Learning How to Play Football.

Learning How to Play Football.
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The specific rules of professional football can be somewhat dynamic in that there are modifications every year. The essential rules of playing football do stay the same for the most part. If you are learning how to play football then the following guidelines will help you understand the game enough to play and have fun.

The Basics

Football is played on a rectangular field that is about 110 yards long (including two end-zones) and about 50 yards wide. It has white lines marked across the width spaced at 10 yards a piece. These are known as the yard lines and are named the 10 yard line, 20 yard line, and so forth all the way to the 50 yard line, which is the middle of the field.

Football consists of two teams of 11 players each. One team will attempt to move down the field with the football, by either running with the ball in hand or passing the ball to other players, known as receivers, in an attempt to reach the opposing teams “end zone”.

The defensive players will work towards stopping the forward progression of this movement by either tackling (bringing the player with the ball to the ground) the offensive player or to gain possession of the ball. To gain possession of the football the defense must either intercept, or catch, the pass from the other team, or knock the football loose from the player who has possession of the ball. If the offence makes it with the football to the defensive team’s end-zone, this is a touchdown and is worth six points. After the touchdown is made, the offense has an opportunity to score an extra point by kicking the ball, from a predetermined position, through a set up upright posts in the end-zone. This is worth one point and is known as the extra point for a total of seven points.

The Offense

Learning how to play football requires a good understanding of the offense, their players, and their objective. The offense consists of 11 players each playing one specific position. There are offensive linemen that position themselves on the line of scrimmage. The line of scrimmage is where the football was stopped last and is the starting point for a new play.

In the middle of the offensive line is a center. The center will pass the football, from the line of scrimmage, to the quarterback at the start of a new play. The quarterback is the focal point of the offense. The quarterback is a key player in the movement of the football forward down the field. They can either pass the football to one of the receivers, or they can hand the football to a half back or fullback who will usually try to run with the football down the field. Receivers are players, who are usually very fast runners, and they will run down the field and attempt to catch the football after it has been passed by the quarterback.

The objective of the offense is to use a series of strategic plays to move the football down the field. If they are successful in moving the ball at least 10 yards then they are given a first down. The offense has four downs to either move the football ten yards or gain a touchdown.

If they miss a catch or are tackled the play stops and this is a down. If they do not get another first down or touchdown, then the defense receives the ball and becomes the offense. Sometimes the defense will make a mistake, and this will actually allow the offense to move the ball a few yards down the field. For instance, if a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage before the football has been snapped, or passed to the quarterback, this is called “off-sides” and counts towards five yards for the offense.

If the offense has moved the ball five or more yards already then this constitutes a first down for the offense, and they get to start with a new set of downs.

The Defense

The defense also consists of 11 players who will work together in a way to either stop the offense, by tackling the players with the ball, from making a first down or a touchdown. The main goal of the defense is to stop the forward progression of the ball while obeying the rules of the game.

Wilson American football

Image Credit/Wikimedia Commons/Torsten Bolten/CC Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

There are defensive linemen, who will attempt to push and shove their way past the offensive linemen to reach the quarterback. If they reach and tackle the quarterback this is called a “sack” and usually counts as a loss of yards. If the line of scrimmage is the 10 yard line, and the quarterback is sacked at the seven yard line then this is a loss of three yards and the new line of scrimmage is the seven yard line.

We can see how important the offensive line is for the quarterback and the movement of the ball. Other defensive players, called backs or defensive backs, will guard the receivers and attempt to block or intercept any passes that are made by the quarterback. If the defense is successful in keeping the offensive team from moving the ball 10 yards or making a touchdown then they will receive the ball and get their chance at offence. Defense is a very important part of any football game and is a good set of skills to learn when learning how to play football.

Learning how to play football is fun and a great form of exercise. It is also great for those who would like to watch football as an understanding of the basic rules makes the game easier to understand and more enjoyable to watch.


(n.d). FOOTBALL, AMERICAN. Retrieved from Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia database.

(n.d). FOOTBALL. Retrieved from Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia database.