Lacrosse. The Creator's Game. The fastest game on two feet. The oldest game in North America. Even with all the accolades, lacrosse remains a sport outside of the "big four" (football, basketball, baseball, soccer). So, the question begs to be asked: Why isn't lacrosse more popular in the US?
Lacrosse has a long history in North America. Some people ask: Is lacrosse the first truly American sport? Well, lacrosse was created by the Haudenosaunee people in modern day New York/Canada around 1100 AD. The first accounts of football, basketball, and baseball don't come around for another 700 years!
The original forms of lacrosse looked very different from how they look today. First and foremost, lacrosse games were played in the woods and could span miles. Even more, games could last for several days and could involve hundreds of players who used wooden sticks. These aspects look very different from the 60-minute, turf-field, 10-vs.-10, metal-and-plastic-stick version of the game we play today! If you're curious about the full history of lacrosse, I'd recommend the History Channel's article and Camryn MacDonel's History of Lacrosse video.
Ok, so let's return to the question: Why isn't lacrosse more popular in the US? My short (non)answer: It's getting there. There are certainly hurdles to the growth of the game, such as how expensive it is to get started and the relative unavailability of playing opportunities outside of hotbed areas. Consider the startup costs of the stick, helmet, gloves, arm pads, chest pads, and cleats. And, compared to AYSO soccer or little league basketball, the start up costs of lacrosse are much higher and the relative availability of playing opportunities is much lower.
However, lacrosse is also the fastest growing team sport in America. Lacrosse has 2.5 million participants in the US and roughly 10 million fans. In June 2021, lacrosse was granted full recognition by the International Olympic Committee (Yes, lacrosse is in the Olympics now! (technically it was first in the 1904 and 1908 Olympic Games)). Today, there are 370 NCAA men's teams and 472 NCAA women's teams, numbers that continue to grow. Lacrosse is also the fastest growing sport at the youth level.
So, why is lacrosse so popular in certain areas? Specifically, why is lacrosse so popular in the mid-Atlantic? Again, it's changing. Lacrosse's roots are certainly in upstate New York and Canada, so it makes sense that the sport is mostly played in those areas. But, lacrosse continues to grow rapidly in California, Ohio, Florida, and Colorado. Lacrosse is exploding at the youth level and colleges continue to add programs.
Looking beyond the US, what countries around the world play lacrosse? The lacrosse world games have traditionally brought the countries of the world together to battle it out on the world stage. The next World Games is scheduled for this summer in Birmingham, Alabama. Further, World Lacrosse recognizes more than 70 countries's teams.
Source: Me from the 2014 World Games in Colorado Springs.
Written by Joe Woody

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