The Growth
of Lacrosse

Although it was still a rather obscure sport, lacrosse had grown considerably by the turn of the century from an almost unheard of sport played only by Native Americans, into a sport that was played by many European Americans, mostly on the East Coast. When it was featured as a Olympic sport at the Olympics in St. Louis in 1904 and in London in 1908, lacrosse gained more recognition in the U.S. and the world. In 1904, Canada won the gold medal by defeating the St. Louis AAA Club team, which was representing the U.S. Canada once again won the gold in 1908, defeating England. The Johns Hopkins University team, which was to represent the United States, did not go to the Olympics that year due to lack of funds. Although the Olympics provided lacrosse with more national and international exposure, the sport did not return to the Olympics until it was an exhibition event in 1928.

Intercollegiate lacrosse also grew considerably after the turn of the century. In 1905, the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse League (USILL) formed when the Intercollegiate Association and the Inter university Lacrosse League merged. These two organizations had different rules, so at the time of their merger, they agreed upon a new set of rules to govern the newly-formed USILL. Johns Hopkins University, coached by Bill Schmeisser, dominated the league, winning the Southern Division four times in a row and defeating the Northern Division champion three times.

Strohsacker family photo
The emergence of the USILL, along with lacrosse's inclusion in the Olympics, increased its recognition in the U.S. The American Press began to give more attention to the sport. In 1921, W. Wilson Wingate of The Baltimore Sun, called the game "the fastest game on two feet," a term which is still widely used today. The popularity of the game was further advanced in 1922 when President William Taft attended a lacrosse game between the Crescent Athletic Club and the Montreal Lacrosse Club.
Ten years later, in 1932, the largest crowd ever watched a lacrosse game when 80,000 witnessed Johns Hopkins University, representing the United States, defeat Canada in the exhibition tournament at the Los Angeles Olympics. To this day no lacrosse game has ever attracted so many people.

The growth of lacrosse continued steadily and, in 1950, there were 200 college, club, and high school teams. After 1950, lacrosse not only continued to grow in its hotbed of the east coast, producing superstars like Billy Morrill and Jim Brown, but it was also now starting to grow in the west. In 1959, lacrosse was officially started in California when the California Lacrosse Association was formed, representing two high school teams, one college team, and one club team.

Photo by Jerry Shifflett
In the same year, the Lacrosse Foundation (now U.S. Lacrosse) and the Lacrosse Hall of Fame were formed as a nonprofit organization committed to the development of lacrosse.


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