A Short Documentary

Lacrosse in the West: A Sports and Change with Migration

The game of lacrosse originated in the eastern United States. Lacrosse was originally a game for preparation for war played by Native Americans, but eventually it was adapted and changed by Europeans. However, Native Americans (mostly in the East) have continued to play lacrosse, and it remains important in their culture heritage. For most of lacrosse’s history following the Europeanization of the sport, it has existed almost exclusively in the eastern U.S. It was mostly played by wealthy, upper class individuals in upper-crust colleges and clubs. However, in the 1970’s, following the invention of the mass-manufacture lacrosse stick, the sport began to spread to high schools and youth leagues. A new shade of the elitist culture began to emerge following the 70’s expansion. This new culture is known as the ‘lax bro’ culture. Lax bro culture takes the elitism and in-group mentality from the old culture and infuses it with modern commercialism, slang, and lifestyle choices.

Lacrosse’s migration to the West has created a new culture, different from the culture in the East, that focuses on growth, inclusivity, and honoring the game. While the development of the new western culture is partly due to the need of players to grow the game, it has formed primarily because of the explicit efforts of migrants from the East and communities in the West to distance it from its history of white elitism and from the present threat of lax bro culture.

Lacrosse in action, Courtesy of Creative Commons

The migration of lacrosse to the West has created a new culture surrounding lacrosse. This website examines this new culture, and places it within the larger history of the sport. Major historical works on lacrosse have focused mostly on its Native American roots through to the beginning of its spread from the 70’s onward. However, no major project has examined or analyzed the differences in culture between East and West lacrosse. Although major differences exist in the ways that men’s and women’s lacrosse are played, there is little difference in how they have spread. Thus, when this website mentions lacrosse with regard to its expansion and migration, it refers to both men and women’s lacrosse. However, the lax bro culture exists almost exclusively in men’s lacrosse, so the sections on culture refer primarily to men’s lacrosse.

What is lacrosse? How has it changed over time? What sorts of cultures and communities has it created and influenced? Why has it spread so rapidly in the last 40 years? How has lacrosse reached the West? How has the culture surrounding lacrosse changed in its new homes? How have migrants influenced lacrosse’s culture in the West? How has lacrosse’s new homes and their cultures affected the sport in turn?

The answers to these questions, which can be found by clicking on the hyperlinks above, will help further illuminate the broader and longer history of lacrosse, its migration west, and its changing and shifting culture.