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Lacrosse: The Next Big Sport in the USA

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Whether you grew up in the northeast parts of the USA and spent a large part of your early life playing lacrosse or this is the first time you have even heard of the sport, lacrosse is a game this sweeping the nation. And there is good reason for it.

Even just a few years ago, if you told someone that you played lacrosse they could make some assumptions about you as a person that were probably true.  They would assume that you went to a private school and had a relatively privileged upbringing.

But that is no longer the case any. As more and more people start to understand this sport, the entertainment it provides is increasing the game’s popularity.

What is lacrosse?

Before further explaining why we think lacrosse is the next big sport in the USA, let’s get a brief understanding of the sport.

Lacrosse is mostly played outdoors. It’s played on a pitch similar to a soccer pitch. Like soccer, you don’t touch the ball with your hands. Players control the lacrosse ball using sticks with a net attached at the end. They pass from teammate to teammate up the field and aim to get the ball in the goal. Men’s teams allow body checking. Women’s lacrosse doesn’t.

Health benefits of lacrosse

Like basketball and soccer, lacrosse is a fast-paced sport that covers a lot of ground. No matter what position you play you are bound to get in a good workout. The cardio and stamina needed to run up and down the field and the movements needed to use the stick to catch and throw will have you building muscles and losing fat in no time.

But the benefits of the sport stretch beyond just physical fitness. The strategy and teamwork needed to play the sport are great for mental health as well.

History of lacrosse

While modern lacrosse in the USA has had a history of being associated with elite private schools of the northeast, the history of the sport dates back far longer than this. Historically, dating back to the 1600s, Native American tribes performed a training ritual before going to war using a game similar to lacrosse. It was also sometimes used to settle differences between tribes.

It’s suggested by some that the reason men’s lacrosse allows checking dates back to these Native American times when avoiding contact with a member of an opposing tribe would be considered a cowardly act. However, with the current game, avoiding contact to gain an open shot on goal is considered a key skill for teams to have and an important part of the overall tactics.

The growth of lacrosse

The last decade has seen phenomenal growth in lacrosse participation. Lacrosse is growing faster than many sports, including popular sports like ice hockey and soccer. The growth has occurred at all levels of the sport. There have been double-digit increases in college participation – the number of players and the number of colleges participating. High school participation has grown exponentially. There has also been massive growth at both professional and amateur levels outside of school and college programs.

Along with increasing participation in terms of numbers, lacrosse is also spreading across the country. Traditionally a sport popular in the northeast it is now spreading across the center of the country and the west coast.

Does media influence explain the growth of lacrosse?

The growing popularity of lacrosse could possibly be explained as it is enjoyable to play but it also makes a great spectator sport. Lacrosse reminds viewers of a number of sports. It’s played on a field like a soccer field, players (in men’s competitions) can check like in ice hockey), they wear padding like in Football and the speed of movement reminds many of the excitement of basketball.

Major networks recognize the spectacle that is an elite lacrosse game. The major networks are even increasing the number of games they broadcast.

There are also a number of print magazines and online sites that are popular and regularly consumed by fans. Increased exposure, coupled with the increase in professional leagues and professional players (many of whom are also building their own personal brands via social media channels) has further driven interest in the sport.

Increased availability of cost-effective equipment

Up until recently, a lack of access to affordable lacrosse sticks, training equipment, and training fields may have hampered the growth of the sport. Historically you could only get sticks made of a certain wood from a certain area. Now, sticks are made from a number of materials and commercially available. They come in a range of prices making Lacrosse more accessible and less of a niche sport. A number of easily available training tools have also been developed by companies like Victorem Gear.

Lacrosse has experienced massive growth both in the number of players and as a spectator sport. An increase in the number of professional leagues, combined with increased coverage has led to increased interest in the sport. This, combined with increasingly affordable lacrosse sticks and training equipment means that the sport has become a lot more accessible and participation has increased across the country.

A final word on lacrosse

If you are looking to try out something new, drop a few pounds, challenge yourself, and fall in love with a new sport. Try finding a team near you or organizing some matches yourself if there aren’t any close.

Written by Marcus Richards

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