By Kristina Nolan
Lacrosse, the ever growing popular game has extended its borders outside of its origin nation of the United States. It has been in America’s history since the beginning, it was the Native
Americans that invented the game. It has changed its form since the days it was played with rocks and two sticks strung together, to today where the mesh is artfully crafted and tightly strung with netting, the plastic shaft is crafted for each Individual player. The sport has gained worldwide attention.
The game is played by both men and women both with the same objective to score and win, but the game itself, rules and equipment and regulations, differs from each gender. A side by side comparison of a male and female lacrosse player would be an obvious distinction as the man has much more padding and protection, opposite of the female who has eye protection and a mouth guard.
The field size itself is different In men’s lacrosse, according to US lacrosse, the field measures 110 yards long and 60 yards wide. In women’s lacrosse, the field is a bit bigger: 120 yards long and 70 yards wide.
Suffolk Men’s Lacrosse Coach Greg Taylor stated, “It was a big argument 3-5 years ago, girls wearing googles it would be the ‘first step’ towards becoming more like men’s, the women’s senior purists of the lacrosse culture believed that googles would be the first step then the helmet then to full contact”. Basically saying that the art of women’s lacrosse would be lost and adopted into the ‘man’s game’.
Though Coach Taylor said that he does not for see that happening, he personally has never coached women’s lacrosse as the differences between men’s and women’s is so massive. But Taylor has tremendous respect for the female athletes.
According to the US Lacrosse organization, there are many differences not only in equipment and contact but in the rules itself. “The stick/shaft is not used the same way in men/ women’s lacrosse. Cross-checking is not allowed in women’s lacrosse and the stick cannot be used to hold, hit or detain other players in women’s lacrosse. In men’s lacrosse, stick-on-body play is permitted, as long as player is in the act of passing, shooting or attempting to scoop the ball”.
When asked what he thinks will change in the way women’s sports are viewed and judged compared to men’s, Coach Taylor said, “ It is a cultural question more than a lacrosse question, but women’s sports in general has come a long way”. He referenced the UCONN Women’s Basketball team and their success and understanding of the game and how underrated their skills go because it is women’s. Taylor went on to say. “They (male athletes) don’t notice the big picture until they have a daughter”.
The differences in equipment is the most notable, US Lacrosse Organization states again, “No pocket in stick is allowed. Shallow pocket rule allows for easier ball dislodgment. Mesh pockets are not allowed. In men’s lacrosse, Deeper pocket rule requires more aggressive checking”.
In men’s the usage of their stick differs from that of a woman’s as they have more free range in terms of checking and cross-checking. The biggest difference is that stick-on-body lacrosse is allowed in men’s which calls for different equipment and regulations. Men play what some may call a more ‘physical’ game.
St. Joseph’s College Woman’s Lacrosse Goalie Katie McGarrell stated, “the way our culture views females in lacrosse is widely different. You can see this by simply taking a look at the difference in equipment between the two. Men tack on pads, and helmets, and gloves. Us girls put on some goggles and a mouth guard and we’re ready to go. This is because, based on the way the rules differ, the additional equipment isn’t even necessary. No shooting if somebody is in front you, no putting your body in front of a shot, no cross-body checking! In fact, I think the only place it doesn’t differ is from the back of the net”.
The biggest part of any lacrosse players game is their stick. It is the ‘tool of the trade’ one may say. Women’s lacrosse sticks do not have a deep pocket this ties back in to the rules, since there is no aggressive cross checking like there is in men’s, hence a deeper pocket is required for a man’s pocket.
Every field player in woman’s lacrosse whether they are a midfielder, attack or defenseman they have the same length of stick. Attack man and midfield man (offense), have the same length of stick but the defenseman have a six foot long stick to be able to be more aggressive on the ball.
It will be interesting to see how the game will adapt for both men and women in the years to come. What started in America continues to flourish and expand not only within our borders but outside of them as well, both for men and women.