The following special article was written for the Crimson by Mr. I. B. Lydecker, University lacrosse coach. In it, he takes up the origin and development of lacrosse to the present day, dwelling particularly on the recent increase in the popularity of the game.
Mr. Lydecker graduated from Syracuse in 1922, after playing for four years on the lacrosse team. In his last year, when he was captain, the Syracuse team made a tour of England, winning most of its games. He has since played with the Crescent Athletic Club and last fall came to the University as coach. His influence on lacrosse has been such as to attract the interest of the whole University to a sport which has heretofore received little or no attention.
The game of lacrosse derives its name from the resemblance of the curved netted stick used in playing it to a bishop's crozier. It originated with the Indians and in the old days the warriors of two tribes in their war paint would form the sides, often 800 or 1000 strong. The goals were placed from 500 yards to half a mile apart with practically no side boundaries. A solemn dance preceded the game, after which the ball was tossed into the air and the two sides rushed to catch it on "crosses" similar to the ones now in use. The medicine men acted as umpires and the squaws urged the men on by beating them with switches.
Used White Man's Head As Ball
Should any member of a tribe fall by the wayside through lack of endurance his own fellow tribesmen would scalp him for bringing disgrace to them by his weakness. Many times these so called lacrosse games ended up with the use of the bow and arrow or tomahawk, especially when they were closely contested. In some cases, it is said, the head of a white man was used as the ball.
The game attracted much attention from the early French settlers in Canada, and was handed down by them in the form we know it today. In its present form the game offers opportunity for 12 men to play on a side, a large number for a sport providing such stiff competition. It is played usually on a field about the size of a football gridiron, or to be exact, 110 yards long by 70 yards wine. Goals are placed at either end of the field into which the ball must be thrown in order to score. Each goal counts one point.
Game Begins By Act of Facing
Like basketball, the game starts from the center of the field, in a circle 20 feet in diameter. The game is opened by the act of "facing" in which the two centres, each with his left shoulder towards his opponents' goal, hold their sticks wood downwards on the ground, the ball being placed between them. When the signal is given the centres draw their crosses or sticks sharply inward in order to gain possession of the ball. The ball may be kicked or struck with the crosse, as in hockey, but the goal keeper alone may handle it, and then only to block and not to throw it.
Although the ball may be thrown, over 200 yards with the crosse, long throws are seldom tried, it being generally more advantageous for a player to run with the ball resting on the crosse until he has a good opportunity to pass it. As there is no "off side" in lacrosse a player may pass the ball to the front, side or rear. No charging is allowed, but one player may interfere with another by standing directly in front of him though without holding, tripping or striking with the crosse. The modern game consists of two halves of 30 minutes with a 10 minute rest period in between.
Canada Was First To Adopt Lacrosse
The game found favor with the British settlers in Canada and it may truly be said to be Canada's national game. In 1868 an English lacrosse association was formed, but, although a team of Indians visited the United Kingdom in 1867 it was not until some time later that the game became at all popular in Great Britain. An annual match between Oxford and Cambridge has been a feature of the English lacrosse season for some time.
No definite records are available showing where and to what extent lacrosse was played in the United States prior to 1880 when the University had its first team. In the next year Columbia, New York University and Princeton took up the sport and carried it on for a number of years. Cornell, Pennsylvania and later Yale organized lacrosse teams and a schedule of about six or seven games was played each year.
University Won First Championship
Finally an intercollegiate lacrosse association was formed of New York University, Princeton, Columbia, Yale and the University. The Crimson won the championship the first year. However, the interest in the game gradually began to wane and teams started withdrawing from the association. They were immediately replaced by teams representing Johns Hopkins, Lehigh, and Stevens until about 1905, when an entirely new league was formed with Columbia, Lehigh, Johns Hopkins, Pennsylvania, Stevens, Swarthmore, Cornell and the University. Since then interest in lacrosse has increased by leaps and bounds. Today there are approximately 40 universities and colleges playing it in the East. The University, as the first American institution to take up the game has always been high up in the league standing. In Canada, the original home of lacrosse, there are more than 300 teams which play regular schedules and in England there are more than 400 regularly equipped teams playing from September until the latter part of April.
During recent years, so great was the number of colleges taking up the sport that it was deemed advisable to form two lacrosse leagues, one called the northern division and the other the southern. The University, being a member of the northern division from the first, has won many of the cups which were awarded annually to the winners in the respective leagues. Immediately prior to the war several such trophies were won and are now in possession of the University and on exhibition in the trophy cabinets in the Union.
Since the war the game has advanced very rapidly. So many colleges and universities have taken up lacrosse following the formation of the two divisions that a rearrangement will soon have to be made. At the present time, beside the University, Yale, Syracuse, Cornell and Hobart comprise the northern division while Johns Hopkins, Lehigh, Stevens, Pennsylvania and Penn State make up the southern division. In addition to these teams the following have well organized teams and are playing a regular schedule each year: Princeton, N. Y. U., Navy, Army, Colgate, Union, Toronto, Montreal, Rutgers, Maryland, and many others.
This year Dartmouth, Williams, Brown, Springfield Training, St. Lawrence, Hamilton, Canisus, St. Stephens, Columbia, Virginia, Georgia Tech, and a number of various club teams have either revived the sport or started it for the first time