Effort underway to build area's interest in lacrosse


ASST. SPORTS EDITOR


  Lacrosse is this nation's oldest sport and was one of the great new world discoveries, when you consider that many sports got its origins from the game. Although not a 'hot' sport in this area, one local woman is trying to change that.
  Rebecca Ralston grew up playing lacrosse in Bel Air, Maryland, and when she moved down here a few years ago, she was disappointed that the area did not have an organized league for her to play in. She played for four years, and it is an extremely popular sport where she is from.
  "We are just trying it to see if we can get a league started," Ralston said. "It is really fun to play."
  Ralston, with the help of the Johnson City Parks and Recreation department, will hold a girls lacrosse organizational meeting on Sept. 13 at 5:30 p.m. at the Winged Deer Park Athletic Office. Girls ages 10 and up are encouraged to come out and try a new sport. As many locals can remember, 15 years ago soccer was an unheard of sport in this area.
  "We had a meeting back in February, but it wasn't advertised very well," Ralston said. "We actually only had a few people show up. Hopefully when soccer starts up, we can talk to people and get a lot of people to come who have heard about it."
  Ralston estimates that at least 50 girls need to turn out before they would have enough players for league formation in the spring. She is hopeful that if enough girls show interest that they will be able to divide the league into two age groups.
  Lacrosse was actually played in the area before the beloved Wataugans ever dreamed of crossing the Appalachians. Originally, the game was considered to be war training according to the lacrosse.org Web site. Some Native Americans still call it The Creator's Game.
  The Cherokee called the sport the little brother of war. The Six Tribes of the Iroquois called their version of the game baggataway or tewaraathon.
  Teams with rosters of 1,000 is incomprehensible to the modern era of sports, but these large teams were also not constrained to field limitations. Sometimes players played on fields from one mile to 15 miles in length and games would sometimes last for days.
  Jean de Brebeuf, a Jesuit missionary, in 1636 recorded a Huron contest in what is now Ontario, Canada. At that time, lacrosse was played by as many as 45 Native American tribes in Canada and the United States.
  Early explorers thought the stick used in the game resembled a bishop's crozier, or la crosse, in French. But the French also played a game similar to field hockey called jeu de la crosse, which is also another possible source for the European name.
  W. George Beers, a Canadian dentist, standardized the game in 1867, and on Nov. 22, 1877, New York University and Manhatten College played the first national collegiate game.
  The first high school teams were formed in 1882 in New Jersey and New Hampshire. The first women's lacrosse game was played in 1890 in Scotland. The U.S. formed its first women's team in 1926 in Baltimore.
  Lacrosse was an Olympic sport in 1904 at St. Louis and in 1908 at the London games. Only Canada, England and the United States competed, and the Canadians brought home both gold medals.
  It was a demonstration sport in 1928, 1932 and 1948 and an exhibition tournament was held in 1980 at the Los Angeles games. Without enough countries competing, it is still not a full-fledged Olympic sport.