Unlike sports such as soccer, basketball and volleyball, men’s and women’s lacrosse players wear different uniforms. Men’s players wear jerseys and shorts; whereas, women’s players wear jerseys and skirts. Which begs the question why do women wear lacrosse skirts instead of shorts? And can women choose if they want to wear lacrosse skirts or shorts? Let’s find out in this post.
The standard of girls wearing skirts has become more of an establishment rather than a universal policy. Ever since the first recorded women’s lacrosse game was played in 1890 and the first women’s lacrosse team was created in 1926, women have worn skirts. It’s a tradition not been tested until 2008 when Northwestern University began to allow female players to wear shorts.
This decision was groundbreaking and controversial. Yet, it also marked the beginning of Wildcat’s seven consecutive NCAA titles. Whether you argue there’s a correlation between the seven national titles and the “skirts not required” decision, NCAA has since abolished the requirement of skirts.
According to NCAA women’s lacrosse rulebook 2021, field players have the choice of wearing shorts or a kilt/skirt as long as the shorts/kilt/skirt are of the same color and similar design, trim and cut.
Now we learned the current status of the rule. In order to understand how the tradition came to be, we have to understand the history of women’s lacrosse.
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History of women’s lacrosse
When Miss Lousia Lumsden, the headmistress at St. Leonards School watched a match between the Canghuwaya and the Montreal club (source), she was immediately fascinated by the game and brought lacrosse to her school. The uniforms those girls wore were long, a one-piece long button-down dress with a rounded collar.
As women’s lacrosse progressed, so did the uniforms they wore. By the time the first women’s lacrosse team was created in 1926, the uniforms became long, loose pleated dresses that went below their keens and long sleeve blouses underneath. Although the length kept getting shorter, women’s players continued to wear skirts, kilts or skorts.
If we zoom out and look across other sports, we see norms of dressing for men and women converge. As I mentioned in the beginning, major sports like soccer, basketball have adopted the same dressing style for both men’s and women’s players.
Lacrosse has become one of the exceptions when it comes to dressing requirements. Although there is no longer a league policy, skirts are still required as part of the uniform by some individual teams.
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Lacrosse skirts vs Lacrosse Shorts
So what are the pros and cons of wearing lacrosse skirts as well as wearing lacrosse shorts? After doing some searching and watching women’s games, I learned that many women’s players indeed expressed dislike for the lacrosse skirts and favored shorts more.
First, lacrosse skirts can be very uncomfortable to wear. Since lacrosse involves a lot of running and sprinting, the skirts ride up your legs and you want to constantly mind pulling your skirt down. It can become a distraction from the game.
Furthermore, the skirts tend to be very tight. They don’t offer a lot of free range of motion that players desire to do aggressive maneuvers. Especially when they are too small, you can barely make a move. In contrast, lacrosse shorts are far superior in terms of flexibility and freedom to move. This explains why many women’s players prefer shorts over skirts.
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The rise of skorts
In order to find a middle ground between the administration and players, most colleges switched from skirts to skorts. Skorts are essentially skirts with shorts underneath. Although they look very similar to skirts, they function as shorts.
90% of the NCAA women’s teams have switched to skorts. Whether you watch a NCAA Division 3 game or a NCAA national championship game, girls are wearing skorts to compete. For women’s players, skorts provide more range of motion and comfort that allow them to play at the best level possible.
Will this tradition continue to exist?
Tradition is an important part of life and sports. As a sport that has been around for a very long time, lacrosse has kept many traditions across generations. But the perception of how a female athlete should look and dress brings forth the controversy around uniforms.
Skirts were required so that girls can embody femininity and modesty, but as society develops, more girls choose to favor other values such as comfort, flexibility or individuality over the traditional ones. The idea of if you are a girl, you should wear skirts has met with backlash. Thus, the overwhelming feedback from women’s players has given the lacrosse community enough evidence to abandon the past and embrace the future.
Now instead of letting the coach decide what new uniforms players should wear for next season, many coaches leave it up to the team to decide. Whether they want to wear skirts for another two or three years of if they want to make the change to shorts or skorts, players are finally making the decision for themselves. After all, players are the ones who are wearing the uniforms, so they should be able to express opinions and decide what they want.
The current status of the game allows women’s players to choose what they want to wear. However, for the sake of a uniform look, teams still lean toward skirts or recently skorts as girls are most familiar wearing them.
If you do prefer shorts, definitely talk to your coach about your concerns and reasons. S/he will likely let your wear shorts during practice which is more comfortable and doesn’t restrict your maneuvers.
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