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Lacrosse Is Among the Fastest-Growing Team Sports in America, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

Until recently, few sports fans were familiar with lacrosse, although it is a game that originated hundreds of years ago among native North American tribes.  It is considered by experts to be North America’s oldest sport.  For the most part, lacrosse was long thought of as a tough but popular team game played only at elite eastern colleges and prep schools such as Princeton and Kent School.  Today, however, lacrosse is sweeping the U.S., with thousands of amateur and school teams for youngsters, men and women as well as fledgling pro teams.  It is a big NCAA college sport.

Lacrosse is played on a large, rectangular field between two teams.  Rules vary, depending on whether men, women or youths are playing, but the they are all similar.  Players wield a long stick (the “crosse”) that has a small pouch on its end capable of catching the game’s ball.  The idea is to control the ball and get it past the opposing team’s goalie, into the goal.  Men play in teams of 10.  The field is about 110 yards long by 60 yards wide.  The ball is about eight inches in circumference and weighs five ounces.  Lacrosse is fast, fun to watch and can be a very physical game.  While men’s lacrosse is a contact sport, officially sanctioned women’s games do not allow contact.  For men, body checking is permitted if the opponent has the ball or is within five yards of a loose ball.  All body contact must occur from the front or side, above the waist and below the shoulders, and with both hands on the stick.  An opponent’s crosse may also be stick checked if it is within five yards of a loose ball or ball in the air.

US Lacrosse, with more than 450,000 members as of 2016, is the governing body of American amateurs in this sport ( ).  One of its goals is to promote safety.  The organization reports that lacrosse participation in the U.S. was almost 773,000 on organized teams in 2014 (the latest data available), up from 684,730 in 2011, including youth levels through professionals.  Youth level players increased 5% in 2014 over 2013 to reach 425,000, while high school players reached almost 300,000.  Men’s NCAA players rose by 37.3% between 2009 and 2014, while the number of women players rose 38.9%.  Large numbers of lacrosse players are below 14 years of age, playing in organized clubs.  The size of teams ranges from 20 to 40 members.

An additional, non-contact version of the game is called InterCrosse.  This sport, played throughout the U.S. and in many other nations, is officially governed by the Federation Internationale d’InterCrosse (FIIC), , based in Quebec, Canada.  InterCrosse is especially popular at elementary and junior high schools because of its safety aspects.  In July 2016, FIIC plans an international InterCrosse tournament in Montreal, Canada.

On the professional level, Major League Lacrosse ( ) had nine teams as of mid-2016, in areas including Denver, Boston, Long Island, Toronto, Chicago and Washington.  Also, the indoor National Lacrosse League ( ) is a nine-team league with expansion plans.

Lacrosse offers exciting potential for corporate sponsors and expansion team owners, as well as equipment and apparel makers.  The largest factor holding the sport back at present may be a lack of experienced coaches.  The situation is analogous to the explosive growth in amateur soccer among students a few years ago.



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