven years later, the then president, Monsieur George Beers, published the first book of rules.
Before too long lacrosse was announced as the National sport of Canada and spread to Europe. In the 1876 the sport was introduced to England, and it was recorded that Queen V
s a spectator of the first game of lacrosse, held at Windsor. The game was played between fourteen Canadians and thirteen Iroquois Indians and after the game the Queen wrote in her diary, that "The game was very pretty to watch. It is played with a ball and there is much running..." By the early 20th century the game had become very popular in English boarding schools. It was one of only a few team sports seen as “fitting” for young ladies to play. The success in schools sparked the first foundation of the English Lacrosse Association in 1912 (then named the Ladies Lacrosse Association, and later renamed the All England Ladies Lacrosse Association, before taking its present title). Lacrosse had already been played at the Olympic Games in 1908 but as an exhibition sport and by men. This demonstration feat was only ever repeated in 1948 (although lacrosse did feature as a round robin at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam between America, Canada and England – with America winning with 1 win and a draw).
Nowadays lacrosse is played by men, women and children all over the world and at the last Women’s World Cup held at Wycombe Abbey, England in July 2001 eight nations (listed in the order they finished - USA, Australia, England, Canada, Wales, Scotland, Germany, Japan - hey guys look this means we got Bronze!!! Did you enjoy all those newspaper articles about it and the immense television coverage... what you mean you didn't see it at 10PM on Sky Sports 3 with my coach - Jules Hope-Gill - commentating! How could you have missed it... can anyone note the irony in my tone???) competed for the prestigious title of World Champions. Argentina and the Czech Republic also hoped to attend but due to a lack of funding (an all too common scenario in the sport unfortunately) they were unable to make the journey over.
Now that you’ve heard about the origins I’d like to explain a little more about the ga
As I mentioned before women’s lacrosse is field game played by two teams who each share the same goal – to get the ball in the back of the opposition’s goal as often as possible! The equipment used in today’s game is not dissimilar to that used by the original players of the sport. Each field player (of which there are 11 and then each team has their won goalie), has their own stick. This consists of a shaft or handle, which must be between 90cm and 110cm, with a “head” which slots over the top of the shaft and is held in place by a small screw (I am talking about a metal stick here, but there are also more traditional wooden sticks which are still favoured by quite a few players, these are similar but made from a continuous piece of wood rather than carbon or plastic). This must be between 7 and 9 inches wide. There are a variety of heads with design differing slightly depending on the model (in recent years technological developments have meant the introduction of different sticks with different features for different types of player e.g. to help attacks create power (the STX Impact design) becoming available to the public) and manufacturer. The designs are all based roughly around the same idea though – a roughly triangular shape which is about 4 inches wide at the base and about 7 ½ inches wide at the top. So the stick is sort of this shape: -
_ _ _ _
\ / < - - - - - - head
| | < - - - - - - shaft
(comp mucked up diagram :()
Strands of leather are woven across the head to form a sort of mesh. This is known as the net! Now the net is fairly tight all over, but more so at the top of the head. It is slightly slacker at the bottom in order to make it possible to catch the ball. The top of the ball when dropped in the pocket must remain
even with or above the sid
The goalkeepers stick is slightly larger and is allowed to be 90 - 122 cm long. The head of the crosse may be mesh and up to 12 inches wide.
The ball is made of solid rubber (believe me it does hurt when you get hit – which is why it is advisable a mouth guard is worn) and must be 7.75 - 8 inches in circumference and weigh 5 - 5.25 ounces.
The goalkeeper must wear a helmet with a face mask, a throat protector and a chest protector. Padding on hands, arms, legs, shoulders and chest optional – goalkeepers are invariably insane so tend to wear the minimum amount of protection necessary! For field players, gloves are optional, as are studded shoes (normally football boots).
Now we’ve done equipment let’s have a look at the players and the pitch....
There are 12 players on a lacrosse team: - Goalkeeper, Point, Cover Point, 3rd Man, Left Defence, Right Defence, Centre, Left Attack, Right Attack, 3rd Home, 2nd Home and 1st Home. The descriptions below tell you a little about the role each position involves. Thanks must go to e-lacrosse.com for some of the background on these positions.
Centre: The centre's job is to control the draw (more about that in a minute) and to both defend and attack. She should have speed and endurance.
First Home: The first home's responsibility is to score. She is positioned in front of the goal and must continually cut (this is basically making a sudden change of direction into a space in front of the goal ready to receive the ball) toward the goal for a shot, or cut away from the goal to make room for another player. She should have excellent stickwork.
Second Home: The second home is considered the playmaker. She should be able to shoot well from every angle and distance from the goal.
Third Home: The third home's responsibility is to move the ball from defence to attack.
She should be able to feed the b
all to other players and create help using the wings. BTW – this is generally my position :-)
Left/Right Attack: The wings are also responsible for moving the ball from defence to attack. Wings should have speed and endurance and be ready to receive the ball from the defence and run or pass the ball.
Point: The point's responsibility is to mark first home. She should be able tackle swiftly and efficiently, have a keen eye in order to block shots and be able to make good interceptions.
Coverpoint: The coverpoint's job is to mark second home. She should be able to receive goal clears, run fast and have good footwork.
Third Man: The third man's responsibility is to mark third home. She should be able to intercept passes, clear the ball, run fast and have good footwork.
Left/Right Defence: The defending wings are responsible for marking the attacking wings and bringing the ball into the attack area. Wings should have speed and endurance.
The goalkeeper's responsibility is to protect the goal. She should have good stickwork, courage and confidence.... it is an advantage for the goalkeeper to be slightly CRAZY too (oh come one... they enjoy having hard balls pelted at them from very close ranges!)
The little diagram below shows how the players are set out on the pitch.
*sniffles - this diagram jus wont come out :(
This is the starting formation, although in lacrosse there are no set positions in the sense that everyone can run anywhere (with the goalkeepers circle as an exception) so people do move around a little bit.
Right now, no offence, but dooyoo, but well you ‘t ain’t all that great for this sort of diagram... so we need to use our imaginations a little too
. Ok, around each goal, (where the GK
is) there is a little circle (1.5m radius) and no-one but the goalie is allowed in there. Then there is a fan which extends from the front half of the goal circle. This goes out 15ft, so to just about where the point is stood (or alternatively where the 1st home is stood). This is for the purpose of penalties e.g. if someone gets tackled badly in front of the goal, they are given the ball and have to stand back on the edge of the fan, all the other players also have to stand on the fan line – but at the sides. When the umpire shouts play or blows the whistle the player with the ball may run in and take a shot or pass to another player, and all the other players can run in too. Now if we can draw an imaginary circle (on the computer screen or in your mind – I’m not fussed... well I won’t be cleaning it up will I!) around where the centre is stood. It needs to be big – so that the LD, 3M, RD, LA, 3H AND RA are stood right on the edge of it. This is the centre circle. During the draw (I will explain this I promise) only the two centres are allowed in the circle (and of course the umpire). Right in the middle is a small vertical line (vertical in the diagram... flat on the pitch!). The centres stand either side of the line (on their goal side e.g. the side of the line where the goal they are protecting is). Ok, so that’s it for the lines at the moment (but just for the moment as a little issue will arise in a sec).
Lacrosse is unique in that there are no boundaries on the pitch. You can run past the goals, around the back of them, run two miles to the side (what ever floats your boat). Normally natural restrictions provide the boundaries e.g. where the fence of the playing field is... or the swimming pool (ever played at NFL school? Lol). It is the only sport in the world that can boast this....so what do the American’s want us to do? Yesssss, that’s right, pop some sidel
ines in! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr! The American lad
ies, lovely as they are, play the game a little different to us Brits, Canadians, Japanese, Germans, Argentinians, Czech’s, in fact just about everyone else in the world! Yes, they have what is known as a restraining line, and what a terrible line this is. There are two lines – one for each end which effectively divide the pitch up into thirds. The idea is that each team must keep a minimum of 3 players (4 including the goalie) behind their line at all times. This rule is played in all American college matches and it was trialled at the World Cup in the summer. Basically America came up with this idea to prevent a lot of crowding around the goal. The problem with this is that if someone takes a shot and another player is stood in front of the goal they may get hit. America being the country it is, the lacrosse players are worried about hitting someone and then getting sued... hence the introduction of the restraining line to try and prevent this situation from arising. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it, but I’m also on the Welsh lacrosse squad (currently uncapped though) and recently we’ve been training with the line and have been selected to re-trial the new rule out at our forthcoming International matches (Ahhhhh lurve being a guinea pig!). Not to worry though lacrosse fans – there is hope! This rule was trialled after the last World Cup too (Tokyo 1997) and was thrown out by the players.
We’ve also been asked to try playing on a pitch with boundaries – eeps – and believe me it’s hard! Hopefully this rule will be thrown out too! It doesn’t really have a role apart from significantly change the game!
Ok, sorry got a tad sidetracked there (...bloomin’ meddlers trying to alter my favourite game...) let’s get back onto the concept of the game and the rules.
Like I said before the basic idea is to score more goal
s than the opposition within the time limit (ge
nerally between 40 and 60 minutes, divided into quarters... mmmmm oranges at half time mmmmm). A goal is scored by shooting the ball into the oppositions goal. The game kicks off with a “draw”. It’s a bit like a face-off in ice hockey or tip-off in basketball, the two centres face each other with sticks held horizontally. The ball is placed between two sticks and when the umpire blows the whistle, the centres pull up and away with their sticks which causes the ball to fly into the air... and hopefully into your stick :). The draw is used to start each half and after each goal.
Once the draw has taken place the game is a bit of a free for all, the attackers rush forward to try and get in a scoring position and the defence try and steer the attacks away from the goal. Players may run with the ball and hold it in their crosse for as long as they fancy!
The game is fast and fluent, with the ball travelling from end to end very quickly. The defence can gain position in several ways, blocking a pass/shot; intercepting a pass/shot; picking up a lose ground ball; tackling. To tackle, or check, the defender must issue a controlled tap with her crosse on her opponent's crosse. If done correctly this should cause the ball to fall out of the crosse.
To try and prevent a tackle taking place, lacrosse players use a method of stickwork known as cradling. This involves moving the stick from side to side which means that the ball stays in the upper part of the net – and makes it harder for the defenders to get a good tackle in.
Lacrosse is a non-contact sport and there are several rules which must be adhered to in order prevent injury (the balls do hurt and the sticks arrive with a warning that the company will accept no responsibility for death or injury caused by it!). Swipes and rough checks are not allowed. This means that a tackle must be controlled e.g. not batti
ng your opponent’s crosse wildly. Your feet mu
st also be in front of the player (tackling from behind is not accepted as it could easily become dangerous with checks hitting the body rather than the stick).
Obviously non-contact means you can’t push or pull other players (*cough cough* football) and you aren’t allowed to trip them either (although this doesn’t stop some eager little tearaways on the pitch form trying it!). You’re also not allowed to barge anyone or forcefully block them with your body.
Other rules include only using your stick to handle the ball and standing still when the whistle is blown. Kicking the ball is not allowed and if it bounces of your body by accident and into your stick, unfortunately you lose the ball. This is known as “using your body to your advantage”. You’re not allowed to stand still in front of the goal circle for more than three seconds as this could be dangerous (someone might try to shoot at you!). Ooh, and a goal will be disallowed if you shoot at the goalie’s head (tehe).
So guys, that’s lax for you! What did you think? Fast and thrilling? You betcha!
Hopefully you should have only one question left now…
How can I get involved with lacrosse?
This isn't just for girls in boarding schools, this is for people everywhere, young and old! If you fancy joining a club check out the links on www.englishlacrosse.co.uk, the new links on dooyoo or drop me a line – firstname.lastname@example.org – and I’ll be more than happy to help you get in touch with a club in your area or answer any questions you may have.
If you’d rather just follow the sport and maybe see a few matches join the mailing list on the ELA’s website (address as above and right at the end of the review), or subscribe to the amazing Lacrosse Talk magazine (6 issues = £22 PLUS an annual handbook (make’s great bedti
me reading), insurance cover while watching games (those
balls are hard you know!) and not forgetting “the knowledge that you are supporting the fastest game on two feet!). The magazine gives you up-to-date information on the leagues, goings-on in the sport (the most recent issue appeared on the mat a few days ago and boasted info about the ELA’s new deal with Coca-Cola (yey £15,000 for us – see how grateful we are compared to these darn football players?)and about the England Ladies team appearing on “They Think It’s All Over” a few weeks ago (did you see it? Did you? Did you?), articles on great players and the development of the game.
And if you’ve got LOADSA cash then why not make a donation to the ELA… or sponsor one of Britain’s rising stars… moi (I am currently looking for a sponsor so anyone with a nice business they want advertising (I can write some nice reviews for dooyoo, tell ALL my friends about how fab you are, pop my name on your kit etc etc) drop me a line!
Ooh one more plug to help the sport… there is an ELA credit card you can apply for too. You know the usual malarkey, everytime you buy something with it the credit card company makes a donation to the sport… check out the site for more info!
Look out for the next World Champs – Maryland, USA, June-July 2003 (hopefully I’ll be there playing for Wales!)
Thanks for reading and I hope I’ve helped to spread the lacrosse word!
www.stx.com (sticks and equipment from the states)
www.hattersleys.org (sticks and equipment from Manchester!!!!)
and of course the wonderful
my current club! :)
One last apology… lax = lacrosse… I get so into my reviews I just happen to stray off into my own language at times…
I have this really bad habit of making up my own abbreviations
(c’est true Tripley?)… please don’t confuse it with LAX which is actually a different variation of the game… right, nuf sed about my silly little habits!
P.S. I feel I must apolgise for my frequent references about the English team... heving recently captained the Welsh B team I ought to give them some press.... go Walessssssssssss WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.