Recognized as the oldest sport in North America, and founded by Native Americans who coined it “The Creator’s Game,” lacrosse served as a preparation for war and was often played to resolve conflicts. Today, lacrosse is played around the world, is remarkably popular on the East Coast, and is considered the fastest growing team sport on the West Coast, particularly among youth.
According to US Lacrosse, the national governing body, legend tells of as many as 1,000 players per side, from the same or different tribes, who took turns engaging in a violent contest. Contestants played on a field from one to 15 miles in length, and games sometimes lasted for days. Some tribes used a single pole, tree or rock for a goal, while other tribes had two goalposts through which the ball had to pass. Balls were made out of wood, deerskin, baked clay or stone.
In 1636 the Native American game began to evolve into modern lacrosse, played by 48 Native American tribes scattered throughout the U.S. and Southern Canada. French pioneers began fervently playing the game in the 1800’s. New York University fielded the nation's first college team in 1877. The first women's game was played in 1890 in Scotland, and women’s lacrosse was first established in the U.S. at a school in Baltimore, Maryland in 1926.
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.
Today, there are over 1,000 college and thousands more high school lacrosse teams in the U.S. from coast to coast. In the book, Spirit in the Stick, a story about lacrosse, Bob Scott, legendary Johns Hopkins Lacrosse Coach and Hall-of-Famer, summarized the appeal for the sport when he said, “Lacrosse is one of the great team games on the American sports scene. Nearly everyone who has played it or watched it as a spectator sport loves the game,” said Scott. “The magic of lacrosse has captivated me – heart, mind, and soul for over 60 years. It is in my blood. The lessons the game has taught me have guided me all my life.”
Lacrosse is played at the collegiate level in both club and as a sanctioned team sport. The first intercollegiate lacrosse tournament was held in 1881. As of the 2009-10 academic year, there were 263 NCAA sanctioned Division I, II and III men's lacrosse teams. There were also over 300 men's programs at community colleges and collegiate men's club teams competing through the Men's Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) and the National College Lacrosse League (NCLL), combined having a presence in most major universities in the U.S.
In 2009-10 there were 349 Division I, II and III women's lacrosse teams. There were also 237 collegiate club teams for women organized by the US Lacrosse Women’s Division of Intercollegiate Associates (USL WDIA), and a number of collegiate lacrosse programs at NAIA schools.
College lacrosse in America is further celebrated and validated by the Lacrosse Museum & National Hall of Fame, located near Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Small, but special, the Lacrosse Hall of Fame has annually inducted individuals based on outstanding lacrosse achievement and/or contribution since 1957.
Beyond lacrosse at the collegiate level, an adult professional league, Major League Lacrosse, was founded in 1999, began play in 2001 and currently fields nine teams around the nation. The MLL is expected to grow as the interest in the sport increases around the nation. Since lacrosse is still in its infancy on the West Coast, however, the closest MLL team for spectators is based in Denver (also the location of the nearest NCAA Division I school).
On a local level, lacrosse took hold in the Elk Grove area in 2006 and, in fact, Elk Grove is one of the expansion leaders in Northern California. Two clubs with well over 100 players each exist in the area, from Interstate 5 to Rancho Murieta. The Elk Grove Youth Lacrosse Club was founded in 2006 and fields teams from schools all over Elk Grove area. The Pleasant Grove Lacrosse Club formed in 2007 and features boys’ and girls’ teams from within the Pleasant Grove High School boundaries. There are also lacrosse camps, clinics and tournaments available in and around the area.