Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Matthew. Matthew Wonders, “Who Invented lacrosse” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Matthew!

When it comes to sports in the United States, many people immediately think of one of the three most popular professional sports: football, baseball, and basketball. Of course, there are other popular professional sports, such as hockey and soccer, too.

Football is probably the sport most often associated with the U.S., but there's actually another much older sport that was invented here hundreds of years ago by Native Americans. It involves a large field, a small rubber ball, two nets, and long sticks with baskets on the end. What are we talking about? Lacrosse, of course!

Even though it doesn't receive the kind of attention some other sports get, lacrosse can boast that it's a truly American sport. Native Americans have been playing lacrosse since as early as the 15th century.

In addition to being a fun game, Native American tribes used lacrosse to train young warriors for battle. They may have even used the game to settle disputes between tribes. Unlike the 10-man teams of modern lacrosse, Native Americans sometimes enjoyed games involving hundreds of players on a field that could be miles long!

Modern lacrosse fields are large rectangles with a goal at each end. Although the field might remind you of a field hockey or soccer field, there are differences in how lacrosse is played.

Ten-person teams face off as they try to get the small rubber ball into their opponent's goal. Instead of throwing the ball with their hands or kicking it with their feet, lacrosse players use long sticks with a net-like basket or pocket on the end to pick up, carry, throw, catch, and shoot the ball.

The lacrosse stick — called a crosse — allows the players to whip the ball around the field with incredible speed. Players must cover a lot of ground and game play can get intensely physical, which has earned the sport of lacrosse the nickname of "the fastest game on two feet." Lacrosse players get a lot of exercise, and the best players develop exceptional speed and stamina.

The 10 players on a lacrosse team are divided into three attackers, three midfielders, three defenders, and a goalkeeper. Game play involves strategy and precise passing. The game shares some similarities with basketball, in the sense that lacrosse games can include fast breaks, picks, and different defensive strategies, such as zone and man-to-man.

A crosse isn't the only piece of specialized equipment that lacrosse players need. Since the small, hard ball whips around the field at high speeds and contact with other players is frequent, protective gear is a must. A typical lacrosse player will wear a helmet, gloves, mouth guard, and protective pads that cover the ribs, shoulders, and elbows.

Today, lacrosse is a popular sport with both men and women at high schools and colleges across the United States. In 2001, a semi-pro league, called Major League Lacrosse or MLL, began play. There are currently nine teams in the MLL.

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day takes a look at the incredible ability of some animals!