History of Stickball

 

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History
This page is over the history of Stickball, a sport I play and predecessor to Lacrosse.  Stickball was invented by the Mississippi Choctaw Stickball was invented by the Mississippi Choctaw and spread to various other tribes throughout North America. Always a game of great, ceremonial significance, the Choctaw played hard and the game was highly physical. In fact, Choctaw Stickball has a history of violence and of settling tribe disputes.

Time Frame
The Choctaw tribe first began stickball play in the 1600s, and the game spread via inter-tribe conflicts. In the 1800s the United States government forced the Choctaw out of Mississippi to secure land for white settlers. Many Choctaw were forced into Oklahoma and other territories, where their tradition of play was passed along.

The Facts
Stickball games were originally enjoyed on an open expanse of river bottom, typically ranging in length from 100 to 500 yards, although this was dependent on location and period of time.
Cherokee games required 12 goals to be scored for a winner to be decided, whereas Creek games required 20 goals. Goal posts lay 3 to 4 feet apart, with cross bars 20 feet up. Scoring involved either throwing the stickball between the goal posts or against one, resulting in 1 point.
To achieve this feat, player--as few as nine or as many as several hundred--utilized 2 to 2 1/2 foot long sticks to pick up the balls for transportation down field. The sticks were constructed out of hickory or pecan wood, bent into a loop at the bottom end and fitted with a "net" of animal skin or vegetable fiber, thus hearkening to the design of today's lacrosse sticks. Stickballs were made with deer skin and typically stuffed with animal hair.

Significance
Choctaw Stickball was surrounded by superstitions from the outset. Frog and rabbit were not dietary choices for players as the conviction held was that it would adversely affect their play. Sucker fish were banned due to concerns over the affect it would have on player speed. Even women were shunned up to a week before play, for like the sucker fish; they were believed to be lethargic and would slow the efforts of the stickball warriors.
Aside from issues of personal pride, stickball was fiercely played, owing to an indicator of tribe superiority. When conflict broke out between opposing factions, stickball was sometimes a method used to close the book on disputes.

Evolution
The Choctaw Game of Stickball has survived until today and has enjoyed a recent resurgence among the tribe. Young boys now engage in the game, and there are typically two age divisions for youth players. Women, too, sometimes get in on the fun, and the sport remains an important part of tribal identity.
The Choctaw Fair is held every July and plays host to the Stickball World Series. Onlookers describe the event as comparable to the National Football League and even rugby in relation to its level of tenacity. Irrespective of level of play however, stickball looks to remain a stable of Choctaw life for years to come