How To Play American Football
American football is an outdoor team sport similar to rugby. It is a contact sport that provides excellent opportunities to exercise, socialize, and have fun. Read on to learn the very basics of playing American football.
1. Learn the Basics
An American football game is split into four 15-minute quarters. While a team is on offense, its players attempt to progress toward the end of the 100-yard field and bring the football into the other team’s end zone. The opposing team’s defense tries to stop the team from progressing. At all times, the maximum number of players allowed on the field per team is 11.
The quarterback leads their team’s offense, facilitating forward progression by passing the ball to receivers and handing it off to running backs (receivers catch the ball, and running backs run with it). Defenders do all they can to stop the other team’s progression by tackling players with the ball.
2. Understand the Rules
While on offense, a team gets four tries, or downs, to bring the ball past the ten-yard line, marked with a ten-yard chain attached to two orange sticks on the sideline. Once a team moves the ball ten yards forward, they get four new downs to make it another ten yards. This continues until the defending team stops them from making it ten yards or they score points.
A team’s offense can score points by bringing the football into the opposing team’s end zone for a touchdown or by kicking the football through the two yellow goalposts for a field goal. Touchdowns score six points, and field goals score three points. After making a touchdown, the offensive team can get one extra point by kicking the football through the goalposts 33 yards out or two extra points by getting the ball into the end zone in one play from two-three yards out.
If an offensive team feels they will not make it to the ten-yard line in four downs, they can punt (or kick) the ball to give it to the other team further down the field. Also, after a team scores any points, they must kick the ball to the other end of the field for the other team to start their offensive drive.
3. Get Equipment
Necessary equipment for American football includes:
- Shoulder pads
- Hip pads
- Thigh pads
- Knee pads
- Jockstrap and cup
- Protective gloves or catching gloves for receivers
- A football
- A helmet
- A mouthpiece
- End zone markers
- Ten-yard line markers
You can find all necessary football equipment, new or used, on online retailers like Amazon. While stores such as Walmart and Target may not have everything you need, sports equipment and apparel stores such as Dick’s Sporting Goods certainly will.
4. Find a Field
Football can be played on any field. Parks are great places to gather friends and play a friendly football match. However, you must do some searching if you want to play a legit game (complete with a 100-yard field, ten-yard lines, pads, and goalposts). Some parks, resorts, and clubs have fields to play football.
You only need a large field if you simply want to play a fun football game with friends. Tackling each other on sand or the street would hurt, so a place with grass would be best. Split into teams and start playing. Draw out your boundaries (a football field is usually about 53 yards wide) and make your end zones. Get creative; you can even use trees as goalposts.
Being able to catch the football is an incredibly important skill that takes good hand-eye coordination and quick hands. When catching a football, everything begins with your eyes. Keep your eye on the ball before it hits your hands and as you catch it. As the ball comes toward you, put your two hands where the ball will go. Then extend your arms in front of you and face your palms perpendicular to the ground, like a mime trapped in a box. Then, connect your thumbs and pointer fingers and make a triangle with your hands. Try to move your hands so that the football’s point passes through the triangular opening made by your hands.
Every American football is brown and oblong with thick white threads on its front, and every pass of the football should look similar as well. Here is a simple run-through of how to hold and throw a football:
- Grip the football in your dominant hand, putting all four fingers along the white threads.
- Extend the thumb so that it is on the bottom end of the football, cupping it.
- Hold the football in your other hand to support it.
- Start with both feet apart by a shoulder width.
- Wind the ball behind your head, lean back, bend your knees slightly, hunch your back, and bring your arm to the square.
- Step forward with the leg opposite the hand you are using to throw the ball.
- Twist your torso and body.
- Extend your arm forward, snap your forearm so that it is parallel to the ground, and release the ball.
- Roll your fingers off the ball to give it a spin, and then make sure you follow through.
Blocking is a legal technique used by offensive players that involves using one’s body to obstruct the defenders from making it to the quarterback, running backs, or receivers. Blocking is one of the most unique and crucial defensive skills a player, especially an offensive lineman, can have.
Running backs cannot do much without good blockers, and quarterbacks are useless if they do not have time to throw the ball or execute a play. Therefore, if you want your team to succeed, you must understand how to block other players.
When blocking, make sure you have a solid foundation. Bend your knees, and get as low as is practical. Keep your arms up and square with your shoulders. Make sure to react fast. If you do not, the other blocker could catch you off guard, pin you down, or breakthrough.
8. Speed, Strength, and Agility
Football is all about speed, strength, and agility. In fact, many football players will take ballet classes to improve their leg strength and agility. Running backs need it more than anybody because they must plow through the defensive line to pick up yardage. Tacklers need balance and agility so receivers or running backs do not beat them. A football player cannot do much good for his team without the basics of speed, strength, and agility.
To improve in these areas, many players do workouts involving footwork. For example, they will do ladder workouts, ballet, lift weights, or perform tackling drills to stay in shape and keep up with the competition.
9. Practice With Others
You can play football with family and friends. Call around and see if anybody wants to set a time and place to play a game. Look up places to play American football near me to get an idea of where you can play. If you want the game to be more chill, invite some friends to a green belt or a grassy field and bring the ball and some cones to mark end zones and out-of-bounds.
If nobody feels inclined to play, search for football leagues online or get hooked up with American football groups on social media. Playing with others allows you to practice throwing and catching the ball under pressure. These skills are important to develop because you cannot have that proper pressure in practice.
10. Play a Game
Remember what you have practiced when it’s time to actually play the game. Take the time to focus and remember the strategies you have learned. Also, spend an appropriate amount of time warming up so you are not cold when the game starts. Listen to your teammates and work together. Most importantly, follow the quarterback. They run the offense. Your team will get confused if you do not do what they say.
How do you play the sport of American football?
To play American football, two teams attempt to score points by bringing the football to the other team’s end zone. Each team has four attempts to move at least ten yards with the ball. If a team does not reach the ten-yard line in those four attempts, it is the other team’s ball. The team scoring the most points after four 15-minute quarters wins. Teams play American football on a 100-yard field.