Lacrosse is part of the cultural tradition of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) people, inhabiting what is now New York and Pennsylvania. Lacrosse may have been developed as early as 1100 CE among indigenous peoples in North America. By the seventeenth century, it was well-established and was documented by Jesuit missionary priests in the territory of present-day Canada.
In the traditional aboriginal Canadian version, each team consisted of about 100 to 1,000 men on a field that stretched from about 500 m (1,600 ft) to 3 km (1.9 mi) long. These games lasted from sunup to sundown for two to three days straight and were played as part of ceremonial ritual, a kind of symbolic warfare, or to give thanks to the Creator or Master. Those who took part did so in the role of warriors, with the goal of bringing glory and honor to themselves and their tribes. The game was said to be played "for the Creator" or was referred to as "The Creator's Game."
In the United States, lacrosse during the late 1800s and first half of the 1900s was primarily a regional sport centered around the Mid-Atlantic states, especially New York and Maryland. However, in the last half of the 20th century, the sport spread outside this region, and can be currently found in most of the United States. According to a survey conducted by US Lacrosse in 2016, there are over 825,000 lacrosse participants nationwide and lacrosse is the fastest-growing team sport among NFHS member schools.
Field lacrosse is the men's outdoor version of the sport. There are ten players on each team: three attackmen, three midfielders, three defensemen, and one goalie. Each player carries a lacrosse stick. A short stick measures between 40 and 42 inches long and is used by attackmen and midfielders. A maximum of four players on the field per team may carry a long stick which is between 52 and 72 inches long and is used by the three defensemen and sometimes one defensive midfielder. The goalie uses a stick with a head as wide as 12 inches that can be between 40 and 72 inches long.
The field of play is 110 by 60 yards. The goals are 6 ft by 6 ft and are 80 yds apart. Each goal sits inside a circular "crease", measuring 18 ft in diameter. The goalie has special privileges within the crease to avoid opponents' stick checks. Offensive players or their sticks may not enter into the crease at any time. The mid-field line separates the field into an offensive and defensive zone for each team. Each team must keep four players in its defensive zone and three players in its offensive zone at all times. It does not matter which positional players satisfy the requirement, although usually the three attackmen stay in the offensive zone, the three defensemen and the goalie stay in the defensive zone, and the three middies play in both zones. A team that violates this rule is offsides and either loses possession of the ball if they have it or incurs a technical foul if they do not.
The regulation playing time of a high school game is 48 minutes, divided into four periods of 12 minutes each. Play is started at the beginning of each quarter and after each goal with a face-off. During a face-off, two players lay their sticks on the ground parallel to the mid-line, the two heads of their sticks on opposite sides of the ball. At the whistle, the face-off-men scrap for the ball, often by "clamping" it under their stick and flicking it out to their teammates. When one of the teams has possession of the ball, they bring it into their offensive zone and try to score a goal. Due to the offsides rule, settled play involves six offensive players versus six defensive players and a goalie.
If the ball goes out of bounds, possession is awarded to the team that did not touch it last. The exception is when the ball is shot towards the goal. Missed shots that go out of bounds are awarded to the team that has the player who is the closest to the ball when and where the ball goes out. During play, teams may substitute players in and out if they leave and enter the field through the substitution area, sometimes referred to as "on the fly". After penalties and goals, players may freely substitute and do not have to go through the substitution area.
Penalties are either technical or personal fouls. Personal fouls such as cross-checking, illegal body check or slashing, are about player safety. These fouls draw 1-minute or longer penalties; the offending player must leave the field and stay in the substitution area for the length of the penalty. Penalties are either releasable or non-releasable; releasable means that if a goal is scored by either team during the time that the penalty is served, the player serving the penalty can re-enter the play and both teams will once again have an equal amount of players. Non-releasable means that the player must serve the entire time of the penalty, regardless of any goals scored. His team plays with nine players for the duration. Because of the offsides rule, this means the opponent plays with six attackers versus five defenders plus the goalie. Technical fouls, such as offsides, pushing, and holding, result in either a turnover or a 30-second penalty, depending on which team has the ball. The team that has taken the penalty is said to be playing man down, while the other team is man up. Teams will use various lacrosse strategies to attack and defend while a player is being penalized.