How To Play Flag Football

how to play flag football

Flag football is an outdoor sport perfect for American football lovers who do not want to be sore the next day from tackling and being tackled. It is an excellent way to get outside, socialize, and have fun. Read on to learn how to play the sport of flag football.

1. Learn the Basics

Flag Football Basics

Flag football is nearly identical to American football, except for some small differences and one key difference: there is no tackling or harsh physical contact allowed. Though offensive teams get four tries (or “downs”) to make it 10 yards and get four more tries if they make it 10 yards, defending players do not stop them by tackling them. Instead, players are considered down when one of the flags attached to their waist is pulled.

Therefore, most of the same rules for American football that do not apply to tackling apply to flag football. Teams on offense attempt to progress downfield and bring the football into the opposing team’s end zone. The defending team’s goal is to stop the offensive team’s forward progress by pulling off the other team’s flags to get them down, intercepting the ball (catching it on defense), or swatting the ball down.

Should a team reach the end zone with the ball, they score a touchdown and receive six points. After a touchdown, teams can get one extra point by attempting to bring the ball into the end zone in one play, from five yards away, and can get two extra points if they start from 10 yards away.

2. Understand the Rules

flag football field dimensions

Here are some basic rules of flag football:

  • Games are separated into two 15 to 25-minute halves.
  • Flag football fields are usually 30 yards by 70 yards.
  • Teams range from five to nine players.
  • There are no field goals or punts. Should a team wish to turn the ball over to the other team because they do not think they will make it to their 10-yard mark, they can choose to “punt” the ball (giving the ball to the other team on their five-yard line).

3. Get Equipment

flag football equipment

Once you know the rules of flag football, you’ll want to purchase the necessary equipment. Some important items to have when playing flag football include:

  • Cones or lines to represent end zones and out of bounds
  • A football
  • Wearable waist flags that come on and off easily
  • A way to mark a distance of 10 yards such as cones, chains, or a line
  • Cleats
  • Catching gloves

You can find all the above equipment through online retailers like Amazon. Also, stores like DICK’S Sporting Goods and Walmart should have the necessary equipment.

4. Find a Field

Flag Football Field

You can play flag football almost anywhere. Teams will often play in the street, on a dirt or grass field, or in a parking lot. The most common place to play flag football is on a grassy field. Gather friends and head to a park or field near your home if you want to play.

If you want to play a more legitimate game, you can look up “flag football fields near me.” There are often club or intramural games going on in big cities. Look up the flag football happenings near you to get an idea of where to play.

5. Practice Running

Flag Football Practice

Running is the most essential skill to master during a flag football game. Since no tackling is allowed, defenders will attempt to grab your flags to stop your progression. However, by being fast and nimble, you can prevent the defenders from getting you down and preventing you from scoring a touchdown.

Most players will undergo intense training and running drills to practice this skill. They will lift weights, do ladder drills, practice pivoting without slipping, and run sprints. With more practice, you can prevent defenders from pulling your flags. Spinning is also an effective strategy to prevent players from grabbing your flag.

6. Know How to Catch

Flag Football Catching

Catching the football is another way to help your team progress down the field besides running. Additionally, catching the ball allows a team to gain more yardage than running. Therefore, mastering this skill is imperative to your flag football performance.

To catch the football, connect your thumb and pointer fingers to catch the football and make a triangular opening with your hands. Then, follow the football with your eyes and move your hands so the football’s point will fall through the triangular opening. As the football contacts your hands, close them and catch the ball. Practice catching the ball multiple times daily to improve this skill exponentially.

7. Perfect Your Passing

Flag Football Passing

Quarterbacks pass the ball to their receivers. They lead the offense and are indispensable in flag football. They impact the game's outcome more than any other player on their team. Therefore, they must know how to effectively pass the ball.

To pass the ball, place your four fingers on the white seams of the football and your thumb on the football’s bottom. Then, stand with both feet together and face sideways to where you want the ball to go. Next, step forward with the foot opposite the hand you use to throw the ball. Wind the ball behind your head, bring your arm to the square, and snap it forward, extending your arm and releasing the ball. Players improve at this skill by consistently making practice throws.

8. Master Your Defense

Flag Football Defense

The only way to stop an offensive team’s progression is through defense. Defenders can keep the other team from scoring, making offense much less stressful. Here are some key concepts to keep in mind when on defense:

  • Have a strong stance and stay low. Remember that flags are attached to a player’s waist.
  • Watch the quarterback’s eyes. They will tell you where the ball will go.
  • Be prepared for trick plays. Stay focused and pay attention.
  • Do not sacrifice an easy tackle by attempting to go around a player for the interception. Instead, let them catch the ball and immediately pull their flag.
  • Stay on the balls of your feet and keep your balance.

9. Practice With Others

flag football Practice With Others

You can play flag football anywhere. Gather friends, go to a field or open space, and bring the football, cones, and flags. Practicing with others is important for mastering skills like passing, catching, and defense.

Set up the field with end zones and out-of-bounds areas and start playing. Should your friends not wish to play, you can always find clubs, intramural teams, or friend groups that get together and play regularly. Furthermore, you could look up flag football groups on social media to connect with people with similar interests.

10. Play a Game

Flag Football Games

Once you get everything settled and start to play a game, do not panic. Remember what you have practiced and stay focused. Bring plenty of snacks and water to keep your mind and body alert. Do not slack off while warming up. Flag football players are incredibly agile. You must be on your A-game to keep them from getting past you.


How do you play the sport of flag football?

You play flag football similarly to how you play American football. However, the fields, teams, and playing time are usually smaller, and tackling and other physical contact are not allowed. Teams on offense attempt to move the football forward to the opposing team’s end zone, while the defending team attempts to stop their progression by pulling their flags.