Football Coin Toss

Chapter 2.2

At the start of a football game, who gets the ball first? Which direction do teams go? The initial setup of a game is determined by the coin toss.

Introduction

Which team starts with possession of the ball at the beginning of a game? Which end zone does each team get to defend? All of these questions are answered with the coin toss.

The Coin Toss

The coin toss is designed to determine the setup of a football game.

  • Who starts with the ball?
  • What direction do teams go?
  • Which end zone does each team get to defend?

When Do They Happen?

A coin toss will happen at the start of the game and also at the start of overtime, if overtime occurs.

REMEMBER: overtime only happens when the score is tied at the end of regulation.

The Procedure

Three minutes prior to kickoff, captains from both teams meet at the 50-yard line of the field for the coin toss.

The team captain of the away team chooses either heads or tails before the referee tosses the coin into the air.

The team that wins the coin toss is called the winning team. The team that loses the coin toss is called the losing team. The winning team gets their first choice of the following coin toss options. The losing team gets to choose from the remaining options and also gets their first choice from the same options at the start of the 2nd half.

KEY TAKEAWAY: The team that wins the coin toss gets their first choice of the coin toss options. The losing team gets their first choice at the start of the 2nd half.

Regulation Coin Toss Options

The winning team gets their first choice from the following coin toss options:

  1. To kick or to receive the opening kickoff
  2. Which goal to defend (also known as choosing wind)
  3. Defer choice to the start of the 2nd half

(1) To Kick Or Receive

This coin toss option determines who gets the ball first. If a team chooses to kick, they will not start with the ball. If a team chooses to receive, they will start with the ball.

(2) Choosing Wind

This coin toss option determines which end zone a team defends and which direction they have to go to score points.

Rookie Road Football Choosing Wind Coin Toss Image

PRO TIP: Remember, teams alternate which end zone they protect at the end of the 1st and 3rd quarters anyway.

(3) Defer

This coin toss option allows the winning team of the coin toss to get their first choice of the coin toss options at the start of the 2nd half. By choosing to defer, a team will wait to make their decision until the start of the 2nd half.

REMEMBER: The coin toss option to defer does not exist at the start of the 2nd half.

Strategy

So which coin toss option should a team pick? The most common coin toss option for the winning team is to defer. A team may choose this option if they want to gather more intelligence around the opposing team or to better understand how they play, so they can make a better informed decision in the 2nd half.

Overtime Coin Toss

If the score is tied at the end of regulation, overtime will determine the winner. At the start of overtime, a second coin toss will take place. The rules of overtime differ at all three levels of play (high school, college, pro) and so do the coin toss options. We'll learn more about overtime in future chapters.

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