What's Lax?
Let’s get it out of the way; Lacrosse is an odd sport. It sounds French but maybe you heard something about it being Native American, the rules and players roles aren’t intuitively understood by watching, the differences between indoor vs. outdoor and mens vs. women are drastic yet are all called “lacrosse”, the equipment is weird looking; and when you learn it’s the national sport of Canada, it makes you scratch your head. Then there are the stereotypes, usually some variation of the dumb football jock but more privileged, longer hair, and way more Dave Matthews. With that out of the way, we can talk about what makes it great. It’s deep history in the Northeast, the rare mix of athleticism, skill, and toughness it takes to excel at it, the gear/equipment, and the styling and culture that has been built around it. All reasons for why it has become one of the fastest growing sports in the last decade.
Ball Players by George Catlin.
The evolution of the lacrosse stick.
Arguably the oldest organized sport still being played, Lacrosse originated from the Indigenous tribes of the Northeast woodland territories of present day Canada & USA. Sometimes used as a pregame ritual to toughen up young members for war, it was also used for spiritual and recreational purposes. It wasn’t until the 17th Century that a French Jesuit missionary witnessed a game and named it what we know today, ‘La Crosse’. Of course, he quickly condemned it for its violence, involvement with gambling, and it being part of a religion they sought to eradicate.

Despite obstacles like this, lacrosse survived. A Canadian dentist would later codify the rules, and the first game of what we know as modern lacrosse was played at the same high school I ended up playing for, Upper Canada College.

The first game of what we know as modern lacrosse was played at Upper Canada College.

This form of outdoor lacrosse, was adopted by many schools and has a storied history with universities that aren’t normally looked at as sporting powerhouses. Schools like Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Virginia, Syracuse, and Cornell have all won multiple national championships. “Box” or indoor lacrosse is its rougher and speedier brother favored by Canadians as it allows them to keep playing through their harsh winters. Cross checking is legal, fighting is more common, and goalies wear so much padding it’s almost comical.
It is a gear sport and you can customize your kit to focus on the aspects you find important or want to exploit. There are specialized sticks designed specifically for winning face-offs, you can string your stick with different mesh patterns and lacing to improve ball handling or have a speedier release.

Gone are the rounded wooden sticks and leather lacing I was first exposed to; now you will find them made from alloys and carbon fiber composites in complex shapes to improve grip and reduce weight. Same with the goofy marshmallow helmets of the 80s that now resemble something an angry jet pilot would wear.
My own love of lacrosse combines all these elements. I liked the crazy look I would get when people would see purple and green bruising peeking out from my arm under a tee. I liked playing on the same fields that the sport was created on hundreds of years ago. I liked that I could try to hit people like Cam Neely, but have control of the ball like Allen Iverson, and then could throw it like a bat out of hell in my best Randy Johnson impression. I liked the logos, the colors, the sportier and more disheveled side of modern prep style that permeates the game. I liked that I had to do research to find the next time a game would be shown on TV. I liked the idea that my stick was like no one else’s because I strung it myself, learning tricks from my brother, friends, and coaches who had secrets passed down to them by their brothers, friends and coaches. Hell, I even kind of liked Dave Matthews.
The Gait brothers are arguably the greatest to ever play the game. Hailing from Victoria, British Columbia, the twins have dominated indoor, outdoor, college, professional, international, and coaching in both girls and now mens. Imagine Wayne Gretzsky had a twin and he played on the same team.
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