What’s all that racquet?

Move over, soccer: There’s a new game in town! Lacrosse is a fast-moving contact team sport that has gained popularity over the past several years but is considered America’s first sport started by Native Americans.

The object of lacrosse is to get the ball down the field and into the opposing team’s goal, using long-handled racquets whose heads are strung with netting, called lacrosse sticks. At the same time, a team must protect its own goal. Getting the ball away from the opposing team is done by stick-checking and body contact.

Until recently, Chicago had two professional lacrosse teams, the Chicago Shamrox (indoor lacrosse, played at the Sears Centre) and the Chicago Machine (outdoor lacrosse, played at Toyota Park). Due to the economic downturn, the Chicago Shamrox suspended its 2009 season; the players were drafted by other teams in the National Lacrosse League (NLL).

The Chicago Machine, which operates under Major League Lacrosse (MLL), will open its 2009 season in late May at Toyota Park in Bridgeview. (Tickets go on sale in April through Ticketmaster.) The family-friendly fan experience at a Machine game is an exciting one; the game, easy-to-follow for newbies, moves very quickly. Halftime entertainment is provided by the Chicago Machine Dance Team.

If your child gets the itch to try the game, there are a couple of great organizations in our area that will help him get started. Jake Deane and Mike Gabel of the Chicago Machine co-founded True Lacrosse (www.truelacrosse.com), which runs clinics and leagues for middle- and high-schoolers. Deane and Gabel also run the Illinois Youth Lacrosse Association (www.ilyla.org). Lacrosse America (www.lacrosse

america.com) has programs for kids as young as first grade through high school. Lacrosse is still considered an emerging sport on the high school level, but greater school sponsorship in Illinois is definitely on the horizon. All in all, your family still has time to catch this tidal wave.

Chicago Machine Lacrosse Toyota Park7000 S. Harlem Ave., Bridgeview(312) 255-1522

www.chicagomachine.com

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