Vashon Island youth play in ‘Chumash’ lacrosse tourney

Lacrosse, “the little brother of war,” is America’s game, predating baseball by hundreds of years. Invented by Native Americans and played with fierce passions, it is in no way an effete game of snobs. History tells that the French and English borrowed the game from the Americans, graced it with sensibility and propriety, and then brought it back to America.

  • Wednesday, August 6, 2008 1:00am
  • Sports

Lacrosse, “the little brother of war,” is America’s game, predating baseball by hundreds of years. Invented by Native Americans and played with fierce passions, it is in no way an effete game of snobs. History tells that the French and English borrowed the game from the Americans, graced it with sensibility and propriety, and then brought it back to America.

Originally, the sport was called “Tewaarihon” (little brother of war) in Mohawk, and “Ondoga” (men hit round thing with stick) in Eastern Cherokee. But in a move tantamount to the naming of Greenland, the French dubbed the game “lacrosse” (after crosier, a bishop’s staff).

Lacrosse is a war game with sticks and a rock. You get to throw the rock with your stick, which greatly accelerates the missile’s velocity and effect. If you don’t have possession of the rock, you may hit the guy who does, with your stick or with any part of your body. Failing that, you may knock him over and step on him. Modern rules prohibit striking someone from behind or using a handgun to force a turnover.

Chumash is the name for lacrosse to the coastal tribes of California, but in the context of the game it implies, “To hell with rules: Shoot, Shoot, Shoot!”

Chumash is 3-on-3 lacrosse. The goal, placed in the middle of the small field, is six feet tall and about a foot wide. Players attack from their own side but may shoot only from odd angles, with the most direct venues for attack protected by a “crease.”

Lacrosse with 10 players is fast; Chumash with three is as fast as it gets. Imagine hockey with all players shooting at a pole stuck in the middle of the ice. Pity the skater who plays too close to the opposite side of the goal.

Lacrosse dad Matt Amundsen assembled a team of five fifth- and sixth-grade Vashon players to compete in a Chumash tournament on the Sammamish Plateau on Saturday, July 5. The challenge was heavy, because Chumash strategy is written nowhere. We devised an attack combining elements from baseball, basketball, football and the federal detention center.

The strategy worked perfectly: Our team, Tenacious D, played spectacular Chumash against teams from Issaquah and Lake Tapps. Griff Jennings, Nick Amundsen, and Evan Anderson led the squad, with Steen Jennings and Graham Hazzard infusing much-needed energy.

Unfortunately, however, we discovered we weren’t the only ones new to the game. Well-meaning referees failed to enforce the rules or keep accurate score.

Because coaches were prohibited from coaching the players during the game, they and everyone else did the only thing allowed — they yelled at the referees.

Spectators shouted out goals and fouls to help the officials with their confusion, but of course this helped nothing and only incited them to greater degrees of frustration. Final playoff game scores were settled by vigorous post-match discussions.

It was fun, exhausting and competitive. And of course, in the spirit of our community, we left polite feedback and expressed deepest appreciation to the hosts of the tournament, along with appropriate suggestions on how to avoid having “little brother” give way to Big Brother.

— David Jennings is the father of Griff and Steen Jennings.


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