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Lacrosse is considered both the oldest team sport and the oldest organized sport in Northern America. The International World Games Association recognizes Lacrosse as the oldest organized sport in North America. The State of Maryland defines it as the oldest sport in North America. The Army and Navy Academy describes it as the oldest organized sport in North America.
Lacrosse dates back to 1100 AD, when it was played by the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois people, in what now is Troy, New York and areas in Canada bordering the state. Native Americans still play Lacrosse today along with many other Americans. The latest statistics show over 830,000 Americans now play Lacrosse making it one of the fastest growing sports in America.
Troy, New York is home to both the first official Lacrosse game and the first established Lacrosse team. In 1867, Indigenous Americans held an exhibition match in front of 10,000 people in Troy, New York. European settlers modified the North American Indian stickball game into pretty much what the game is today. They also gave it its present name, “La Crosse” (The Stick).
This first official Lacrosse game was played in Rensselaer Park (1867 - 1917) which was eventually turned into the Troy residential neighborhood that exists today. Following this, the Mohawk Lacrosse Club (sometimes called Mohawk Club of Troy) was formed in Troy in 1868 by several baseball players.
William George Beers, a Canadian dentist and patriot, is referred to as the "father of modern lacrosse" for his work establishing the first set of playing rules which was used in the 1867 first ever organized Lacrosse game. In 1869 George Beers published the first book about the sport of lacrosse, entitled "Lacrosse: The National Game of Canada."
The feature of the Lacrosse game is the crosse (lacrosse stick), the implement used by the players to carry, catch, and pass the ball. The crosse is a staff that is bent at the top to form a hook from the end of which a thong is drawn and fastened to the shaft about 2 or 3 feet from the end of the handle, forming an oval triangle that is woven with a loose network of leather, nylon, or gut to form the pocket with which the ball is handled.
In 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. The Mohawk Club, of Troy, N.Y. pioneered the game in the United States. In its first season in the summer of 1868, the Mohawk Lacrosse club lost 4 games to Canadian teams, including Montreal Lacrosse Club, Crescent, Dominion and Aurora. Later, the team played a combination of college varsity and club games.
In 1877 New York University was the first college in the United States to establish a lacrosse team. In 1904 Lacrosse was first played as an Olympic sport. Canada defeated the St. Louis AAA team, representing the USA, for the championship.
Lacrosse has been on the official Olympic program twice, in 1904 and 1908, with a team from Canada winning both times. Lacrosse was also a demonstration sport at the Olympics in 1928, 1932 and 1948. In 1998 US Lacrosse was founded by the merger of eight national organizations, becoming the unified national governing body for lacrosse.
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