The Struggles Of Women In Sports: Lacrosse
Sports nowadays are played with one of four reasons in mind: for fun, for scholarships, for careers, or for an outlet for pent up emotions. Fun is how most people start out playing, hopping from one sport to the next to find the ones that they find the most enjoyable and stress relieving. Some people play in order to receive scholarships to help them get through college, while others play for fun and receive a scholarship as a bonus. College nowadays is one of the only ways to get good jobs that give out high pay grades. People will go into a sports related careers to make money from something they love and are good at. Then, there are those who need some kind of emotional outlet, who have no way of getting their emotions out or have a hard time expressing themselves. With bottled up anger and stress, many youth find that certain sports give them an activity that releases all kinds of emotions in a healthy way. Numerous players use their sport to vent their negative emotions. Some sports give players a more physical way to channel their feelings, while others give a sense of competition without the risk of physical damage. Regardless of the reason for playing, all sports are equally difficult and competitive in their respective fields. However, there are sports that get outshined by the more physically-involved sports that captivate their viewers.
Lacrosse, one of the top ten sports to give out scholarships to players, is a moderately competitive sport. Due to its increase in popularity and high chance in scholarships, it has seen a boost of new players throughout the years. Lacrosse has one major difference in gameplay when it comes to which gender is playing: the amount of physical contact players are allowed to have with another. Women’s lacrosse, although it is just as competitive as men’s, has faced ridicule about how the game works. Critics often point at the constant halts in gameplay due to whistles being blown on miniscule technicalities causing the game to pause over and over. Despite these obstacles, women’s lacrosse has fought to no longer be outperformed by men in order to be considered equal, even superior, to men’s lacrosse.
Unfortunately, this change will not be done in a day. Women in sports constantly have to fight the past gender norms that hinder their participation and treatment in sports. They have endured society dictating how much force women are allowed to use when playing sports. Regardless of women athletes’ capabilities, it is always men who have dictated not only the amount of bodily contact women athletes are allowed to have and how often they can even participate in sports or activities. Richard Bell summarized this in A History of Women in Sport Prior to Title IX. In the 1800s, men believed that everyone had a set amount of energy they could use, and if “physical and intellectual tasks” were done at the same time, this would be hazardous for women, especially if they were menstruating. Men also believe that there were physical drawbacks if a woman were to participate in something that was considered to be for intellectuals and physically fit people. They believed that women had no place to be except caring for the children, the estate and the husband. Rather than supporting a woman’s interest in indulging in the pleasure of sports and the spirit of competition.
Women back in the 19th and early 20th century had to follow not only social norms but also the legal side of getting married and surrendering legal power over to their husbands. As John Green describes it in Women in the 19th Century: Crash Course US History #16, “husbands held authority over the person, property and choices of their wives. Also since women weren’t permitted to own property and property ownership was a precondition for voting, [women] were totally shut out of the political process.” Women have fought for centuries to have freedom in every aspect of their lives, from simply owning property, being able to run a company, and voting in elections. Up until the early twentieth century, men were the reason why so many people, not just women, have suffered from various forms of discrimination, even in today’s world.
As a result of this favoritism, women worked to improve and fight for their rights back through reform movements in the nineteenth century. These movements allowed women to become active in building asylums or leading the charge in “sobering up the men of America,” as Green states. Women became tired of seeing men legally tie them down while they get to go roaming around drinking to their heart’s content rather than seeking out their wife’s comfort and embrace. This temperance movement made a huge impact in American life back in the day, as men who supported the sobriety of America realized that if women had the right to vote, it would benefit their cause greatly.
As the years progressed into the early twentieth century, women finally achieved the ability to vote when the 19th Amendment was approved by the Senate on June fourth, 1919 and ratified in august, 1920. Still, the fight for equality was far from over, even in the 20th century, women were still fighting the societal expectations they were forced to fulfill.
Men dictating and tying women down to simple standards and immoral living and working conditions gave women the courage to fight for a better life for themselves and their children. Women have more freedom to choose their lifestyles and career paths in the 21st century and have continued to be fought over in the 22nd century . This also gave way for equality in sports, women slowly were allowed to participate in activities that did not require much effort. Such as swimming, horseback riding, tennis and croquet, due to the idea that women should not exert themselves. However, with the rise in women’s equality, they slowly got involved in more physically demanding sports over the years. Now, women play in field hockey, basketball, soccer and ice hockey, the more contact-heavy sports than the “lady-like” sports women played back in the day.
Lacrosse, although it has become more modern than its original design, it still has problems that date back to the nineteenth century. Is a game that has been around since the seventeenth century has been adapted and modified through the years to accommodate players for smoother gameplay and allows women to play without harming themselves. Croquet continues the idea that women are weak and cannot handle getting physically involved beside slight stick-to-body contact.
Lacrosse, the modern version of the Native Americans game known as “The Creator’s Game,” natively known as Baggataway or stickball, is now known as lacrosse. Originally designed by the natives across North America, it was slowly adapted throughout the centuries until it became the lacrosse we know today. “From the seventeenth century, when the game was played exclusively by Native Americans, to the early decades of the twentieth century… While the game was first developed by Native Americans well before contact with Europeans, lacrosse became standardized by a group of Canadians led by George Beers in 1867, and has continued to develop into the twenty-first century,” Jeff Carey states in his thesis New directions of play: Native american origins of modern lacrosse.
Today, Lacrosse is a team sport, and the objective is to get the ball into the opponents goal. Players use a two hand stick with a triangular net piece at the top of the stick known as a “crosse.” Women’s lacrosse allows twelve players on the field while men’s lacrosse has ten players, regardless both versions of lacrosse have a defense, mid-field, attack, and a goalie on the field at all times. Women’s and men’s lacrosse have one major difference that shapes how the game differs between gender: contact. Similar to popular sports like football, men’s lacrosse permits their players to be more physical with their opponents as opposed to women’s lacrosse. While men’s lacrosse players are able to hit and body check (with some restrictions), women’s lacrosse highly restricts physical contact between players. There are rules for women’s lacrosse against getting too close to the face and body, like they are confined to have minimal contact while defending and chasing the ball.. While the game’s objective and tactics remain fairly similar across genders, men’s lacrosse is more mainstream than women’s, which generates the idea that it is the superior twin.
The most popular sports today have some form of contact with football and hockey being at the top and sports like soccer, basketball and baseball fall towards the bottom. Despite this, lacrosse is still a very popular sport that is streamed for the public. Yet men’s lacrosse is regarded higher and viewed more, while women’s lacrosse, and sports in general, suffer from mainstream media not broadcasting their games or not advertising when the games are happening to encourage viewers compared to men’s sports/ lacrosse. One of the reasons men’s lacrosse does better is due to “the level of contact and physicality determines the amount of fans that come… the more contact there is, the more spectators we will draw to our games,” as opinionated by Ithaca’s former attackman, Connor Hulme, in Cal Dymowski’s Lacrosse has different rules for men and women. Men’s lacrosse is perceived as being better due to the lack of regulations that allow for the game to flow smoother than women’s. In Jane Claydon’s Origin & History, a girl writing for the student magazine at St. Leonards School, in St Andrews, Scotland reported that “after our crosses having undergone a severe inspection i.e. our referee holding them up one by one and squinting with one eye to see if that which ought to be plane surface was not a curved one.” Even before the game starts, the equipment worn by the players are inspected to prevent any harm or cheating from occurring. While this may indicate that the rules in women’s lacrosse should be revised in order to allow for better flowing gameplay, it can show how much harder the girls have to work compared to men. Women have to jump more hurdles in order to play, it in turn forces the players to come up with more creative plays in order to score.
All these hurdles and obstacles women face in order to play a simple game of lacrosse can be traced back to the standard to women in the past. Women have worked hard and still have to work hard in order to be respected and represented in today’s society. Similar to the past, women are still treated poorly compared to their male counterparts. We see discrimination in every aspect of sports, “food quality varied drastically, as did lounges for players and gift bags provided to participants,” as stated in Alan Blinder’s article Report: N.C.A.A. Prioritized Men’s Basketball ‘Over Everything Else’. From the food supplied by organizations to the rulings, there is still work to be done about treatment towards female athletes.
Women have come a long way from the nineteenth century standards, espeially in terms of being able to participate in every aspect of life that men can. However, like any idea or law put into practice, nothing starts out perfect, revisions and kinks still need to be work out. For instance, women have been able to get more involved in sports as the years changed, but are still not at the same level as men. Due to this unequal treatment of women, sports organizations and media have been under justified fire about the unfair treatment of genders and lack of female representation in televised sports. Women in sports have constantly fought to be represented and respected by not only their male counterparts but the world as a whole.
Men on the other hand have plenty of representation and screen time. They have more viewers when their games are on TV, and they are given more opportunities to compete. Lacrosse has grown in popularity in recent years for both genders, and the women’s college NCAA championship has even drawn more viewers. In 2017 Matt Hamilton reported in Lacrosse Has Untapped Potential as TV Sport, ESPN Producer Says, that in “the [2017 NCAA] women’s lacrosse championship game between Maryland and Boston College drew 88,000 viewers on TV and streaming… the men’s lacrosse semifinals and final had an average (260,000).” Not only do men have a high rating when it comes to televised games, but in person audiences also have a high turn out. If this is the case, men’s lacrosse is clearly the prefered version to watch. Their games are evidently more entertaining to the general public since they involve more physical contact and have more flow to them.
Men’s lacrosse is more entertaining due to the popularity of high levels of physical contact in sports; for instance, striking a player, also known as body checking, is frequently used during games as well as crosse checking also known as stick checking. Of course, like any game, there is a limit of how much contact is allowed: “Body checking of an opponent in possession of the ball or within 5 yards of a loose ball, from the front or side above the waist and below the neck, is legal… A player may check his opponent’s crosse with his own crosse when that opponent has possession of the ball, when the opponent is within 5 yards of a loose ball or when the ball in flight is within 5 yards of the player,” found in the 2019 and 2020 NCAA MEN’S LACROSSE RULES AND INTERPRETATIONS by the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Rules Committee. Men’s crosse checking is very lenient when it comes to contact between crosses, which is defined as a player may “check his opponent’s crosse with his own crosse when that opponent has possession of the ball, when the opponent is within 5 yards of a loose ball or when the ball in flight is within 5 yards of the player,” (NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Rules Committee). The game starts with players going head to head, literally, a face off which also allows physical contact between the opposing players shoulders and helmets while they try to retrieve the ball. Of course, every face off is slightly different, from the players to the referees, for a more detailed description, viewing Lacrosse All Star’s 2015 NCAA Faceoff Video – Notre Dame vs. Team USA – Lacrosse Best Moments video would give a better understanding and visual of a face off.
Physical contact could be considered something you need some level of skill to successfully pull off, whether it is tackling someone or checking them with a stick. In a game, where players have to be precise or else you risk getting penalized for your actions and possibly ruining your team’s chances at victory. Women’s lacrosse has almost the same ruling, but there are harsher restrictions than the men’s. They have to find ways around in order to retrieve the ball and defend their goal. Not only is there a rule against a player’s body having contact with their opponents, but there are guidelines on crosse checking. Crosse Checking as defined in the 2020–2022 WOMEN’S INTERNATIONAL OFFICIAL PLAYING RULES by World Lacrosse is defined as “an extension of body checking whereby the defender attempts to dislodge the ball from an opponent’s Crosse by using controlled Crosse-to-Crosse contact.” The rules of crosse checking go over the “do’s and don’ts,” whether it involves the sticks positioning or the position of your body when attempting to check. There are more restrictions compared to the men who are allowed to hit their opponents.
Compared to men, women have to develop patience and timing on top of finding ways to decrease the possibility of getting penalized. Physical contact is a way to retrieve the ball without needing much skill, body checking is a short cut for players who do not have the proper stick skill to acquire the ball. Women need to develop these stick skills to recover the ball more creatively, while their male counterparts are allowed to slowly injure their opponents as the game progresses. They need to come up with plays to move the ball around the field while confusing the defense in order to score on the opposition’s goal.
Despite the fact that the game times are exactly the same length with one hour game time and a fifteen minute half time, women’s games seem to go on forever. The players will then become angry at not only the referees, but at the rules themselves due to the overprotected nature of the sport. This, in turn, causes both the players and the audience to become frustrated throughout the game, and all of them become uninterested in the current play. Also, the game can easily come to a halt due to a referee making a minor call, causing the players to freeze. Due to these frequent and inconvenient calls, the players must quickly adapt to make up for the game’s lost time. Of course this can occur in both mens and womens lacrosse, but female players once again have to come up with more inventive plays and creative strategies in order to make up for there lost in time. Not only does this cause the women players to develop quicker thinking skills, but it in turn will increase each player’s agility. Throughout the history of women’s lacrosse players and fans have tolerated these game stopping rules for far too long. Regardless of the lack of reform due to the conflicting ideas between players and committee members, women have continued to make this game their own.
Despite all the frustration surrounding women’s lacrosse, not only from the spectators but the players as well, there has been no drastic change in rules for years. The lack of change is due to the players themselves not accepting the proposed revisions. For example, headgear upgrades, which most of the players look at as downgrades and overall pointless. Two Rowan’s Women’s Club Lacrosse players have their own opinions on the proposed headgear. Midfielder Kayleen McGill says, ”I have had multiple concussions, and I hate having to put this thing on, but it’s the only way I’m allowed to play lacrosse.” In contrast, goalie Meredith Case is impartial: “I’m a goalie so I’m used to wearing more gear than the others, I wear a helmet just like the guys, so I wouldn’t mind using a helmet in the field, even if they do make you look kind of funny.” From Boston College, former Attack Mid Kate Taylor has expressed that she would never want to wear a helmet. Instead, she would rather get more physical without it. Regardless, the changes that could be made to help women’s lacrosse players have better game experiences, come at the price of possible helmet requirements, still brings them nowhere near the level of men’s lacrosse. Female lacrosse players would still have to come up with new and improved plays to win the game. Women have worked hard to achieve the skill level required to play women’s lacrosse, surpassing the men in stick skill, patience and cleverness in order to maneuver around the field to victory.
KERR, Z. , LINCOLN, A. , DODGE, T. , YEARGIN, S. , COVASSIN, T. , NITTOLI, V. , MENSCH, J. , ROOS, K. , DOMPIER, T. & CASWELL, S. (2018) . Epidemiology of Youth Boys’ and Girls’ Lacrosse Injuries in the 2015 to 2016 Seasons. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 50 (2), 284-291. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001422. https://tinyurl.com/yvczbx9m
Koukouris, K. (1994). Constructed Case Studies: Athletes’ Perspectives of Disengaging From Organized Competitive Sport. Sociology of Sport Journal, 11(2), 114–139. https://tinyurl.com/4k5adsbt
World Lacrosse Women’s Rules Sub Committee. (2021, February). CLARIFICATION FOR WOMEN’S RULE BOOK, 2019-2020 [Memo]. https://tinyurl.com/jfsc7vts
NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Rules Committee, & Scroggs, W. (2019). 2019 and 2020 NCAA MEN’S LACROSSE RULES AND INTERPRETATIONS (A. Supergan, Ed.). NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION. https://tinyurl.com/3njy5att
Dymowski, C. (2016, April 20). Lacrosse has different rules for men and women. The Ithacan. https://theithacan.org/sports/lacrosse-has-different-rules-for-men-and-women/
Carey, J. (2012). New directions of play: Native American origins of modern lacrosse (Order No. 1518272). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1039261901). Retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/2p99khv2
Claydon, J. (Ed.). (2021). Origin of Men’s Lacrosse. World Lacrosse. https://worldlacrosse.sport/about-world-lacrosse/origin-history/
Hamilton, M. (2017, August 28). Lacrosse Has Untapped Potential as TV Sport, ESPN Producer Says. USA Lacrosse Magazine. https://tinyurl.com/2ppjy46k
Sanches, M. (2017, April 12). Women’s and Men’s Lacrosse: Same Name, Different Sports [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i39zllGnJkI
Lacrosse All Stars. (2014, October 24). 2015 NCAA Faceoff Video – Notre Dame vs. Team USA – Lacrosse Best Moments [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yL1z6a96Y1w
Roberts, R. (1992). Women’s Sports [Review of Women’s Sports: A History, by A. Guttmann]. Reviews in American History, 20(2), 242–246. https://doi.org/10.2307/2703108
Bell, R. C. (1998). A History of Women in Sport Prior to Title IX. The Sport Journal. https://thesportjournal.org/article/a-history-of-women-in-sport-prior-to-title-ix/
CrashCourse, & Green, J. (2005, December 15). Women in the 19th Century: Crash Course US History #16 [Video]. Youtube. https://tinyurl.com/nahhcvjn
The United States Senate. (n.d.). Woman Suffrage Centennial [Lecture notes]. United States Senate. https://tinyurl.com/yckvt26v
Gough, C. (2021, September 23). Number of college sport scholarships available in the United States in 2020/21, by sport and gender [Fact sheet]. Statista. https://tinyurl.com/yw53jr2d
Blinder, A. (1996). Report: N.C.A.A. Prioritized Men’s Basketball ‘Over Everything Else’. The New York Times. https://tinyurl.com/2s3hu4hw