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Lacrosse History

North America's first sport

Lacrosse is the oldest team sport in North America with the sport documented back to the early 17th century. Originated among various Native communities, with regional variations on how the game was played, lacrosse was played throughout modern Canada, but was most popular around the Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic seaboard, and American South. Traditional lacrosse games were sometimes semi-major events that could last several days. As many as 100 to 1,000 men from opposing villages or tribes would participate. 

Modern day lacrosse descends from and resembles the stickball games played by these various Native American communities. The modern field game most closely resembles that played among the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois people, who also refer to lacrosse as the Creator's Game.

Key Dates in Lacrosse History & Development

Year Event
1636 After seeing the Huron Indians play lacrosse as a medicinal rite near Thunder Bay, Ontario, Jean De Brebuef, a Jesuit missionary, is the first to document the game.
1794 During a friendly match between the Senecas of New York and the Mohawks of Ontario at Grand River, a Mohawk player strikes and injures as Seneca player with his stick. This match begins to shape the rules for lacrosse. After a meeting of the Council of Chiefs, the Senecas and Mohawks agree to a rematch to be played three years later.
1834 Indians from the village of Caughnawaga demonstrate their sport for some Montreal gentlemen. The game is reported by the newspapers and for the first time “white men” are interested in playing the game.
1856 Montreal Lacrosse Club is the first organized Canadian team to play under its own rules and with its own sticks.
1867 As the number of Canadian teams increases, Dr. William George Beers, finalizes a uniform code of playing rules. Two years later in 1869, he publishes the first book about the sport of lacrosse, entitled "LaCrosse: The National Game of Canada."
1877 New York University is the first college in the United States to establish a lacrosse team.
1879 John R. Flannery, the father of American lacrosse, establishes the United States national Amateur Lacrosse Association. Nine club teams from New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, including Harvard University and New York University, are part of the association. 
1881 The first intercollegiate tournament is held at the Westchester Polo Grounds in New York. In the final, Harvard beats Princeton, 3-0.
1890 The first women’s lacrosse game is played by students at St. Leonard’s School in St. Andrew’s, Scotland. Each team has eight players, and the match lasts for one hour with a ten-minute intermission.
1898 Two players at Johns Hopkins University, William H. Maddren and Robert T. Abercrombie, introduce the short passing game by developing a shorter stick. Hopkins also adopts a primitive form of goal by attaching a tennis net to the goal post, an idea originated by Rossiter Scott of Stevens Tech. 
1904 Lacrosse is first played as an Olympic sport. Canada defeats the St. Louis AAA team, representing the USA, for the championship.
1905 The United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse League is formed. A committee of Laurie D. Cox, William C. Schmeisser, and Charles Lattig create a code of operations for the sport and divide the colleges into north and south divisions.
1908 Lacrosse is played in the London Olympics, and England loses to Canada. Johns Hopkins Univ. was to represent the United States, but does not make the trip. Lacrosse was dropped as an Olympic sport after 1908.
1921 The offsides rule is instituted, requiring each team to keep at least three men in each half of the field, not including the goalkeeper.
1922 Dr. Laurie Cox introduces the annual selection process for a college All-American lacrosse team, an honor which continues today.
1926 Rosabelle Sinclair from the St. Leonard’s School in Scotland establishes the first women’s lacrosse program in the United States at Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore.
1928 Johns Hopkins Univ represents the United States in exhibition games at the Amsterdam Olympics. The U.S. is declared champion in round robin play against Canada and England.
1931 The United States Women’s Lacrosse Association (USWLA) is formed as the rule making body for women’s lacrosse. Joyce Cran Barry becomes the first president of the organization.
1932 Lacrosse is played as an exhibition sport in the Los Angeles Olympics. More than 80,000 people at the Los Angeles Coliseum, who are waiting for the marathon to finish, also watch Johns Hopkins defeat Canada.
1933 Men’s game rule changes reduce the number of players on a side from 12 to 10, and reduced the distance between the goals to 80 yards. Playing time remained at sixty minutes, but was divided into quarters, with teams changing ends after each quarter. 
1933 The USWLA holds its first women’s national tournament in Greenwich, Conn. Baltimore defeats Philadelphia, 5-1, in the championship game. The organization also chooses its first U.S. Women’s National Team.
1935 The first U.S. Women’s Touring Team travels to England. During this trip the U.S. Team doesn’t win a game.
1940 Men’s field boundaries are changed to present day standards – 80 yards between the goals with 15 yards of clear space behind each goal.
1959 The Lacrosse Foundation is incorporated as the sport’s national development center and archives. The key leaders are Claxton “Okey” O’Connor, William “Dinty” Moore, Caleb Kelly, and Gaylord “Peck” Auer.
1966 The Lacrosse Foundation establishes its first national office at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
1971 Men’s college lacrosse allies itself with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and Cornell University becomes the first NCAA men’s champion, defeating the Univ of Maryland, 12-6, in the championship game.
1972 The International Federation of Women’s Lacrosse Associations (IFWLA) is founded. The first formal meeting is held in London, England; seven countries attend.
1974 As a result of the success of the 1967 international tournament in Canada, the International Lacrosse Federation (ILF) is founded and hosts its first official Men’s World Championship in Melbourne, Australia. 
1978 Lacrosse Magazine is first published by the Lacrosse Foundation and becomes the sport’s first magazine showcasing men’s and women’s lacrosse.
1982 The United States defeats Australia, 10-7, to capture the first International Federation of Women’s Lacrosse Association World Cup in Nottingham, England.
1982 The first NCAA women’s championship is played. The University of Massachusetts defeats Trenton State, 9-6.
1987 Men's professional indoor lacrosse returns with the launch of the Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League. The league becomes the Major Indoor Lacrosse League in 1988 and the National Lacrosse League in 1997.
1988 The first International Lacrosse Federation U19 World Championship is held and the United States men defeat Canada to win gold in Adelaide, Australia.
1990 The Iroquois Nationals compete for the first time in the International Lacrosse Federation Men's World Championship, placing fifth.
1995 Australia wins the inaugural International Federation of Women's Lacrosse Associations U19 World Championship, defeating the host United States in Haverford, Pa.
1998 US Lacrosse is founded by the merger of eight national organizations, becoming the unified national governing body for lacrosse.
2000 Major League Lacrosse, a men's professional outdoor league, launches with a Summer Showcase and begins regular play the following year.
2003 The first World Indoor Lacrosse Championship is held and host Canada defeats the Iroquois Nationals to win gold in Ontario.
2008 The International Lacrosse Federation and the International Federation of Women's Lacrosse Associations merge to form the Federation of International Lacrosse.
2016 US Lacrosse moves to a new headquarters in Sparks, Md. The 12-acre complex includes a three-story administrative center, the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame and Museum, and Tierney Field, which serves as the training center for the U.S. national team program. 
2016 The United Women's Lacrosse League (UWLX), the first women's professional lacrosse league, begins play. Future opportunities follow with the Women's Professional Lacrosse League in 2018 and Athletes Unlimited in 2021.
2017 Lacrosse is included in The World Games, the multi-sport, Olympic-style event of the International World Games Association, for the first time. The United States women beat Canada in Poland to claim the championship.
2019 The Federation of International Lacrosse adopts World Lacrosse as its new name. The May announcement comes less than six months after the organization received provisional recognition from the International Olympic Committee.
2019 A new men's professional league, the Premier Lacrosse League, begins play with a tour-based model and merges with the MLL for the 2021 season.
2021 US Lacrosse rebrands itself as USA Lacrosse, bringing alignment to the organization's efforts at the grassroots level and the elite national team program.

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