Faculty Research at Morehead State University


A Close Look at the Diversity of Lacrosse

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2012


Lacrosse was a popular Native American sport in the Pre-Columbian era in North America before European settlement (Eitzen & Sage, 2009). This sport has a rich tradition as the Canadian Parliament recognized it as Canada’s “national summer sport” (Vennum, 1994). In America, lacrosse has been a widely popular sport in much of the New England region for decades. More recently, the sport has gained popularity in other areas of the country, like California and Colorado. This sport at the collegiate level also received national attention, since more games have been televised on the Entertainment and Sport Programming Network (ESPN) channels as part of National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Championship series. While the sport is continuing to grow outside of its traditional geographic area, it is still struggling to attract a more diversified group of athletes. Lacrosse, which has been around in some form for almost 300 years, is still very much dominated by white athletes. Embracing diversity has been a consistent educational philosophy and goal that is emphasized by the NCAA. Therefore, the lack of minority participation in lacrosse is an issue that is closely scrutinized by the NCAA’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. According to the NCAA Student Athlete Race/Ethnicity Report (NCAA, 2010), white athletes made up 91.4 percent for male lacrosse players and 90.6 percent of female players. Black athletes, however, made up just 2.2 percent of male athletes and 2.4 percent of female participants at the Division-I level. Less than 10 percent of the student-athletes playing NCAA lacrosse were black. That statistic carries over to both men's and women's lacrosse in all three divisions (Ricardi, 2011). To help the readers understand the diversity issue concerning this particular sport, the authors will address three questions in this essay: (1) What are the challenges in trying to diversify the sport of lacrosse? (2) What progress has been made? And (3) what can be done to encourage more participation from minority athletes with different backgrounds, races, and ethnicities?