With a history that spans centuries, lacrosse is the oldest sport in North America. It was so popular in fact that many sports historians consider it the original national pastime. Lacrosse was more than just a game and Native Americans played to help in the healing process, to settle disputes, for spiritual development, and to prepare for war.
The evolution of the Native American game into modern lacrosse began in 1636. At that time, some type of lacrosse was played by at least 48 Native American tribes scattered throughout southern Canada and all parts of the United States. French pioneers began playing the game avidly in the 1800s. 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.
The first women’s lacrosse game was played in 1890 at the St. Leonard’s School in Scotland. Although an attempt was made to start women’s lacrosse at Sweet Briar College in Virginia in 1914, it was not until 1926 that Miss Rosabelle Sinclair established the first women’s lacrosse team in the United States at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, Maryland.
Men’s and women’s lacrosse were played under virtually the same rules, with no protective equipment, until the mid-1930s. At that time, men’s lacrosse began evolving dramatically, while women’s lacrosse continued to remain true to the game’s original rules. Men’s and women’s lacrosse remain derivations of the same game today, but are played under different rules. Women’s rules limit stick contact, prohibit body contact and, therefore, require little protective equipment. Men’s lacrosse rules allow some degree of stick and body contact, although violence is neither condoned nor allowed.