Lacrosse: The National Game of Canada/Chapter 7

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The present manner of opening the game of Lacrosse is supposed to have originated soon after the introduction of the present shaped stick, and has no resemblance to the beginning of any other game. There was no chance for skill in the old methods of facing—in the ball laid on the ground or thrown up in the air, and the general rush and scramble. That there is considerable knack and art in taking the ball at present, is proved by the proficiency attained by Centres who practise particularly for this part of early play. A few years ago the Indians oftener had it their own way than now; and when they succeed at all at the present time with our best white facers, it is more by an anticipatory ruse than any superior skill. They cannot wait for the sound "play."

The game is commenced as follows : The Centre of each side face each other in the middle of the field, crossing their sticks (as shown in Illustration 1st,) with the ball on the ground between them. At the beginning of the face, the sticks should be almost level with the ground. The illustration represents the second action, when the struggle for the ball has commenced. At the last sound of the words, " Ready — Play," from the senior captain, the men strive to take the ball in the best manner they know how.

The crosse of the Centre should have an angular ridge from near the top of the curve to within a foot of the collar on the rijjht side. It should not extend beyond the first of the length strings nearest the wood ; and the top of the ridge should be in the centre, or if anything, a little nearest the outside part of the stick. Lay the ball on the ground, place the stick beside it as in facing, and you will see the object of this ridge, and will understand why some novices succeed in taking the ball away every time from older players. If your orosse is flat, or per- fectly round at the part where the ridge should be, it will hardly have any catch to hook the ball ; but the ridge is not only a perfect catch for the up and over-take (Sect. 1,) but a guard against slii)ping, for all raethuds of facing. It must be gradually bevelled off towards the top of the curve, so as not to interfere with picking up.

Centre should avoid assuming any unnatural position, or kneeling on one knee, as if at the

  • ' Ready," to receive cavalry. There can be no

absolute rule laid down about position ; a man may stand on his head if he likes, providing he finds it his best way ; but one rule should guide the Centre, and that is, not to get into a position for facing, which checks oi impedes elasticity and spring for completing the face, making the best of an advantage gained, or an opportunity lost.

st Position. — A favorite position of some Centres is to grasp above the collar of the crosse with the right hand, the left hand at the butt. The right leg is advanced, and the right elbow leveraged agamst the inside of the advanced knee. This is principally used for th». up and over-take, and other forcible methods of facing.

nd Position. — The usual Indian style, and the one which we beheve infinitely the best adapted to (levelopc variety and skill, is the contrary position : an inch or two above the collar grasped by the left hand, the butt by the right, the left leg advanced. In both positions the body inclines forward from the hips easily, and ready for instant action.

The objections to position first are, that it is only safer than the other for forcible methods of facing ; that it does not allow of as free action and spring as the other ; that the butt of the crosse is more likely to interfere with the body ; that it takes the right hand from the natural grasp at the butt, which should be avoided as much as possible, and that it actually prevents several methods of facing not much practised, but nevertheless calculated to be as often successful, if not more so, than forcible methods now mostly in vogue. When we see a Centre stand and grasp as in position first, we are almost sure that he intends to take the ball by the up and over or some forcible method ; but in the other position, while a Centre can accomplish the up and over, he is in an attitude for others of more variety. However, the best method for any Centre is his most natural or his most successful ; though we hope no one will be above giving up an old method if he discovers a better.

The following arc the most effective ways of getting the best of it in opening the game ; though facing is not learned by study as much as by patient practice : —

. Up and Over — Is primarily a feat of strength, and is done best in the first position. It is compara- tively independent of the backward spring used in other methods. The ball is fairly lifted up and over the opponent's crosse by the ridge before described, firmly pressing the crosse against the opposing crosse.

. The Indian. — We call this the Indian to dis" tinguish it as the general favorite of the red-skin. It is partly a feat of strength of arm and trick of crosse. The Centre stands in the second position. The face is done by quickly drawing your crosse towards you and the bal^ with it, and hooking it from your opponent by the side of the bend ; at the same time making a sudden retrograde spring from the ]eft foot. The whole length of the crosse, from the bend to the butt, may be level with the ground, and a rise made when hooking the ball, at the same time turning the handle out to the right to prevent your opponent hooking it. The position in this face may be changed by standing more erect, with the handle of the crosse sloping.

. The Tip. — So called, because the ball is taken with the tip, the Centre standing in position second. At the sound of the last word give the handle of your crosse a strong quick twist outwards from left to right, covering the ball with the top surface of the netting, the tip pointing to the left. The ball is caught close to the wood, and drawn to the right, or between your legs by a strong, quick jerk. In this, as in the succeeding methods of facing, care* must be taken to keep the crosse as close to the ball as possible, in every part of the movement.

. Reverse Tip — Is an extension of the Tip, and is done by continuing the twist, strongly pressing the tip to your opponent's crosse to force a space in his netting, until the tip of year crosse is upon the ball, when you tip it to your right. In this movement the crosse is entirely reversed from the original position in facing, the tip pointing downwards and the bend upwirds.

. Flat Face — Is done by turning your crosse from right to left, covering the ball with the head or centre surface of the netting, as in the flat check, and drawing it towards you. The stick may be pushed further forward, and the ball covered with the lower angle previous to the draw.

. Back Catch. — Raise your crosse about two inches from the position assumed before the word " play" is given, and in the same motion turn the bend inwards towards the crosse of your opponent, so as to press in its net work, tip pointing slightly to the right. Press against his crosse, get the hend on the other side of the ball, and draw to your right. Always keep the bend on the ball.

. ffalf-wheel Face — Is done by springing on your left foot as a pivot, making a sort of " left face," at the same time reversing the tip as in No. 4, excepting that the crosse should be almost perpendi- cular at the termination of the wheel. The ball is taken with the top of the curve, by a tip towards your original rear.

When you purpose taking the ball to your right, the draw or tip must not be as forcil)le as if to left because then you send it towards your own goal. Centre should quietly tell the near field of his side, tiic particular direction in which he proposes hooking the ball, in order that the latter can regulate his position accordingly.

There are modifications of every face, and others entirely different from those described. So far, there has been little development in this part of the game, and Centres scarcely ever calculate doing more than forcing the ball from their opponent to an indefinite point, away from their own defence, where it is as likely to be caught by an antagonist as an ally. It may seem unimportant as to which side gets the ball at the start, but if it is dangerous at all during the game, how much more so when the men are fresh ? Games won ki one or two minutes are nearly always taken this way.

The simplest methods of facing need practice. The more complicated may seem easier to describe than to perform, but we have personally seen methods of facing, and general points of play among the Indians, in their village games, which they never attempt or risk on pale-face grounds. There is more scope for experiment in facing than at first sight seems possible, and the variations here suggested are a few such, which may by practice be made useful^ when Centres meet antagonists as well posted in old methods as themselves. There is a spontaniety required in all methods which cannot be made into axioms. Not only the single draw, or hook, or tip, but anticipating or retrieving slips by double catches, is an important part of the art of facing.

When a ball is taken up with the hand, as in Rules XIII. and XIV., it is usual to face with the nearest opponent, by throwing it straight up in the air, both men striking at it as it descends.